AWS Relational Databases are a Game Changer


Mar 19th

Let’s be honest, databases are a pain in the butt.

First you need to install them on a Server, which needs to be managed, patched and secured, then you need to install the database, that needs to be managed, patched, secured, backed up and restored.

The amount of clients I have worked for over the years that have been brought to their knees with the management of their databases estate is countless. The industry standard is to estimate the yearly cost of managing a database for your application is 2.5 times the development cost.

So if your development cost is $100k you can expect a YEARLY support and maintenance cost of $250k.

Not all database are built the same, some of the more commercial databases have significant licensing costs which inflates this figure even higher.

The obvious answer here is to use managed databases, where the support and maintenance cost are built in to the monthly rental price of a DBaaS offering.

This concept hasn’t taken off because organisations have been reluctant to put their data in the cloud, the have concerns around scalability and lock-in to current vendors.

However there is change a foot.

Organisations are putting more and more data in the cloud, whether it is the Customer Relations Database going in to SalesForce, all of their security & operational logging data going in to Splunk, or just the entire companies emails being hosted in the cloud. Companies are becoming more confident they can securely put their sensitive data in to the cloud.

The issue of scalability is no longer seen as a road block as you can now stand up DBaaS implementations that are as big if not bigger than on-prem solutions with the flexibility to vertically scale up and down with minimal downtime. The ability to move your databases to a larger instance with minimal downtime is hugely underrated. From my days in database management this task would have been a major migration taking minimum of 6 months on production databases.

Providers like AWS also provide solutions that can scale horizontally via read replicas and in memory caches adds even more flexibility.

The lock-in’s should no longer be an issue. Migrating your data to the cloud allows you to reassess your database choices, nowadays if you are moving data from your Oracle Database on-prem to the cloud, you will have the option to move it to ANY database type, it might be to another Oracle database, or Microsoft SQL DB, or Amazon Aurora. Or you might want to think about the cheap license database types such as MariaDB, MYSQL, Postgres or AWS DynamoDB, all of which are now being utilised for some of the largest global start-ups on the planet.

Netflix famously uses Amazon SimpleDB, Cassandra and MySQL, with an eye to move to AWS Aurora. Amazon themselves migrated 7500 Oracle databases to a combination of the AWS managed services DB offerings. If these massive global organisations can get rid of proprietary databases and run workloads at scale on the new generation of databases, you are being negligent not considering these options.

Yury Izrailevsky, Director of Cloud and Systems Infrastructure at Netflix uses a common saying, “the right tool for the job”. We should no longer be throwing everything in to a relational database, we now have columnar databases, time series databases, key value databases, document databases graph databases etc etc. The truth is a relational database is often the wrong answer.

Which brings me to the point of this article, it is expensive and time consuming to manage your own database implementation, it restricts your flexibility and inhibits innovation. There is a reason the nouveau global organisations don’t use the legacy databases, and it is not just to ensure their cost base is lower than older traditional organisations, it is about being agile, being innovative and spending your resources in the right place, development not management.

The managed database options coming out of AWS will be a game changer for traditional organisations. It flips your technical team from managing a massive infrastructure to a team of builders, building your next innovative application.

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