Heroku Puts SQL Relational Databases in the Cloud

Michael Vizard

For the most part, much of the activity surrounding databases in the cloud have been confined to NoSQL databases. But the folks at the Heroku cloud unit of Salesforce.com are starting to make an aggressive case for running traditional SQL relational databases in the cloud.

Heroku recently made available an instance of the open source Postgres 9.1 database as a cloud computing service. According to Peter van Hardenberg, general manager for Heroku Postgres, the benefits of the Heroku SQL Database-as-a-Service platform are twofold. The first is that all the maintenance tasks associated with managing a relational database, including the hiring of a database administrator, are offloaded to Heroku. The second is that, as a service, the Heroku implementation of Postgres can dynamically scale to meet application requirements on demand.

Postgres as a service, says van Hardenberg, is essentially the latest instance of a sea of change that is leading to the “democratization of scale” in the cloud that will be available at the push of a button. Ultimately, van Hardenberg contends that the combination of scale and flexibility offered by such services is going to push application deployment into public cloud services that will be not only less expensive to manage, but better suited to support agile application development methodologies. The end result, says van Hardenberg, will not only be more rapid development of applications, but significantly better business outcomes for all concerned.

But given the growing popularity of NoSQL database services in the cloud clearly there is a lot of interest. While NoSQL databases offer some unique attributes, van Hardenberg contends that most of the organizations using them have shifted in the direction because there was not a good general-purpose database available in the cloud for them to use. SQL databases will also quickly evolve in time to efficiently handle most of the technical requirements that attracted many early adopters of NoSQL databases, added van Hardenberg.

With the release of Postgres in the cloud, Heroku is clearly firing a show across the bow of Oracle, which has been slow to embrace cloud computing in the context of its core database. Whether there will be a wholesale shift to developing and deploying applications running on SQL databases in the cloud remains to be seen. But the one thing that is for certain is the role of the DBA within the enterprise will never be the same again.

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