5 key considerations for moving your data to the cloud

It can seem like everyone’s moving to the cloud nowadays: back in 2017, Gartner estimated that businesses spent just over $38bn globally on database management systems. Today, just five years later, that figure has more than doubled to $80bn. This is a massive shift, and shows that many businesses are well on their way to transitioning to the cloud for their database needs.

But ‘moving to the cloud’ is easier said than done. There are many different strategies and tools businesses can use for their cloud databases, depending on their budget and business use case, and not all are created equal.

It’s often a confusing picture, and it’s a passion of mine to make sure that businesses have the complete picture when considering their options. A cloud migration can be an expensive and stressful undertaking, and it’s essential that businesses go into it with their eyes open.

Understand why you’re moving from on-prem to the cloud

It might sound obvious, but it’s vital when embarking on a lengthy cloud migration project. 

There are dozens of compelling reasons why your business might be considering a move to the cloud. You might want more freedom, flexibility and agility for the organisation’s technology infrastructure in order to innovate faster. Cloud services provide automation and abstraction tools that often allow users to be more flexible, responsive, and focused on the work that drives business value rather than spending time on maintenance of on-prem hardware and other tasks that are often just overhead.

Cloud databases help businesses move faster and implement agile, devops ways of working. For example, with on-prem solutions, testing a new prototype would require the ops team to procure hardware, rack and stack it, install the OS, and integrate everything into the corporate infrastructure before turning it over to the development team. In a cloud based environment, this capacity can be spun up in a matter of minutes.

And that’s the bottom line: cloud services offer businesses the chance to experiment, try new things, fail fast, and innovate with a lower degree of risk. On-premises deployments commonly require a bigger commitment to technology regarding licences, hardware, and operational skills. This makes it much harder for enterprises to quickly try something new. And once they do try something new, they tend to be committed to long-term licences.

For most businesses, the drive to move to the cloud will be a mix of these factors, but there’s normally one that will be coming out on top. Identifying that at the start of the migration process will pay dividends later when it comes to shortlisting potential solutions, agreeing SLAs and measuring results.

Making sense of ‘as a service’

There are three options to take a database to the cloud: virtual machines (VM), containers, or Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS). The DBaaS market is growing at an exponential rate, with recent research predicting the market size to grow to $2.8 billion by 2025, doubling within five years. While DBaaS is currently the most popular option for moving to the cloud, VM deployed through Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and containers with Kubernetes also have significant success in the market.

Deep dive into DBaaS

With DBaaS growing so quickly, it’s worth pausing to take a closer look at what this type of cloud database offers businesses and when it would be worth considering for your deployment. In DBaaS, the cloud database operator (CDO) assumes key responsibilities: managing the software, the hardware, and the network, while assuming responsibility for the service availability. 

This is the biggest advantage DBaaS offers its customers – the freedom to not have to think about these maintenance tasks. On the other hand, as a customer of the CDO, you’re totally dependent on them to perform these tasks well and in a timely manner, and if their service is interrupted for whatever reason then you could be in trouble. You’ll miss out on some ability to customise your deployment, and you may also not have control over when your CDO decides to update, or not, your database. 

One example to illustrate the hazards of this will help. PostgreSQL, otherwise known as Postgres, is a free, open-source relational database management system, and it frequently releases new updates with lots of new features. Postgres 15 was just launched a couple of months ago. However, as a customer of a DBaaS provider, you need to wait until your CDO implements those new features in their own product before you see the benefits. One major DBaaS vendor for Postgres lagged in providing the latest version with the new features to customers for over two years – that’s a long time to wait. Check your DBaaS provider’s record on providing these features before committing to anything.

The value of DBaaS

Even with these few drawbacks, more and more enterprises want their IT and developer resources focused on innovation and business-oriented value add, such as data stewardship, analytics and building new applications. In our experience, businesses are more than happy to leave the behind-the-scenes grunt work that keeps the lights on to a cloud database provider. 

In an increasingly hybrid world, you need a provider that can help you shift your workloads from on-prem to the cloud in a way that works for your specific needs. DBaaS eliminates vendor-lock in and allows organisations to reap the benefits by way of innovation found with open source Postgres.

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Marc Linster, CTO, EDB

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