The Rise of the Cloud Database

Cloud computing has become a mainstream business technology strategy that is delivering the agility and flexibility that businesses need to move forward. To meet the requirements cloud brings to enterprises, new breeds  of databases are emerging—either running in the cloud, or designed to optimize enterprise cloud computing.

Cloud databases are on the rise as more and more businesses look to capitalize on the advantages of cloud computing to power their business applications. In fact, a recent Unisphere Research study found that nearly one-third of organizations are currently using or plan to use a cloud database system within the next 12 months. “More cost effective,” “scalability,” and “faster time-to-value” were the top reasons cited. (“Big Data, Big Challenges, Big Opportunities: 2012 IOUG Big Data Strategies Survey,” sponsored by Oracle, September 2012). Each of the leading types of cloud-friendly databases has its own strengths.

As the variety, velocity, and volume of data have broadened and increased, a new generation of databases is emerging to cater to specialized types of data. To master this new environment, there are emerging classes of databases designed  to help organizations manage information in the cloud:

Pure Cloud Databases

Pure cloud databases actually reside in the public cloud, and are usually available on a pay-per-usage basis, usually by the megabyte. Well-known cloud databases include Microsoft Azure Database and Amazon SimpleDB. Cloud-based databases—often referred to as the Database as a Service (DbaaS)—“enables organizations to enjoy significant deployment flexibility, hosted hardware and software infrastructure and utility-based pricing,” says Wiqar Chaudry, director of product marketing and technology evangelist for NuoDB.

Another Unisphere Research-IOUG survey finds that, among respondents using cloud services, 50% report they are overseeing database as a service projects, up from 35% two years ago. (“Enterprise Cloudscapes: Deeper and More Strategic,” sponsored by Oracle, February 2013)

To access the full version of this article and the DBTA Thought Leadership section on Cloud Databases, go here.

Cloud-Optimized Databases

Cloud-optimized databases can be deployed both on-premises, or within the cloud by a dedicated hosting service, public cloud, or private cloud. Examples of cloud-optimized databases include traditional relational databases Oracle, SQL Server, MariaDB, and MySQL (which can be enhanced for the cloud by GenieDB), as well as NewSQL databases such as NuoDB, Clustrix, and TransLattice, and NoSQL (Not only SQL) databases such as 10Gen, Cloudant, and InfiniteGraph.

NoSQL Databases

While some pure cloud and cloud-optimized databases are based on relational technology, NoSQL databases support unstructured or non-relational data types—the essence of “big data” now flooding organizations. A survey of 298 data managers and professionals conducted by Unisphere Research among IOUG members finds about 11% have adopted NoSQL within enterprise settings, a number expected to grow to 15% within the year. (“Big Data, Big Challenges, Big Opportunities”)

There are four major database groups that fall under the NoSQL umbrella. Key-value stores enable the storage of schemaless data, aligned as a key and actual data. Column family databases store data by rows, as is the case with relational databases, and instead store data within columns. Another NoSQL variation, the graph database, employs structures with nodes, edges, and properties to represent and store data. For example, Objectivity's InfiniteGraph database is designed to enable end users “connect the dots” on a global scale, ask deeper and more complex questions, across new or existing data stores. Another type of NoSQL database, document databases, facilitate simple storage and retrieval of document aggregates.

NewSQL Databases

NewSQL is another emerging category of cloud databases. They are different animals from Oracle and MySQL, which are traditional relational databases. NewSQL is a class of modern relational database management systems that seek to provide the same scalable performance of NoSQL systems for online transaction processing (read-write) workloads while still maintaining the ACID guarantees of a traditional single-node database system. For example, the TransLattice Elastic Database (TED) is a relational database management system that provides ANSI-SQL support, the ACID transactions enterprise applications require, and the ability to scale-out across wide distances using ordinary Internet connections.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud

The rise of cloud-friendly databases brings its own share of management and skills challenges. For example, there is the risk of raised expectations. Often, such databases may even be out of the reach  of IT staff, even “removed one level from the programmer and DBA,” says John Goodson, senior vice president for the product development group at Progress Software. “If your applications are performance-oriented, then it becomes difficult or even impossible to investigate, tune, and resolve those problems. These types of systems are designed for simplicity and not for detailed tuning.”

To access the full version of this article and the DBTA Thought Leadership section on Cloud Databases, go here.