The use of cloud databases has forever altered how organizations plan, build, deploy, manage, and access their data — making way for mobile accessibility, scalability, and diverse data model support in the digital age.
This impact is underscored by the continuing trend of organizations shifting away from on-premises database solutions and migrating toward cloud database solutions. In fact, the global cloud database and database as a service (DBaaS) market size is expected to grow from $21.3 billion in 2023 to $57.5 billion by 2028 — more than doubling in a five-year timeframe. Further, it's anticipated that cloud technology spending will exceed traditional IT budgetary spending for the first time in history by 2025.
(Source: Cloudzero, 2023)
Learn more about cloud databases, how they work, the different types of cloud database deployments, and whether using a cloud database is right for you.
Table of contents
A cloud database is simply a database that is deployed in a cloud environment as opposed to an on-premises environment. This means that organizations can build databases without the purchase of the physical hardware and infrastructure needed for on-premise databases.
There are many different types of cloud databases available, giving organizations the flexibility to apply their database strategy effectively in the cloud. Here are a few examples:
Relational cloud databases: Relational databases, sometimes referred to as SQL databases, organize and store data in a structured format using tables that have predefined relationships between them. Some of the hallmarks of relational databases include:
NoSQL cloud databases: Unlike a relational database, NoSQL databases are non-tabular, meaning they don't store data in relational tables and rows with strict schemas. Because of this flexibility, NoSQL databases are able to store a variety of data types with varying schemas. These are some additional hallmarks of NoSQL cloud databases:
In-memory databases: As the name indicates, in-memory databases hold data in memory rather than storing the data on disk, in random access memory (RAM), or solid-state drives (SSD). Some additional hallmarks of in-memory databases include:
While a few of the possible database types were mentioned above, potentially any type of database can be deployed in the cloud. Conversely, there are several options when deploying a cloud database.
Public cloud: A public cloud is a cloud environment that anyone is eligible to access on a subscription or other paid basis. Practically any type of database (e.g., relational databases, document databases, graph databases) can be supported. This type of environment is often referred to as multi-tenant, meaning multiple users from different organizations are accessing the cloud platform at the same time. The cloud vendor is responsible for cloud infrastructure, cloud security, and availability of database access, at a minimum. From this point, there are a couple of options:
Private cloud: Unlike a public cloud environment, private clouds are considered single tenant, meaning only one organization has access to the cloud. This is often the choice of large organizations with sensitive data and larger budgets. With that said, a private cloud environment can support the same types of cloud databases as those supported via the public cloud (e.g., NoSQL database, SQL database, in-memory database) — these cloud services are simply tailored to the specific needs of the organization owning the private cloud. However, unlike in a public cloud, in a private cloud, software maintenance, scaling, data security, database management tasks, and backups fall on the user group's organization rather than a cloud vendor, requiring additional labor and skill sets.
Hybrid cloud: A hybrid cloud combines on-premises resources, third-party cloud provider services, and possibly private cloud access as well. With a hybrid cloud environment, there is a greater level of access management required due to the variety of disparate data assets in play. However, this type of cloud offers the ability to utilize existing on-premises resources while migrating databases to the cloud or to enhance the functionality and mobile access to existing data warehouses. As with both public and private clouds, virtually any type of database can be used, with database services and the database management system being agreed upon between the organization and cloud providers.
Multi-cloud: It is also possible to deploy databases across multiple clouds (e.g., more than one public cloud or more than one private cloud). This option allows organizations to avoid being locked into one cloud services provider, can increase data security through redundancy, and can help meet unique operational requirements an organization may have. And, as with other cloud types, virtually any type of database can be deployed.
When considering whether a cloud database is right for you, there are several factors to evaluate, including the benefits and challenges of cloud databases, assessment of your organization's database requirements, and budget.
There are several key benefits and challenges related to cloud databases.
Building an understanding of whether a cloud database is right for you requires evaluation of organizational requirements as well as existing and anticipated data assets. Some key considerations include the following:
If the answer to many of these questions is "yes," further exploration of cloud database solutions may be right for you.
There is no doubt that developing and implementing a robust database strategy can be costly. However, cloud databases offer several cost advantages worth considering.
It's also important to take some time to consider the options and constraints associated with various cloud database providers.
Though all types of clouds are able to host virtually any type of database, some cloud database service providers are restricted to one cloud platform provider. For example, MongoDB Atlas is able to run on any major public cloud provider's platform while Cloud Bigtable can only run on Google Cloud and RDS can only run on Amazon Web Services. Be sure to understand these restrictions before making a cloud database services provider choice.
Your organization may have an existing footprint, compatibility requirements, or existing contractual relationships that dictate your cloud provider choice. As a result, your organization may be limited to choosing a self-managed database on virtual machines (in the cloud) or DaaS options offered by that cloud provider.
Choices previously made in your organization's technology stack (e.g., programming language) may make one provider's database technology a better fit than another's. Be sure to closely review whether a potential provider's process and platform align with your organizational development process and unique needs.