Database migration involves moving data from one or multiple source platforms to a different database. Organizations often create a database migration strategy that helps align the migration process with specific business needs. For example, an organization may decide to migrate its on-premises data to a cloud-based database to reduce costs. Another business may opt to migrate to a database that offers extended features more suitable to current needs.
What Is a Cloud Database?
A cloud database is a managed service accessed and built via a cloud platform. Users simply request a database instance from a cloud provider, and it is automatically deployed on cloud infrastructure. A cloud database has many functions of a traditional database, with the additional flexibility offered by cloud computing.
Here are typical features of cloud databases:
- Users can host databases without purchasing dedicated hardware.
- Providers manage database infrastructure.
- The database can be scaled up and down on demand.
- It can support relational database engines (such as PostgreSQL or MySQL) or NoSQL databases (such as Apache CouchDB or MongoDB).
- Users can access the database via an API or a web interface.
Why You Should Migrate Your Database to the Cloud
Here are the top reasons you should consider moving your on-premises database to the cloud.
1. Cost savings
Migrating your database to the cloud reduces the need for in-house IT staff and data center facilities. Cloud database migration also does not need the specialized tools and resources required to manage complex IT environments. Over time, database cloud migration results in lower capital costs and decreased HVAC and electrical operating expenditures.
2. Elimination of physical infrastructure
The cloud computing vendor offers storage, servers, and other infrastructure in a cloud database environment. It is responsible for maintaining high availability and maintaining the infrastructure. The organization that operates and owns the database is responsible for configuring it, as well as loading, managing and protecting the data.
3. Scalability and flexibility
You can scale a database up and down more easily when you migrate to the cloud. Cloud computing also provides increased elasticity and flexibility. Cloud database migration enables dynamic scaling, so additional database instances can be created to meet changing application loads.
4. Disaster recovery
Organizations are using the cloud to help them enforce a strong disaster recovery plan. Organizations can copy or backup entire virtual servers to an off-premises data center with cloud computing.
You can spin up the virtual server on a virtual host in a few minutes. The benefit of this is that you can safely and accurately restore a database in a remote data center without reinstalling the server. Consequently, you can cut down on disaster recovery times.
5. Enhanced analytics capabilities
One of the key organizational goals when migrating databases to the cloud is to improve analytics capabilities, including data lakes and data warehousing. You can even prepare for advanced analytics, for example, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Data modernization is the initial step to initiating scalable analytics capabilities. Organizations can use cloud computing to achieve real-time data availability.
Via the cloud, organizations can visualize their data and provide access to more employees for improved decision-making. Most importantly, cloud providers offer a range of data analytics and machine learning services that can help organizations gain deeper insights into data without a major investment in infrastructure.
Top Cloud Database Offerings
Here are cloud database offerings from the world’s leading cloud providers — Amazon and Microsoft.
Amazon Web Services offers the following cloud database services:
- Amazon RDS: This relational database service facilitates management, eliminating the need for most tasks (though not application-specific configurations). Administrators can manage RDS using the AWS Management Console, the command-line interface (CLI), or API calls. It offers six database engine options:
- Amazon Aurora
- Microsoft SQL Server
- Amazon Aurora: Amazon’s relational database engine is available under RDS. It is the best option for database maintainers to make the necessary changes and prioritize performance, providing high performance for PostgreSQL and MySQL compatibility modes. However, it may be better to migrate to another engine if compatibility is the priority.
- Amazon DynamoDB: This document and key-value database delivers scalable performance in milliseconds within the single digits. It is durable, fully managed, multi-master and multi-region, providing built-in capabilities such as in-memory caching, security, and backup and restore for web applications. DynamoDB can process over 10 trillion requests in a day and supports peaks of over 20 million requests per second.
- Amazon ElastiCache: This web service facilitates the deployment, operation, and scaling of in-memory caches in the cloud. It lets you retrieve data quickly from a managed in-memory cache to improve web application performance and reduce your reliance on a slow, disk-based database.
Azure offers the following cloud database services:
- Azure Cosmos DB: This database service is fully managed, offering transparent, multi-master replication and turnkey global distribution. It offers 99% low-latency reads and writes, with millisecond reads in the single digits. Cosmos DB also provides elastic and automatic storage and throughput scaling with high availability of 99.999%, offering five consistency choices backed by comprehensive, industry-leading SLAs.
- Azure SQL Database: This cloud database service is scalable and intelligent, providing the broadest compatibility with the SQL Server engine and offering an ROI of up to 212%. Azure SQL Database lets you build apps in the Azure cloud or migrate your existing apps to support SQL Server workloads.
- Azure Database for MySQL: This database as a service (DBaaS) offering provides a community database that is enterprise-ready and fully managed. The MySQL Community facilitates lift-and-shift cloud migration with frameworks and languages that you choose. This option also provides built-in dynamic scaling and high availability, allowing you to make adjustments according to changing customer demands.
- Azure Database for PostgreSQL: This fully-managed offering lets you focus on developing innovative apps without wasting energy on database management. This service can run on on-premise infrastructure while providing cloud capabilities, including automation, hyperscaling, centralized management, and cloud pricing based on a reserved capacity billing model.
- SQL Server on Azure virtual machines: This offering lets you use a full SQL Server version in the cloud, eliminating the need to manage on-premise infrastructure. You use SQL Server VMs on a pay-as-you-go basis, which helps to simplify licensing costs.
Preparing for a Cloud-hosted Future
Cloud database services are becoming a pillar of IT operations in the cloud. Traditionally, managing database infrastructure and concerns like scaling and high availability were high on the priority list of IT teams, because databases are typically a mission critical application. Today, many organizations are moving to the cloud and outsourcing these concerns to a third-party provider.
Migrating a database to the cloud is convenient, but also involves a certain loss of control. In the on-premise data center, IT staff could choose their database version, implement customizations, fine-tune performance, and easily integrate their database with legacy systems. All these become much more difficult, if not impossible, in a managed service.
That being said, there are many strong drivers for migrating to the cloud, such as cost savings, elimination of physical infrastructure, easier scalability, disaster recovery, and improved analytics.
- Saving costs: Cloud databases can significantly reduce upfront investments and ongoing operating costs of databases.
- Eliminating physical infrastructure: Running databases in the cloud reduces the need to maintain on-premises servers, high-end networking, and other equipment.
- Easier scalability: Probably the biggest benefit of the cloud is you can scale your database up and down much more easily than you could on-premises. Depending on the deployment model you choose, this can be automatic or may require manual effort.
- Disaster recovery: In the cloud, it is relatively simple to set up a remote disaster recovery site that can help you recover from an outage.
- Improved analytics: Cloud providers offer analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) services that integrate seamlessly with cloud databases.
In addition, I covered popular cloud database offerings from the big three cloud providers, which you can leverage to make a move to the cloud, notably Amazon RDS, Azure SQL Database, and Azure Cosmos DB. All the leading providers offer free trials and free pricing tiers, so you can test drive any of these services and see if a cloud database is right for your project.