Moving your database to the cloud – what are your options?

By Marc Linster, CTO, EDB.

Attitudes to cloud databases have changed massively in recent years. Research firm Gartner estimates that cloud-hosted databases accounted for $39.2bn of market revenue in 2021, growing significantly over the last two years to almost become the favoured choice overall compared to on-premises equivalents (49%).

As businesses plan their cloud migration, they look for technologies that can help them compete and react in a landscape that values speed and quality over everything else. This means solutions that provide agility, scalability, high performance, and security, while also minimising the time spent on maintenance, provisioning, and administrative overhead. Choosing the right database strategy, and along with it, the right cloud migration, is particularly critical for overall success.

That being said, choosing the right approach can be confusing, with many options available. Let’s look at why enterprises are considering cloud migrations and what choices they have for their database strategy.

Key drivers for moving from on-premises to the cloud

Enterprises are looking to the cloud to get more freedom, flexibility, and greater agility for their technology infrastructure in order to innovate faster. The automation and abstraction cloud services provide enterprises allows them to be more flexible, responsive and focused on activities that drive business value instead of activities that are routine and overhead. We’re far enough along in the existence of cloud computing to know that on-premises technology can limit the ability to innovate quickly.

Moving to the cloud helps with agility because we can separate the work to innovate, that is, write new code, new queries, and new business procedures, from the work to run and maintain the infrastructure. In an on-premises scenario, when the business needs a new database, the enterprise team has to procure hardware, rack and stack it, install the OS, and integrate everything into the corporate infrastructure before turning it over to the application team, who will focus on the actual business value add. That’s a process that can easily take weeks. In a cloud environment, the new database can be provisioned in 20 minutes!

Similar issues limit the ability to be innovative. Cloud database platforms offer a wide range of services that allow for experimentation and use of speciality technology for single projects. This is essential for prototyping new ideas. On-premises deployments commonly require a bigger commitment to technology regarding licences, hardware, and operational skills. This makes it much harder for enterprises to quickly try something new. And once they do try something new, they tend to be committed to long-term licences – which makes ‘fail fast’ impossible.

Globalisation is another contributing factor for the move to the cloud. Data needs to be stored close to the user for performance and compliance reasons. On-premises models for these needs are prohibitively costly and are too complex to meet the rigorous demands of global internal teams, suppliers, and customers.

Databases are historically resource-intensive to keep highly available and maintained. On-premises, they require whole teams to maintain, update, and provision the database, perform backups, plan for disaster scenarios, and implement recovery. These overhead activities are prime targets to delegate to an ‘as a service’ deployment.

‘As a service’ options for cloud databases

There are three options to take a database to the cloud: virtual machines (VM), containers, or Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS). The DBaaS market is growing at an exponential rate, with recent research predicting the market size to grow to $2.8 billion by 2025, doubling within five years. While DBaaS is currently the most popular option for moving to the cloud, VM deployed through Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and containers with Kubernetes also have significant success in the market.

Pros and cons of DBaaS

In DBaaS, the cloud database operator (CDO) assumes key responsibilities: managing the software, the hardware, and the network, while assuming responsibility for the service availability. That’s the biggest advantage – the DBaaS customer doesn’t have to worry about those tasks. However, the biggest consideration is that you, the customer, are completely dependent on the CDO to discharge these tasks well and in a timely manner that does not interrupt the database service. You also may not dictate when your CDO decides to update, or not, your database. For example, one major DBaaS vendor for Postgres, the free, open-source relational database management system, lagged in providing the latest version of open-source Postgres by over two years.

Another challenge arises from the lack of customisation. As the CDO is responsible for maintenance of the operating system and the installation of the database software the user will not be granted operating level access, which means that certain configuration parameters, logs, and software add-ons will not be accessible for tuning and diagnostics.

But even with these few drawbacks, more and more enterprises want their IT resources focused on innovation and business-oriented value add, such as data stewardship and analytics. In our experience, businesses are more than happy to leave the behind-the-scenes grunt work that keeps the lights on to a cloud database provider.

Overcoming the drawbacks

Some public cloud providers will offer Postgres to varying degrees, however, there are benefits to choosing a provider that offers a fully managed Postgres service.

IT leaders should be looking for service providers that offer a choice of Postgres. For example, there is the choice of open-source PostgreSQL or EDB Postgres Advanced Server, which includes additional enterprise features not found in the open-source version – things like compatibility with Oracle. Certain providers will also be more up-to-date with Postgres, and support the latest versions.

A second major advantage in finding the right provider is the Postgres expertise available within their team. Only a handful of providers can boast that they have decades of experience in Postgres, and those that do will be able to provide some of the best support available in the industry.

In an increasingly hybrid cloud world, businesses are looking for providers that can gradually shift workloads from on-premises to the cloud, and having the freedom to choose which

cloud provider they want. Whether it’s AWS, Azure, or another CDO, having a provider that offers flexibility is vital when looking at options in moving your database to the cloud.

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