The Battle for Your Databases

The Battle for Your Databases

There’s a battle going on right now between all of the public cloud vendors – a war in the clouds. And you might be surprised to hear what they are fighting over. They are fighting over you. Or, more specifically, your business-critical databases.

Everybody has something in the cloud these days. On a personal level, we are all keeping our photos, our music and our emails in the cloud. Corporations have followed suit: email, document collaboration, workflow, backups and websites. Almost everything is in the cloud. Almost.

The Big Scary Stuff That Nobody Wants to Move

Pretty much every company with an on-prem presence will have one or more relational databases underpinning their critical applications. Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, DB/2, MySQL; these products support mission-critical applications like CRM, ERM, e-commerce, etc. And in each industry vertical, there are critical systems: healthcare has Electronic Patient Records, retail has its warehouse management platforms, finance has all manner of systems labelled Do Not Touch.

These workloads are the last bastion of on-prem, the final stand of the privately managed data centre. And just like mainframes, on-prem may never completely die, but we should expect to see it fade away this decade. The challenge, though, is the inertia caused by such massive amounts of complexity and the associated risk of disturbing it. I have witnessed DBA teams who draw lots over which unfortunate will have to log on to “that database”, the one in the corner that nobody understands or wants to touch when it’s working ok. So how are they going to migrate that entire thing into AWS or Azure? Everybody knows a story about an eighteen-month migration project that overran budget by 1000% and then failed, right?

The View from The Clouds

You may ask, if all this complex and gnarly stuff is full of risk, why do the hyperscalers want it? The answer is, because this is the biggest game left on the hunting ground. These vast technology stacks are the crown jewels of on-prem data estates. If you are Cloud Vendor A, there are some major reasons why you really want to capture this workload into your cloud:

  1. Big applications and databases require a large recurring spend on premium cloud infrastructure
  2. Customers are already used to spending large amounts of money to run these services
  3. The surrounding application ecosystem offers potential for the upsell of further cloud services (analytics, AI, business intelligence, etc)
  4. Once that workload comes into your cloud, it’s probably never leaving. In other words, it’s a long-term guaranteed revenue stream.

The last point is especially important: vendors use the term sticky to describe workloads like this. The effort of migrating all that sensitive, critical data and all that impenetrable business logic (written ten years ago by developers who have long since moved on) means you are never going to want to do this more than once. Once it’s in, it’s in.

In fact, the hyperscalers internally refer to these databases as anchor workloads, because they are what hold back the migration of large, juicy, and complex environments into the public cloud. Like the biggest beast on the savannah, they are the hardest to take down… but a successful capture means the cloud vendor gets to feast for days.

So what do you do if it’s your database that they’re fighting over? How do you make sure that you are making the right choice, mitigating the risks, controlling the costs, and guaranteeing enterprise-class levels of business continuity… all while avoiding the thorny issue of vendor lock-in?

Making Cloud Migration a Little Less Scary For the Big Scary Stuff

Investing in a cloud platform that sits neatly between your databases and the cloud infrastructure of your choice can help you achieve the ultra-high level of performance you need while also providing data mobility and database-level resilience to address those availability concerns you may have about the public cloud. Platforms like this are smart, resilient… yet invisible, so your data is constantly being optimized to give you the best performance for the most cost-efficient price. But without having to rewrite your application.


Chris Buckel

Chris has over 20 years of experience working with enterprise customers in the field of applications and databases. Prior to founding the European team at Silk, Chris worked for companies like Oracle Corporation and CGI, having been involved in some of the largest database deployments worldwide. As an author and industry speaker on the subject of Database Performance, he is best known by his pseudonym of “flashdba”.