Guest author Baron Schwartz, an expert in MySQL, is the founder of VividCortex and the author of “High Performance MySQL.” He has helped build and scale some of the world’s largest web, social, gaming, and mobile properties.
There’s a big change happening in the world of databases. The industry is buzzing about Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS), a cloud offering that allows companies to rent access to these managed digital data warehouses.
For enterprise customers, the service offers another way to streamline their operations. As more companies (large and small) recognize the value of DBaaS, new services, providers, and features will transform the way users request and manage databases. This also represents opportunities for DBaaS companies like Tesora, which just raised an additional $5.8 million from its venture backers, for a total of $14.5 million.
If you’re not familiar with this increasingly important technology, take heart. Here’s your primer on what DBaaS is, how it can benefit your company, and how to choose a solution for your organization’s unique needs.
The Evolution of Database Management
Database management has changed a lot over the last decade or two. Years ago, companies ran proprietary databases on “bare metal” servers, almost always on-site. They had to dedicate resources like space, people, budget, and time to purchase, house, install, network, repair, maintain, and secure hardware, operating systems, and databases. The process of setting up a database back then took weeks, even months.
To reduce the time and complexity of setup and management of databases, the industry moved toward more automated solutions. Meanwhile, new technologies like virtualization drove higher utilization and improved responsiveness in the data center. Now, in the age of cloud computing, a lot of databases run on rented, cloud-hosted servers, where teams may have access to virtualized operating systems and databases, but not hardware.
There will likely always be databases running on dedicated hardware for numerous reasons. However, the trend toward more automation looks like the inevitable future for all aspects of database management and in every life-cycle phase.
The traditional “corporate standard” that specified a single database technology is on the decline. Instead, the new norm is so-called “polyglot persistence,” which hinges on a large number of different database technologies and applications. The modern data tier is distributed and diverse. Provisioning, configuration, managing, monitoring, security, and other important IT functions need to adapt accordingly.
That’s where Database-as-a-Service comes in.
The Rise of DBaaS
Having gotten rid of racking and booting servers, companies are now comfortable taking the next step—going entirely hands-off to let automation run the database from top to bottom. They get a database to connect to (and use to store and query data), but nothing else. In this scenario, the system is a fully managed “service,” hence the DBaaS moniker, offered by an external company, by IT for its internal customers, or a combination of the two.
Many of today’s businesses want to reduce repetitive manual tasks and eliminate configuration errors or security breaches, but they don’t want to spend time fiddling with technical details. The old way of managing databases required a lot of heavy lifting. IT personnel had to learn, manage, and repair nearly all aspects of every system.
Similar to a point-and-shoot digital camera, DBaaS provides professional databases that can get running and ready in a matter of minutes without a lot of training or personnel. A service provider chooses most of the options, offering the “best” configuration for most needs.
While individual systems can become unique “snowflake” servers, DBaaS tends to avoid that by simplifying and normalizing the customization, management, and upkeep for administrators. Overall, the service makes it easier to solve problems, correct mistakes, and transfer data from one system to the next. They can scale as large as necessary, fit the needs of the customers, and offer better availability and security than most in-house operations.
DBaaS is also accessible to a larger audience because, like other “as a service” cloud innovations, it is largely defined, configured, and driven by code—not commands typed into a terminal. So, instead of requiring database specialists, developers themselves can easily create and manage database-backed apps on cloud-based development platforms. Heroku, for instance, includes a DBaaS that is configured through simple, declarative files that developers can simply “push” along with the rest of their app code.
The Future of DBaaS
DBaaS is already responsible for much of the growth in some key technologies, particularly open-source databases like MySQL. In other words, traditional database deployment is somewhat stagnant, and most new deployments are DBaaS.
The demand is so high that some tech giants started offering a managed “as a service” version of their own.
These in-house databases—think Amazon’s DynamoDB and Google’s Cloud Bigtable—were not originally intended for use by others. They initially built it for their own needs. They’re now offering it for businesses to access, though not to install and run. These customers get a great database without having to administer it, while the provider makes money from software without having to support and troubleshoot it in someone else’s data center.
In the private cloud, on the other hand, many companies are adopting OpenStack as the “cloud operating system” of choice. OpenStack provides mechanisms to orchestrate and manage storage, networking, and other data center services, and it’s being deployed by large corporations for use in its own data centers, as well as by large cloud service providers offering public and managed private cloud services. Tesora specializes in OpenStack Trove, the OpenStack DBaaS project.
DBaaS’ rise is well-timed. As technology presses forward, the tech world is only collecting more and more data. Smart, efficient database technologies have become critical for companies of all types and sizes. As a service that can streamline operations and reduce redundancies, it can help ease their customers’ load, so they can focus on what matters most to them—their products.
For insight into how to choose a DBaaS service provider to fit your needs, look for my next article, coming soon.
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