The cloud is here and it’s here to stay. The cost savings, flexibility and added agility alone mean that cloud is a force to be reckoned with.
However, many businesses are struggling to figure out exactly how to get the most out of the cloud; particularly when choosing what infrastructure elements to leave on-premises and which to migrate to the cloud. A recent SolarWinds survey found that only 42 per cent of businesses will have half or more of their organisations’ total IT infrastructure in the cloud within the next three to five years. Furthermore, seven per cent say their organisation has not yet migrated any infrastructure at all to the cloud, though many of these plan to once they have considered what to transfer and how to do it.
One of the more controversial moves when it comes to migrating infrastructure to the cloud is the database. Hesitancy in making the shift to the cloud is clear, with nearly three quarters (73%) of organisations stating they have yet to do so – but why is this?
The database is often seen as the most critical and important piece of IT infrastructure when it comes to performance, and lies at the heart of most applications, meaning changes are perceived as being risky. If there is a negative effect when moving or changing the way it operates, a ripple effect could impact on the entire business, for example losing important data.
While on some level this fear is justifiable, there are certainly a few reasons which could be defined as myths, or misconception, rather than reality:
Myth 1: Need high performance and availability? The cloud is not a suitable fit.
Several years ago during the early days of the cloud, the ‘one size fits all’ approach may have been fact, however with the natural maturation of the technology we’re at a point where databases in the cloud can meet the needs of even the most demanding applications.
The reality of today’s cloud storage systems is that there are very powerful database services available on the cloud, many based on SSD drives offering up to 48,000 IOPS and 800MBps throughout per instance. Also, while outages in the cloud were a common annoyance two to three years ago, today’s cloud providers often exceeds that of what most on-premises systems are able to deliver. Today’s cloud provider SLAs combined with the ease of setting replicas, standby systems and the durability of the data stored are often able to deliver better results.
This is not to say that the database administrator (DBA) is free of responsibility. While the cloud provider will take care of some of the heavy lifting that is involved with configurative and administrative tasks, the DBA is still responsible for the overall performance. Therefore, the DBA needs to still pay close attention to resource contention, bottlenecks, query tuning, execution plans, etc. – some of which may mean new performance analysis tools are needed.
Myth 2: The cloud is not secure.
Even though security should always be a concern, just because you can stroll into a server room and physically see the server racks doesn’t necessarily mean they are more secure than the cloud. In fact, there have been many more high profile security breaches involving on-premises compared to public cloud.
The truth is the cloud can be extremely secure, you just need a plan. When using a cloud provider, security is not entirely their responsibility, instead it needs to be thought of as a shared job – they provide reasonably secure systems, and you are responsible for secure architecture and processes.
You need to be very clear about the risks, the corporate security regulations which need to be abided by and the compliance certifications that must be achieved. Also, by developing a thorough understanding of your cloud provider’s security model, you will be able to implement proper encryption, key management, access control, patching, log analysis, etc. to complement what the cloud provider offers and take advantage of their security capabilities. With this collaborative approach to security and in-depth understanding of one another, you can ensure that your data is safe, if not safer, than if it were physical server racks down the hall.
Myth 3: If I use cloud I will have no control of my database.
This is another half-truth. Although migrating your database to the cloud does hand over some of the day-to-day maintenance control to your provider, when it comes to performance your control won’t and shouldn’t be any less.
As mentioned above, an essential step to ensure that you remain in control of your database is to understand your cloud provider’s service details. You need to understand their SLAs, review their recommended architecture, stay on top of new services and capabilities and be very aware of scheduled maintenance which may impact your job. Also, it’s important to take into account data transfer and latency for backups and to have all your databases in sync, especially if your database-dependent applications need to integrate with another one and are not in the same cloud deployment.
Finally, keep a copy of your data with a different vendor who is in a different location. If you take an active role in managing backup and recovery, you will be less likely to lose important data in the unlikely event of vendor failure or outage. The truth is that most cloud providers offer plenty of options, giving you the level of control you need for each workload.
The decision to migrate a database to the cloud is not an easy one, nor should it be. Many things need to be taken into account and the benefits and drawbacks need to be weighed up. However, given the tools available and the maturity of the cloud market today, deciding not to explore cloud as an option for your database could be short-sighted.
Written by Gerardo Dada, Head Geek at SolarWinds