Cloud Opens the Path to Database Expansion

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How fast and far can databases grow, and how can such growth be sustained? That’s the question faced by many data managers these days, who deal with growing demands from their businesses for real-time, analytical capabilities, incorporating data-driven initiatives such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. They are responding and keeping up with these requirements through a combination of cloud resources and automation.

These are the findings of a recent survey of 260 data managers, fielded by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., in partnership with VMware and the Independent Oracle Users Group. The growth of data-driven enterprises is pressuring data administrators to deliver high-performing and responsive systems that can scale with the business. However, many enterprises are encumbered by the licensing and support issues that typically accompany database systems, resulting in potentially high and unexpected costs, as well as skills shortages. While enterprises are turning to the cloud and automation solutions to enhance their capabilities in backup and recovery, the challenge is many data managers subscribing to cloud services are not making licensing costs enough of a priority.

The survey found that database environments are sizable and complex these days. Respondents manage multiple databases, and many have databases scaling into the multi-terabyte stage. A large portion of respondents, 46%, also reported that their largest database exceeds 1TB and range up to 25TB in size.

As organizations keep growing and expanding their data environments, they run into obstacles. The survey found licensing and support is the number-one challenge for organizations seeking to expand the number of Oracle databases and applications. Data may have become the fuel driving today’s and tomorrow’s enterprises, but regardless of where it comes from or where it is stored—managing it in commercial databases is still tied to the traditional licensing and support model that has been in place for decades. Activating new databases, processor cores, or end user licenses means additional costs. More than four in five respondents reported that it is difficult to grow their data environments due to obstacles with licensing and support from their database vendors—a number that has increased since the initial survey in 2014. The percentage of data managers citing challenges with licensing and support costs, 81%, was up 22 percentage points over the previous survey. Other issues also stand in the way of growth. Individuals with database skills are getting harder to find. Additional issues are also coming to the fore since the 2016 survey.

For example, respondents who cited challenges with finding the right skills has more than doubled since 2016—from 32% to 66% reporting issues. There also has been a surge in administration costs and complexity getting in the way of data environment expansion—cited by 55% of respondents for an increase of 24 percentage points. Of the hardware categories, the only category that showed growth was storage cost, but that growth has been negligible.

There has been a marked rise in cloud computing adoption among database teams, the survey found. Forty-one percent reported having cloud in production at scale or in limited use, up from 33% in the 2016 survey. Notably, 28% of respondents have cloud in production at scale, well over double that of 2 years ago (11%).

One-third of respondents said their use of cloud is growing, with 20% reporting their cloud growth as “significant”—again, a rise over just 2 years ago.

As public cloud adoption grows, much of this growth is driven by backup and recovery to support transaction environments. A total of 23% respondents delegate a significant share (a quarter or more of their capabilities) of their backup and recovery processes for transactional environments to the public cloud. For additional processes affecting data environments, close to one in five rely on cloud for significant shares or their business continuity, monitoring, and provisioning processes. For analytical data environments, there is less commitment to public cloud at this time—at most, 17% of respondents are dedicating a notable portion of their backup and recovery process workloads to public cloud environments.

Cost reduction is the main benefit anticipated with cloud, but agility and capacity are more likely to be realized in existing deployments. Data managers and professionals seek the cost advantages of public cloud—which may form the basis of business cases, at least initially. Six in 10 foresee the cost reductions as the improvement sought with cloud computing.

As deployments mature, however, the additional agility and on-demand resources that the cloud brings to bear emerge as the leading benefits. In addition, the advantages of public cloud computing are far more apparent than 2 years ago. When asked about positives already seen, three in four said they have experienced greater agility. A majority cited the on-demand capacity clouds bring to the table.