DBaaS or IaaS? Database Cloud Comparison


Technology leaders are being inundated with a flood of new cloud architectures, strategies and products – all guaranteed by vendors and various industry pundits to solve all of our database challenges. This seemingly endless array of public cloud based DBMS offerings can quickly become bewildering.  One of the top questions our customers have is whether they should choose DBaaS or IaaS as their preferred database cloud architecture.  This post is intended to peel back the veil of the 2 primary cloud based DBMS platforms by providing readers with our experiences with IaaS and DBaaS architectures.

One of the benefits of working for a remote DBA services provider is that our shop’s collective knowledge is not constrained by any one organization’s technology implementation.  We have customers that have technology strategies that range from “bleeding edge” to “yesterday’s technology tomorrow.”

We know what products work and which ones don’t, what tech stack combinations play well together and what database technologies and features provide the most benefits for a given business or technical need.  In addition, we are required to administer virtually every database feature you can think of for every product we support, and we work with dozens of cloud systems.  This provides us with a wealth of knowledge that  includes cloud strategies, technologies, architectures, product offerings and vendor-specific features.

 DBaaS and IaaS Defined

Let’s continue our discussion by learning more about the two primary cloud architectures – Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).  Since we are talking about database management systems, let’s use the term Database-as-a-Service or DBaaS to define that architecture.

We all have experience with on-premises systems.  We have to build the server rooms,  provide heating, cooling, redundant connectivity and power.  We are required to purchase, install and administer all of the components to provide the safest environment we can for our systems.

We are then required to buy the server hardware, install it and maintain it.  When it breaks or we want to increase horsepower, we have to open the chassis and work on the server components. We add CPU, memory, disk – whatever we need.  To perform those activities, we either have to take an outage or make plans to shift the system and workloads to another server to ensure availability.  We also buy and administer the OS and DB software we need to run our database- driven applications.

In addition, we evaluate, buy, install and support all of the other products we need, which often includes monitoring, security, auditing and third-party reporting products.  Look at the two stars in the the graphic above.  We have to buy and support everything- both hardware and software.

Let’s move on to the cloud. Most IaaS and DBaaS environments are multi-tenant, which means we are sharing the vendor’s compute and storage architecture with other customers.  In addition, depending on the architecture and vendor chosen, the system will vary in degrees of scalability, elasticity, automated administrative services and self-service.

The architecture that is the closest to on-premises is Infrastructure-as- a-Service,   the architecture defined in the bottom center of our graphic.  With Infrastructure-a- a-Service (IaaS), the vendor provides the compute and storage infrastructure and may offer some level of system maintenance activities. Customers have direct access to the cloud system, which includes both compute and storage components.  Think of it as a server, more often than not, a virtual server in the cloud.

You don’t have to  build your server support environment that provides air conditioning, light, multiple power providers, UPS systems, generators and redundant connections to the internet.  All of those features are provided by the vendor, but IaaS customers will continue to maintain full ownership of their software stack’s administration, including the operating system and database.   Customers install and administer their software of choice on the Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform.

It’s important to note that depending on the IaaS provider and the offering chosen, customers are able to take advantage of the vendor’s features to reduce the time to support the environment. Microsoft Azure, for example, provides builds you can use to get a jumpstart on provisioning a new DB environment.  However, you will need to tailor that generic build to meet your needs.

Now that we know that IaaS is pretty much a server in the cloud, let’s move on to PaaS, or in our case, DBaaS – Database-as-a-Service. DBaaS vendors provide all of the server environmental benefits that their IaaS counterparts do.

DBaaS providers increase their level of control and responsibility by assuming ownership of the operating system and database software as well as the hardware. DBaaS customers perform little to no operating system and database software administration.  The vendors will be constantly enhancing their architecture’s automation capabilities to further reduce the human labor involved to administer their environments.

The DBaaS vendors also make modifications to their database software for two reasons:

#1-is to ensure their product will work in their shared cloud  environment
#2- to leverage the benefits that the cloud, and their architecture, inherently provides

Geographic data redundancy would be an example as  it allows customers to leverage the cloud to more easily create DR and HA systems.  It’s important to note that as we discuss IaaS and DBaaS architectures, there can be a lot of variations in the vendor offerings.

Comparing On-Premises, IaaS and DBaaS Architectures

Each environment, on-premises, IaaS and DBaaS, has strengths and weaknesses that are inherent to their architectures. I’ve provided this comparison information for the 3 DB environments shops can choose from – on-premises, the database running on IaaS and the DBaaS offering.  Each environment has pros and cons, benefits and drawbacks.

