Cloud Database Trends and Reducing the Risk of Moving High-Stakes Workloads
Moving high-stakes workloads to the cloud doesn’t have to be a high-risk transition. Here’s how to do it right.
- By Ravi Mayuram
- November 21, 2022
The fundamental shift that underpins the success of digital transformation efforts is the journey of enterprises moving from legacy data infrastructures to modern ones. Central to this are the databases -- the bedrock on which the entire enterprise technology stack stands. Although the previous generation of databases allowed businesses to move from paper to digital, the next generation of modern databases must enable businesses to directly reach their customers. The direct-to-consumer movement is what’s driving business models, customer engagement models, and database consumption models.
Recent research revealed that the cloud is set to represent the majority of IT spending by 2025, with 95 percent of respondents saying that increased movement of infrastructure to the cloud is “inevitable.” With the growing demand for cloud-based services, and with cloud databases making up 49 percent of total database revenue, the pivotal shift to DBaaS platforms has arrived. Although the cloud seems to be everywhere, well-established enterprises and new, smaller organizations have yet to make the change. A seemingly daunting feat, moving database workloads to the cloud can be a low-risk, seamless process when working with the right vendors.
To better prepare organizations for shifting to cloud-based databases, let’s take a closer look at trends that are worth the hype, how to overcome cloud migration hurdles, and guidelines for ensuring the selected vendor is securing and optimizing workloads.
Cloud Database Trends That are Worth the Jump
Shifting on-premises database workloads to the cloud is the first step to future-proofing applications. However, it’s important to acknowledge that not all workloads are suited for the cloud, including applications that interact at a low level with hardware or are bound to proprietary hardware systems.
Moving to the cloud can also help manage future costs of platform upgrades. If an organization is running its software in-house, they’re in charge of updating it. With a cloud provider, the process and cost of updates is managed. Updating Linux, for example, can be time-consuming and risky if an organization is managing its own servers.
The cloud also gets ahead of security risks. Take a Log4j zero-day vulnerability. If an organization is managing its own software, chances are it’s going to take considerable time and money, as well as the right technical skills, to identify threats, whereas a cloud provider has security experts who can recognize and patch vulnerabilities much quicker. The cloud also allows organizations to standardize, impacting scalability and establishing sustainable, repeatable processes. Standardization can reduce the risk of errors that would otherwise be more likely to occur with complex processes while reducing the time it takes for IT to safeguard workloads because everything can be updated holistically.
Overcoming Cloud Migration Hurdles
Cloud service provider (CSP) lock-in can occur if a new database vendor doesn’t allow customers to be flexible when deploying cloud-based workloads. Big cloud providers offer a growing variety of services, but many of those offerings are vendor-specific. They may couple well with the rest of the CSP’s cloud ecosystems and can provide efficiencies, but once an organization’s application is tied to the database, it's locked in to the cloud provider, with no option to deploy elsewhere. Cloud vendor lock-in shouldn’t become a barrier for organizations moving to the cloud, so it’s important for decision makers to be vigilant about identifying their team’s needs. To avoid this, a multicloud approach is recommended. Consider using a service that can be hosted by any major cloud provider.
Migrating workloads to the cloud can also introduce complexities of data governance. This is especially true when dealing with distributed environments. In certain use cases (such as online healthcare services and real-money gaming), how and where data is handled and processed can be heavily regulated, so you must be aware of GDPR requirements, data sovereignty, data residency, HIPAA, etc. Modern cloud providers have started offering edge services that help solve data residency issues by enabling local data centers where regulations allow. With these emerging CSP edge services, industries such as online betting can run standard cloud infrastructure locally in each region, ensuring they meet state-by-state regulatory requirements for online gambling transactions.
Finally, monolithic lifts are often unrealistic and can result in distrust of the cloud. Consider starting with low-risk workloads, including a service that's used internally, used by limited external partners, or a microservice that's deployed by a fraction of overall users, because it can reduce risk and impact if something unplanned occurs during transition. Once a lower-risk workload has fully moved to the cloud, teams can identify the best approaches when transitioning more critical applications. Taking an incremental approach with low-profile workloads provides the best outcome for vendors, partners, and end users.
Securing and Optimizing Cloud Database Workloads
To ensure workloads are optimized in the cloud, establish clear objectives. Know the characteristics of typical workloads -- such details as size of the data and number of read/write operations, for example. Pose the following questions to database providers:
- Does the cloud database charge more for complex queries than simple read/writes?
- What impact will that have on costs?
- Do developers understand the connection between operations and financial considerations?
- Is there a fixed cost model? If so, how many operations can that fixed-cost model support?
- What does the next marginal scale-up in the fixed-cost model entail in costs, operations, and performance?
Also be mindful of automatic scaling to keep costs under control. Ask database vendors the following questions so you can avoid hidden fees:
- What is the maximum a service can scale to automatically?
- What would that cost?
- Is there a cost monitoring system?
- What's the lowest base level of scaling?
- Does it support a seasonal/cyclical change in workloads (if applicable)?
- Will an auto-scaled-down service be able to handle a gradual increase or spike?
Keeping your cloud database workloads secure boils down to data leakage. To avoid compromised data, ensure your data is encrypted at rest (major cloud providers provide automatic encryption of data at rest), and while it is in motion (HTTPS/TLS). Leaders should be aware of where personally identifiable information (PII) is stored and consider using a vendor (or tool) that scans periodically for PII. In the event of a data breach, this helps to understand the risk level, contain the impact of the breach, and mitigate further damage by encrypting sensitive data.
Cloud databases offer tremendous benefits, and moving high-stakes workloads to the cloud doesn’t have to be a high-risk transition. Leaders must evaluate all possible scenarios, understand their workloads, and ask forward-thinking questions during your evaluation. Only then will you be positioned for digital transformation success.