Cloud Databases May Gain Ground in 2009

Database vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle began taking a long look at the cloud in 2008. Analysts expect more of the same in 2009, this time with vendors putting more database functionality into the cloud.

For those of us watching the database space, 2008 can be remembered as the year when cloud computing began to touch the database market in a major way.

The biggest example was the launch of Microsoft SDS (SQL Data Services) in March. The move made Microsoft the first major database vendor to offer a version of its database in the cloud. But smaller companies, such as Blist and LongJump, also sought to make noise this past year with their Web-based databases.

In 2009, industry analysts predict even more movement on the cloud computing front by database vendors.

So far, there has been no reason to think enterprises would completely abandon traditional DBMSes. Microsoft, for example, was quick to point out that SDS did not offer all of SQL Server's capabilities. More comparable to's Amazon SimpleDB, SDS is meant to be a scalable on-demand data storage and query processing Web service.

Click here for a rundown of the top database stories of 2008.

Still, Microsoft has said it will likely expand the features of SDS over time to include aggregates, distributed queries, schemas and other functionality. Calling SDS a good first move, Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said the fact that it is missing the functionality found in full database management systems is why it is being used by developers rather than enterprises. In the coming year, however, he expects to see more full DBMSes in the cloud.

"You can use your Oracle license now in the cloud," Feinberg noted. "Vertica and EnterpriseDB Postgres Plus are now available on EC2 ... IBM will need to address this for competitive reasons."

Oracle's decision to allow its database and middleware tools to run on Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) has the potential to make cloud-based hosting an attractive option for its customer base, and gives Oracle something to offer as Microsoft makes its push into the cloud with Windows Azure.

Unveiled in October, Windows Azure is the cloud services operating system underlying the Azure Services Platform.

"I think Microsoft SDS makes a lot more sense in the context of Azure than it did as a stand-alone offerin,g but we are yet to see details of enterprise adoption for simple query services from Microsoft or Amazon's SimpleDB," said Matt Aslett, an analyst with The 451 Group.

Aslett predicted that the cloud will continue to be a major center of attention for database vendors in 2009 as and Microsoft provide more details on use cases for simple query services. Traditional database vendors meanwhile will focus their attention on managing and configuring their products on cloud platforms, he said.

"2008 was all about getting the products available on AWS [Amazon Web Services] and other platforms ... 2009 will be about getting the partnerships and tools in place to ensure that the configuration, management and licensing processes match the ease of use promised by the cloud," Aslett said.