From SaaS to IaaS, companies are rapidly moving to the cloud to gain huge agility and cost benefits. So, is it time for your company to take advantage of database as a service (DBaaS)? Here’s a high-level discussion to help you along your decision path.
First, it’s important to distinguish DBaaS from simply running a database on a cloud-based server, such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure. While you can certainly gain some cost and agility benefits from running your database on a virtual machine, you’ll still need to provision and maintain the database, that is, you will need server operations expertise.
With DBaaS, the cloud provider also provisions and maintains the database, eliminating the need for your organization to maintain server operations expertise in-house. DBaaS manages the entire environment—physical and virtual hardware, operating system, networking, replication configuration, etc.—so you can stay focused on software development. With the click of a button you can set up the database and then connect your application with a simple API call. And you’re ready to go.
The speed and cost advantages of this approach can be huge, but there are also some limitations, so it’s important to assess whether your company’s resources and your project’s requirements align with the current capabilities of the various DBaaS offerings.
Reasons to Use DBaaS
Lack of Expertise: As suggested above, if your technical team is mainly composed of software developers who won’t be able to manage the complexity of provisioning a database, you should consider DBaaS. In addition to handling the management of the database, the DBaaS provider will offer additional services, such as automatic backups of your data. In this worry-free environment, you can focus on optimizing your software instead of constantly worrying if the database is functioning properly.
Short-Lived Databases: If you need databases to serve as back ends for continuous integration testing, DBaaS will allow you to rapidly provision the databases, populate them with test data and then delete them when they are no longer needed. Having the database provisioned for you makes it far faster and simpler to build the required automation for the testing environment.
A Microservices Design: DBaaS can be particularly helpful, even in a production environment, if you are using a microservices design composed of a very large number of databases. Even if you have the internal expertise, you may not want to invest the time and effort in deploying all those databases. DBaaS can get you into production significantly faster.
Reasons Not to Use DBaaS
While the above benefits are appealing, you likely won’t want to use DBaaS in the following scenarios.
Database-Centric Applications with Complex Topologies: To ensure ease of deployment, DBaaS providers limit the ability to deploy complex environment topologies. This reduces the flexibility DBaaS customers have. For example, let’s say that for disaster recovery, you have a primary synchronous replication cluster in one region and a secondary synchronous replication cluster in a different region, with an asynchronous relationship between them. This relatively complex topology is outside the scope of most DBaaS offerings.
IO-Bound Workloads: If your database has IO-bound workloads, you may need very powerful hardware, including high-end CPUs, terabytes of memory and very fast storage. In this case, you may not find a DBaaS provider that offers a configuration that will meet your needs.
Understand Your Options
If your database requirements align with the capabilities of DBaaS, you now have the ability to eliminate significant operational complexity and develop, test and deliver your applications faster and at a lower total cost. However, make sure you spend time carefully investigating today’s DBaaS offerings, including Amazon RDS, Google Cloud SQL and Azure SQL Database, which all have different features and focus, including deployment models, performance trade-offs, instance types and more.
If your needs don’t fit current DBaaS offerings, you’ll need to provision your databases yourself. If you don’t have the expertise in-house and can’t afford new hires, a database consultant may be a cost-effective strategy for getting the support you need.