Though cloud computing is increasingly becoming part of enterprise IT strategy, it will likely be awhile before large-scale, mission-critical databases make their way to the cloud. Businesses still have concerns over security, scalability and performance that must be addressed as the technology matures.
In late 2007-early 2008,
the cloud computing buzz touched the database in earnest.
More than a year later,
much of that buzz has died down, as companies continue weighing security,
scalability and compliance concerns about pushing their data into the cloud.
The market for cloud
is still in its early stage, but Forrester Research analyst Noel
Yuhanna said there could be an upswing in adoption in the next few years.
"Today, most enterprises
are struggling to reduce cost and improve manageability of their databases, and
cloud databases offer a great opportunity to address such issues," he said.
"However, the technology is still maturing and is likely to take two to three
years before we actually see large mission-critical databases on a hosted
That doesn't mean
. Forrester Research estimates that right now 18 percent of
enterprises are looking at cloud databases. There are a few models gaining
traction today, said Burton Group analyst Marcus Collins. One is established
databases such as Oracle
DB2 running on Amazon EC2; another
is cloud databases such as SimpleDB and Google App Engine that are loosely
linked to the no-SQL movement.
"Microsoft Azure adds
perhaps a third model where we'll see more
(i.e., relational, SQL) processing using a cloud platform,"
Collins said. "This is still a work in progress as we have seen a change of
emphasis of Microsoft over the past 12 months away from the prior model
(no-SQL) to a more traditional model."
Much of the activity
involving traditional databases in the cloud is in the form of development and
testing, not running operational applications, said Matt Aslett, an analyst
with The 451 Group.
"At this stage we see more
interest in deploying simple applications using SimpleDB, but that is an
entirely different use case from an enterprise database," he said. "SQL Azure
is interesting in that it started out as essentially a replica of SimpleDB but
has become a cloud-based operational database that will enable users to extend
existing and new SQL Server applications to Azure. We believe that makes sense
given Microsoft's customer base and [that] this mixed private/public cloud
paradigm is likely to encourage wider deployment of database in the cloud given
the launch of beta testing for Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud, which will
enable users to connect their existing infrastructure to isolated Amazon cloud
compute resources and use internal security products ... to protect systems
running on Amazon."
The main concerns around
cloud databases-security, compliance and scalability-are essentially the same
as last year, analysts said, and are part of a wider discussion about cloud
computing. There are also concerns about performance issues as well-whether a
particular offering can deliver subsecond query responses, for example.
"Right now, vendors are
not really addressing the scale issue, but mainly to establish credibility and
reliability of the solution, scale will follow over the next two to three
years," Yuhanna said. "The target is to get departmental and smaller business
apps on the cloud first. For example, Microsoft is positioning the SQL Azure
database for small to medium-sized businesses, Web 2.0 and ASP.NET developers with a pay-as-you-grow
database solution. ... We are likely to see smaller and departmental apps ... over
the next year, then moderate-sized but less mission-critical apps [in about one
to two years], and then mission-critical apps in about three to four years."