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Not All DBaaS Are Created Equal

8 features to look for when choosing DBaaS for your enterprise

Like every other cloud category that shares the as-a-service moniker, DBaaS (Database as a Service) is poised to become the new normal. In fact, if you rely on mobile and Internet apps to get the latest sports news, live stream video, book last-minute hotel stays, make purchases, or any number of other online activities, then you’ve already had first-hand experience accessing data stored in public cloud databases.

DBaaS was once primarily the domain of small software vendors and startups looking to avoid the significant costs of standing up and maintaining on-premises application development environments and data stores. But in just a few years since coming to market, DBaaS has become an increasingly attractive option for companies of all sizes—and resources. A May 2016 report by market research company Technavio predicts that the global DBaaS market will grow at an impressive CAGR of more than 65% through 2020.

The accelerated adoption of DBaaS can be directly correlated to the accelerated adoption of public cloud services as a whole, notably IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service). As privacy, security, and reliability metrics mature, enterprises are more comfortable expanding their on-premises development environments past the firewall in order to reap the significant rewards of cloud computing. And where the development infrastructure and tools go, the data follows.

As a result of this fast-paced adoption, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of DBaaS offerings coming to market—with no slowdown in sight. Many of these new offerings are coming from

public cloud and PaaS providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Heroku, and others who, in addition to supporting third-party DBaaS vendors on their platforms, offer proprietary DBaaS as well. And while it may be tempting to take the path of least resistance and choose a DBaaS that has some turnkey advantages within the context of a single development stack, this temptation should be resisted—at least until you’ve done your research.

In this article, I’ll help you get a head start on that research by delving into seven key features you should expect from DBaaS. Along the way, I’ll offer tips to help you navigate the wild west of vendors rushing in to stake their claims in the DBaaS landscape.

Elasticity

Elasticity is a hallmark of cloud computing and DBaaS is no exception. Although your needs may be modest to start with, it’s important to choose a DBaaS with unlimited scaling potential. One that can seamlessly and automatically scale up and out as workflow volumes increase. Your DBaaS provider should be capable of distributing data across multiple server nodes (sharding), clusters, geographic regions, and data centers. In addition to scaling up capacity on demand, the environment should also dynamically shrink capacity when resources are no longer needed.

Tip: For maximum flexibility of data whenever, wherever, consider DBaaS vendors that partner with many public clouds as this increases geographic reach and minimizes risk.

High Availability

Leveraging many of the same features that drive scalability, DBaaS is also able to provide extremely high availability to minimize data loss and downtime. Functions such as data replication,

persistence, backup, instant failover, and security should all be part of your provider’s portfolio of offerings—even if you don’t require all of them at the outset.

Tip: Carefully review Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for guaranteed uptimes and a clear understanding of the high availability functions offered by DBaaS vendors.

Fast Time to Market

Although we have begun to take it for granted in today’s cloud world, it is still worth pausing to contemplate the incredible speed at which a DBaaS instance can be spun up. Within as little as five minutes in some cases, five minutes, enterprises can provision and configure scalable, powerful and highly available cloud databases—something that would have previously taken weeks or months of effort (and probably hair pulling too). So if time is of the essence, there’s no need to take “no” for an answer—there’s a DBaaS for that.

Tip: Fast deployment is enabled by the database provider with flexible configuration options that can incorporate a wide set of use cases. Make sure you communicate any requirements that deviate from the norm. And make sure you’re dealing with a trusted provider that has the expertise to make these important decisions on your behalf.

Zero Touch

All database operations should be fully automated by the DBaaS provider. DBaaS requires no dedicated database administrators, nor should there be a need to expend increasingly scarce IT resources on crisis management, “lights on” maintenance, patching, or upgrades. This fully managed approach affords enterprises the much-needed breathing room to move IT resources onto more strategic projects that serve the core mission.

Tip: If you come across a DBaaS offering that requires you to perform database maintenance such as patches and upgrades, then it’s not a true DBaaS. Rather, it’s a hosted database service. It can be hard to tell the difference at face value, but hosted databases are not purpose-built as cloud services and therefore cannot offer many of the features highlighted in this article.

Anti-lock-in

Technology lock-in has long been a downside of many on-premises database solutions—especially those provided by major vendors such as Oracle or SAP. To overcome this significant drawback, many DBaaS vendors have established relationships with multiple public clouds and PaaS providers to offer more choice and easier data portability.

Tip: If you are considering a proprietary DBaaS as offered by a cloud service or platform provider, be sure to weigh the convenience of a single stack against the lock-in that results.

Sustainable and Freemium Subscription Tiers

Like other cloud service providers, DBaaS providers offer “pay-as-you-go” subscription models, which provide financial predictability and free up capital for other growth initiatives. Subscription tiers are usually structured according to consumption—performance, capacity, or a combination of both. For maximum flexibility, look for providers who offer a wide range of tiers—starting at the “free” level. The ability to try out the basic services of a DBaaS before committing any hard resources to it is invaluable when determining the right DBaaS for your enterprise. Also ensure that subscription tiers do not dramatically spike in

cost as performance needs or data volumes increase, as this could be prohibitive. It’s important that your DBaaS vendor is able to offer a sustainable cost-performance fit throughout the lifetime of your account.

Tip: Look for limitations (or hidden fees) in the number of database instances, user seats, or database connections allowed as these could also prove prohibitive as your DBaaS environment matures.

Hybrid Support

As fast as DBaaS is growing, it’s still in the minority. On-premises databases make up the vast majority of implementations and will continue to be a big part of the landscape for quite some time as few enterprises can move their entire infrastructures to the public cloud. If you anticipate your DBaaS use case to include augmenting existing on-premises infrastructure or moving applications between the cloud and on-premises, then you’ll want to focus in on DBaaS vendors that offer compatible on-premises solutions.

Tip: A compatible on-premises solution doesn’t necessarily have to come from the DBaaS vendor. Although you may have to jump through more hoops to achieve compatibility, unrelated cloud and on-premises databases can interoperate if they share the same underlying data structures.

Excellent Service

Last, but not least, is the quality of the service itself. While using a DBaaS should be as hassle-free as possible, the vendor must be able to provide the level of support required for your business. If you are using a DBaaS for your mission-critical services, make sure

that the provider can answer all your questions, resolve any issues, and recover from failures.

Tip: Regardless of its technical merits, an excellent service is focused on the customer. A customer-focused provider makes the success of its customers its own, and invests in making itself accessible and responsive to its user’s needs. Your provider’s support team is an integral part of the service and should work with you to ensure optimal service level.

What’s Next?

The benefits of DBaaS are impressive and there’s never been a better time to enter this burgeoning market. But like any significant new undertaking in IT infrastructure, there’s a lot to think about when choosing the right DBaaS for your enterprise.

Manish Gupta_headshotContributed by: Manish Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer at Redis Labs. Manish has consistently grown enterprise value by building brand equity, architecting strategic ecosystems, managing efficient product portfolios, and driving metrics based demand generation programs globally. He has established leadership position in new market categories, built world-class marketing organizations, and orchestrated successful exits. Most recently, he was the chief marketing officer at Liaison Technologies, the leading cloud service provider for data management and integration. Previously, he has held marketing leadership roles at public corporations such as Apple, National Semiconductor, and Symmetricom (acquired by Microsemi). His private company successes include Kabira, the in-memory transaction platform pioneer acquired by Tibco Software.

 

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