IaaS allows customers  to maintain tighter administrative control over their environment.  They can also more easily leverage  their  favorite internal third-party products on IaaS systems than they can with DBaaS.  IaaS is just a server that is provided to you over the cloud.

Many of the third-party tools that include monitoring, security, application development, auditing –  can be challenging to integrate into a DBaaS architecture because of the modifications the vendors make to their systems. All of the DBaaS vendors provide monitoring tools. Some vendors, like Amazon, charge extra if the customer wants a more robust monitoring solution than what is offered in their base package. In general, DBaaS monitoring tools aren’t as robust as their on-premises counterparts, but they are catching up very quickly.

If the DBaaS provider determines that its own internal underlying software, OS or database needs a critical availability, security or performance patch, shops may not have a choice on its implementation.  If that patch requires an outage, the customer will need to schedule that outage and oftentimes before a certain date.  DBaaS offerings allow customers to more easily configure complex architectures such as high availability and disaster recovery. All of the major DBaaS providers offer geo data redundancy.

Leveraging DBaaS Environments to Reduce DBA Labor Costs

Migrating to a DBaaS environment does reduce the amount of time a DBA spends administering the database environment, but it doesn’t reduce that administrative time to 0. Customers will experience the most significant time savings in OS administration and hardware support.

DBAs do spend time installing, patching and upgrading the DBMS software as well as tuning the environment and setting up and monitoring maintenance and backup utilities. Many of these administrative tasks can be provided by the DBaaS vendor depending on the vendor and offering selected.

The majority of a DBA’s  time is spent working within the database systems themselves. DBAs  build schemas, grant security, assist developers with SQL and procedural program tuning, provide advice, enforce business logic using database features, tune application workloads and debug issues. DBaaS vendors don’t provide these services as part of their basic package. There are literally dozens (and dozens) of administrative activities that DBAs are required to perform in DBaaS environments.

It’s important to remember that although the vendor may provide the mechanisms and processes to automate administrative activities, this also does not reduce DBA support responsibilities for them to 0. Personnel may need to configure how they are to be performed and when they are scheduled. All of the major DBaaS vendors provide patching, maintenance utilities and automated backup processes, but it is up to the DBA to review scheduling, configure custom schedules and monitor the execution for all automated tasks.

An increasingly competitive DBaaS marketplace forces all vendors to maximize their product’s inherent feature set. Constant innovation and integration of new features that differentiate their product from other vendors is an absolute requirement for their continued competitive survival.

During my tenure in the IT field, I’ve found the following equation to be true:

New Features
+ New Functionality
+ New Technologies
+ New Architectures
 + New Business Requirements
 = Increased IT Support Complexity

As the cloud vendors add features to their DBaaS offerings, the products will increase in complexity.  The features may automate some of the administrators’ support  activities but, at a global level,  DBAs with a high-level of technical knowledge will continue to be needed  to support  DBaaS environments.

Here’s a quick example. Most cloud vendors provide features that allow administrators to more easily configure HA and DR environments, but it still requires an extensive knowledge of these technologies and business requirements  to configure, implement, administer and monitor.   The activities may be performed much faster in DBaaS environments than on-premises systems, but that foundational base of knowledge is still required.

Well-trained administrators will determine what regions are best to house the failover systems, work with developers and business users to select a failover strategy that meets their combined business, technical and budgetary needs, monitor the actual failover process, identify the root cause of the failover to ensure it doesn’t recur and restore the system to its original configuration once the problem is corrected.

Impact on Existing Change Management Procedures and Documentation

Because cloud environments are different than on-premises systems, organizations leveraging these new architectures may have to update their existing  change management processes and documentation. How long that takes and the number of techs needed for the project, depends on, once again, the cloud architecture chosen and how stringent the organization’s change management processes and documentation requirements are. Because DBaaS is administered much more differently than on-premises, it will have a greater impact than IaaS, which is just a server on the cloud.

Additional documentation that may also need to be modified includes: security, disaster recovery, monitoring, problem resolution, job scheduling, administrative best practices, repeatable processes, internal, industry specific, governmental regulatory compliance, etc…

The amount of documentation changes required will depend upon the breadth and depth of documentation your particular organization requires as a best practice. Once again, this is a greater impact for DBaaS.

