DBaaS offers a chance to delight business app owners and developers alike
Databases are everywhere, and they’re proliferating like rabbits. We have all the old types and all the new types of databases; relational and non-relational databases, distributed databases, document databases, time series databases, key-value databases, multi-model databases, graph databases, cloud databases and object-oriented databases. The list is almost endless. In fact, knowledge base website DB-Engines lists the 397 most popular databases, and, if anything, their growth is accelerating, with microservices architectures spawning more databases and modern applications tending to have a one-to-many relationship with databases. Just as Apple boasts that “there’s an app for that”, there’s a database for everything, which is great, except it has meant that we have needed to make a trade-off. That is, database proliferation has led to organisations dedicating lots of expensive DBA time to managing and securing them, which has had the effect of slowing down change and deterring innovation. Happily, that trade-off is now going away.
The reason is Database as a Service (DBaaS), a model that provides enterprises with the chance to run databases anywhere with automated setup, maintenance, patching, upgrades, security and recovery. The advantages of this approach are well-known: rapid deployment, low latency, high performance and strong data governance among them.
But DBaaS also provides an exit sign from the Wild West where database proliferation has been causing admin hassle, swelling costs, slow time to market and escalating risk. DBaaS means that IT knows what’s going on and enjoys a high level of control so that there is no penalty associated with innovating. That is, adding more databases and other systems doesn’t mean a linear scaling of management tasks: it just runs, and all housekeeping work is taken care of so those critical DBAs can turn their attention to complex issues on mission-critical databases.
Liberated from a huge amount of drudge work, DBAs and CIOs can work to delight the organisation’s application owners and add value where it’s most needed. This is perhaps particularly the case in organisations with mature DevOps setups where businesses and developers work in lockstep. All in all, DBaaS nudges us towards a sort of IT Nirvana where information technologists play the role of being catalysts for smarter business operations and insightful, real-time decision-making.
DBaaS also enables choice because enterprises are not locked into a single catch-all database provider (usually one with the highest software licence costs) or a single architectural approach. Instead, they are free to provision databases on a ‘horses for courses’ basis, matching business needs with the right database and lowering costs because enterprises aren’t tempted to run more services under their core enterprise RDBMS provider. CIOs can be confident of their database performance, and they can also avoid lock-in by electing to work across hybrid platforms from hyperscale clouds like AWS and Microsoft Azure to estates controlled by managed services providers and co-location facilities.
Better still, this no ‘jam tomorrow’ promise; it’s already happening. More or less, all new applications are using DBaaS, and it dominates in the cloud. People love the high levels of automation, availability and backup it affords and the fact that you don’t need deep techie skills to use it. DBaaS is becoming or has become, a de facto standard in the way modern databases are run and managed, and it is an antidote to skunkworks, Shadow IT and database sprawl.
DBaaS is a modern model that is excellent for the way IT is evolving. Leading CIOs don’t want to be weighed down by the heavy lifting of managing infrastructure, running complex datacentres or procuring and deploying services. Increasingly, they seek a federated, light-touch environment that leaves them free to focus on what the business needs to do. Similarly, smart people looking for jobs in IT today, and especially developers, don’t want to be stuck with rote tasks. They expect automation as a default, and in a jobs market with 300,000 open positions, according to Stack Overflow, having a strong DBaaS model acts as an open sesame to lure top candidates and to retain them and keep them motivated and enthused by their work.
What’s coming next? Managing more database types with DBaaS and applying automation across hybrid cloud environments has to be the way forward, and we can expect to see DBaaS stepping up to build in more controls for adherence to changing regulations and the security threatscape. DBaaS is another arrow in the quiver of CIOs and a step towards the promised land of IT invisibility where systems ‘just work’. If you’re not up to speed with the benefits of DBaaS, it’s time to act now and enjoy getting more time back to be the change agent you need to be.