The Business Value of Cloud-Based Databases

Database-as-a-Service reduces the cost and administration headaches associated with traditional database platforms.

While unstructured and semistructured data accounts for more than 80 percent of data volumes, the database still plays a vital role in business operations. In a recent survey by Datos IO, 59 percent of IT professionals said the size of their organization’s database could double within the next two years. Almost 25 percent expected their databases to grow even larger over the same period.

Traditionally, databases were installed on “bare metal” servers and carefully configured by expert administrators. Once the database was implemented — a process that could take week or even months — organizations dedicated significant resources and budget to ongoing maintenance and management.

The cloud is rapidly changing the way databases are implemented and maintained. In a Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) model, the database is hosted in the service provider’s cloud and accessed on subscription basis. The service provider is responsible for building and maintaining the physical infrastructure needed to support the database, and for handling backups, installing security updates and scaling storage resources.

DBaaS delivers all the classic cloud benefits — minimal capital investments, reduced operational overhead and near-infinite scalability. Because it enables rapid deployment with limited risk, DBaaS offers a cost-effective platform for proofs of concept, application development and testing, and disaster recovery. Rampant data growth and demand for remote access to database resources is also driving uptake of DBaaS solutions.

Supporting Today’s Business Models

The rise of DBaaS reflects the overall evolution of database management. In the past, organizations tended to standardize on one database technology. Today, many organizations have adopted a “polyglot persistence” model, which simply means that they operate multiple databases to support various workloads and data types.

Virtualization and automation have facilitated this model, but database provisioning, configuration and management still require a significant amount of time, effort and expertise. DBaaS enables organizations to access database functionality without having to handle or even understand all the technical details.

DBaaS is similar to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which provides organizations with a cloud-based environment for application development and deployment. Many PaaS solutions use containers to isolate the environment from the operating system, so applications can run on any computing platform. Similarly, DBaaS uses a multitenant container model that can run multiple databases on a shared operating system.

Organizations can monitor CPU and storage utilization and network traffic through a centralized management console, and provision additional resources and database instances with a few clicks. The centralized console also enables midsize and large organizations to consolidate the management of multiple database instances under a single interface.

DBaaS helps organizations manage the explosive growth of data more efficiently, and accommodate user demand for mobile access to database resources. DBaaS also offers greater flexibility and elasticity to accommodate spikes in demand for database resources. Service providers typically offer service-level agreements (SLAs) specifying minimum response times and availability, and operate backup data center facilities with automated failover to ensure that availability requirements are met.

Rapid Growth

Like other cloud-based solutions, DBaaS enables customers to take advantage of the latest technology — in order to remain competitive, service providers keep their environments up-to-date as database vendors introduce new features. Competition in the DBaaS market has also brought down pricing, giving organizations even greater incentive to migrate their databases to the cloud.

DBaaS was slow to take off when first introduced several years, but today the market is growing rapidly. MarketsandMarkets has forecast that the cloud database and DBaaS market will see a compound annual growth rate of more than 67 percent, reaching $14 billion by 2019. The healthcare, government, and banking, financial services and insurance sectors have been leading adoptors of DBaaS.

Security concerns and a lack of appropriate security standards could hinder the growth of the DBaaS market, according to analysts with TMR Research. Data governance requirements may also limit adoption in certain industry sectors. And SLAs notwithstanding, DBaaS may not be appropriate for use cases that require very low latency and high availability.

Nevertheless, increasing demands for more flexible and cost-effective database solutions, coupled with a need for greater scalability, elasticity and automation, are driving rapid adoption of DBaaS. By moving their databases to the cloud, organizations can gain on-demand access to database resources while making management simpler and more cost-efficient.