Enterprises Take Their First Cautious Steps Into Cloud Databases

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Cloud-based or cloud-friendly databases offer enticing promises in the form of faster deployment, increased flexibility, reduced capital expenditure, and avoidance of system maintenance. However, enterprises are still warming up to this latest shift in the data management world, as cloud computing itself is still a relatively new approach.

Even leading cloud database proponents agree that cloud databases are a relatively new—and untested phenomenon. “We’re seeing adoption of cloud-based and cloud-enabled databases— including our own platform—in the market, but it is still very early to highlight direct trends that are coming from the space,” said Chris Selland, vice president of marketing and business development for HP Vertica. “To date, most deployments are experimental, not production, and generally quite small.”

Cloud database technology may be ready for the enterprise, but enterprises are not quite ready for cloud databases. “All applications could potentially exist to some degree in the cloud,” said Paul McClure, chief technologist of the cloud solutions group at CommVault. However, he cautioned, users “must consider how the move will affect data security during transfer to the cloud.”

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“Security and governance concerns continue to be the primary barriers to cloud adoption, agreed Matt Magne, global product marketing manager for data management at SAS. “While we are seeing incredible growth in cloud adoption, spend is years away from being on par with on-premises.”

Proceed with Caution in Cloud Database Projects

As a result, caution is the watchword when it comes to many cloud database projects, said Evaldo Horn de Oliveira, vice president of FairCom. “While cloud-based databases are gaining momentum in the enterprise, we are seeing most companies make the transition in phases through a hybrid approach, due to the risks associated with running databases entirely in the cloud,” he said. “Companies tend to be wary of jumping head first into an entirely cloud-based data approach which can leave them crippled should their cloud provider go down or suffer a security breach.” In many cases, a hybrid or mixed strategy prevails, he added. It’s necessary, then, to invest in or acquire the necessary skills “to stay ahead of potential risks,” said McClure. Many organizations are only just starting to ramp up their skillsets in these areas.

Data security may be the number-one reason for enterprises not adopting a cloud-based data strategy, but some industry experts see the fear as being overblown. “Some of the concerns are real and some are misplaced,” said Rajeev Nayar, associate vice president and head of Infosys’ big data practice. “Cloud providers are getting better with the security certifications to try to assuage these fears. Another concern for enterprises is the multitenant model adopted by many of these providers—many enterprises are not comfortable with their sensitive data sitting on a shared storage space with other enterprises. There are cloud services providers who are particularly addressing this concern as well.”

Nevertheless, the momentum keeps flowing toward cloud as a delivery mechanism for data services. At this stage, the “industry is at an inflection point,” said McClure, who sees “companies of all sizes and markets rapidly adopting cloud infrastructures.”

More Interest in Database as a Service

In particular, there’s a great deal of interest in database as a service (DBaaS), in which data services are abstracted from underlying data infrastructures and offered in the cloud, at many organizations. Sabino Prizio, managing director of data center technology for Accenture, is bullish on DBaaS as the entree to cloud databases. DBaaS “can reduce the necessity for IT staff to respond to short-notice and short-duration projects, reducing overall IT costs,” he said. He added that most DBaaS offerings from vendors are now mature, “making it possible for an organization to procure or provision its entire database management system infrastructure through an as-a-service model.”

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