The cloud has a new flavour: Database-as-a-Service (DaaS)
A number of vendors are offering a special type of cloud service to customers and developers around the world: it’s called Database-as-a-Service (DaaS).
The model offers a simpler, more effective way for a programmer or database developer to structure and access data using the on-demand, utility pricing model.
Databases like MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle and PostgreSQL have been around for decades but they are generally stored on-premise or on a dedicated machine at a remote web hosting provider. Managing these databases, which often contain millions of records, can be become extremely challenging.
In recent years, the cloud computing revolution has begun finding ways to simplify database management, storage and performance by turning it into a service over the Internet.
Providers such as Salesforce.com, which offer CRM Software-as-a services (Saas), over the Internet, have been building out their own cloud platform to offer new services including a new DaaS layer called Database.com,
This database cloud enables a developer to focus on building database applications instead of worrying about the underlying hardware configuration.
In the Salesforce DaaS model, developers are free to write their applications in Java, C#, Ruby, PHP and other languages. Plus, the app will run any platform – Force.com, VMforce, Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, Heroku or Microsoft Azure.
Database.com, and other emerging platforms are designed to allow apps to run natively on any device, like an Android phone, Blackberry, iPad, or iPhone.
The services offer open Application Programming Interfaces (API) allowing developers to communicate with the database over the Internet. This allows massive scaling from just a few users up to hundreds of thousands of users.
Generally, just like SaaS applications, there are no up-front investments required, and you pay only for the resources you need.
“Focus on your application. Not the infrastructure,” is the advice of another more expensive database service run by Microsoft. This DaaS allows the power of SQL Server to be harnessed including relational databases, reporting, and data synchronization with mobile users, remote offices and business partners.
Other vendors have emerged which also offer MySQL-based Cloud Database services
Most of these services offer a variation of the following features:
- Get set up with your highly available database in the cloud in a matter of minutes
- No code changes to your applications – simply connect them to your cloud DB and you’re good to go!
- No need for architectural and code scaling considerations such as memcached, sharding etc
- Configuration and the on-going DB operations are automated or are as easy as a click of a button away
- No vendor lock-in
- Pay per use and not by instance size – no need for over-provisioning.
The goal of these services is to offer a highly available, self-healing, database, with no downtime. The best of breed guarantee no downtime for both planned and unplanned maintenance.
This point is especially telling considering the recent Amazon outage, which affected giant cloud consumers, including Foursquare. This event raised some doubts as to whether companies should be relying so heavily on one vendor for their cloud consumption.
With regards Salesforce’s Database.com, competitors appeared to welcome it’s arrival, but did suggest there is the danger of vendor lock-in:
“… The best way to interact with this model is through its natural language – SQL. And here lies part of the problem with Database.com – as it is providing a different interface to the relational model.”
“Developers will need to interact with SalesForce’s database solution using SOAP, or REST APIs and Object Model. This does not prevent customers from migrating to a different database service, but it does make it more difficult than plain SQL. Thus, there is a sense of customer lock-in when choosing Database.com.”
“In addition, do you really want to go into changing the code of all your existing applications only to enable them to work with a new cloud service? What happened to plug-and-play?”
Generally, all the solutions mentioned above allow a developer to only access the database resources he needs. If there is a seasonal spike in activity, it is a relatively simple manner to access additional database services as you need them, rather than over provisioning via an on-premise solution.
Customers consuming the UK2.net platform can currently launch databases inside a virtualized environment known as a Virtual Private Server (VPS). While not quite the same as the emerging DaaS, it offers powerful ways to simplify existing database operations via a cloud provider.
Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_
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