Vendors Move to Merge the Database and the Cloud

Arthur Cole

Now that storage has provided the wedge service for the cloud, the race is on to see who can tap into some of the higher-level enterprise functions, like database management.

A number of services are already offering database resources over the cloud, and the vendor community is not shy about touting its ability to provide cloud-optimized tools and platforms, but the question remains whether there are more negatives than positives here.

Author Ken North does a good job of peeking through the bushes on Dr. Dobb's Journal this week. He points out that success or failure depends largely on your expectations and on factors such as the type of application being served (BI, e-commerce, knowledge bases, etc.), as well as deployment and integration issues and budgets. He says the cloud is most effective when it comes to large data sets and heavy load applications, which is why many of the early adopters come from the biomed and financial industries.

Microsoft's Azure platform should provide a major boost for cloud-based relational database applications, according to tech blogger Nari Kannan. It includes all manner of Web services designed for SQL users, without all those pesky tasks like installing new software releases, service packs and the like. Cloud-based SQL servers can be distributed around the world, with automated backup, replication and archiving.

Other providers are looking to join the party, too. Users of the Oracle Hyperion Essbase platform would be interested to know that Applied OLAP is now partnered with, providing a convenient test bed for Dodeca and Essbase applications. The deal overcomes one of the major stumbling blocks for OLAP analytical and reporting tools: the lack of a convenient development environment that can accurately mirror real-world OLAP environments.

When you start putting major data loads onto the cloud, however, bandwidth quickly becomes an issue. That's the main reason Vertica Systems has added the new FlexStore architecture to its Vertica 3.5 column database. The system allows you to customize performance and compression levels to minimize file I/O for individual queries. The system is available either in-house on Linux or VMware platforms or on cloud services like EC2.

Putting large databases on the cloud is subject to the same concerns as cloud-based storage or other applications, namely performance and security. The hope is that as the cloud takes on a greater share of overall enterprise functionality, users will come to realize that the cloud is no less subject to failure or breach than any other architecture. In the meantime, you get virtually unlimited scalability, global load management and powerful, up-to-date functionality -- all at lower price points than in-house systems.

If the cloud is to become the alternative enterprise architecture that backers claim, it will likely succeed or fail on how well it can handle databases.

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