Impact on Existing Toolsets

Shops migrating to DBaaS environments will need to identify all of the build, administration, monitoring and access tools that they use to interact with their on-premises databases. All shops usually have a couple of “must have” tools that are frequently used.  Administrators will need to identify which of their organization’s existing toolsets will continue to work in the cloud – and which ones won’t. The popularity of the cloud is driving most software product vendors to make sure their offerings work with cloud systems, but it is not something that should be taken for granted.

RDX’s recommendation is to create a list and verify that the preferred  tools will continue to work with the cloud versions of the database.  The majority of the tools will work with IaaS (remember, it is just a server in the cloud), but for DBaaS, shops will need to perform the evaluation to determine if they can integrate and the level of effort needed to integrate them.

Comparing On-Premises DB Feaures to IaaS and DBaaS

We learned that IaaS allows us to install on-premises DB software in the cloud.   There’s not much analysis required to verify that all of the features we leverage in our on-premises databases are available in the IaaS cloud. Before shops migrate their favorite on-premises databases to DBaaS environments, they will need to identify the list of DB features that are not available in the cloud DBaaS offerings.

Let’s compare on-premises SQL Server to the 2 leading cloud vendors, Amazon and Microsoft, both of which offer SQL Server DBaaS. Amazon’s SQL Server DBaaS offering doesn’t support PolyBase, stretch database, backing up to blob storage and importing data into the msdb database. Also, administrators can’t rename a database if it is used in an Amazon Mirroring deployment, and it doesn’t allow customers to increase storage on a SQL Server database.  If the customer needs to increase the storage of a SQL Server DB Instance, they are required to back the database up, create a new DB instance with increased storageand then restore the databases into the new DB instance.

It doesn’t support SSIS, SSAS or SSRS, and it doesn’t have SQL Server server-level security roles for sysadmin, serveradmin, securityadmin, dbcreator and bulkadmin.  It also doesn’t support database mail, maintenance plans, distributed queries, log shipping, change data capture, SQL Server Audit or bulk insert.

How about Azure SQL DB vs SQL Server on-premises? These are two DB products offered by the same vendor. Microsoft’s Azure DBaaS offering doesn’t support attaching a database, backup and restore statements, change data capture, database mail, database mirroring, database snapshots, extended stored procedures, filestream, linked servers, log shipping, resource governor, the profiler, SSIS, SSAS or SSRS.

Now instead of database mirroring and log shipping, it does provide Active Geodata-Replication, which could be a better alternative for many customers – but its different! I’m not stating that these environments aren’t as effective as on-premises, but they have different features that we all need to be aware of.


Recent RDX customer surveys have shown that although most of our clients have defined their high-level cloud migration strategies, they are continuing to evaluate and compare IaaS and DBaaS platforms.  Some of our smaller and mid-sized customers have decided to go “all in” and migrate all of their systems to the cloud, but the majority of our customers has stated that they will execute a “best fit” strategy which includes implementing  new databases that use on-premises platforms as well as IaaS and DBaaS architectures.

In addition to choosing the most appropriate cloud architecture for a given database-driven application, there are a host of other considerations that must be evaluated when migrating to the cloud. Will you need to transfer data into and out of that cloud DB environment?  How much data? Does the database being migrated depend on data from other on-premises systems? How will you ensure that the database and data transfers are secure? What level of application changes are you comfortable with?  Are you permitted to have a downtime for the migration or is it required to be a “flip the switch” process? This is just a quick sampling.  An entire article could be written on all of the issues that must be considered and evaluated when migrating to cloud architectures.

RDX has successfully converted dozens of on-premises systems to the cloud and changed DB products along the way.  RDX offers a wide range of cloud DB services – from strategic analysis and architecture design to migration and ongoing support.  If you would like our assistance, please visit our Cloud Services page for more info.



Google & Cisco are Partnering Up with a Hybrid Cloud Solution

Question: What do you get when you pair the largest networking company in the world with one of the premier cloud storage providers? Answer: Cisco-Google hybrid cloud services.

The two companies will be working together on a comprehensive solution to develop, run, secure and monitor customer applications and data. The Cisco-Google partnership will offer hybrid cloud services that allow customers to plan their cloud migration in accordance with their own strategies and within their own timeframes. It’ll prevent companies from being locked into expensive, outmoded or unmanageable systems. It’ll also help to maximize any investment companies make in cloud technology.

Bringing the Power of the Cloud In-house

Exactly what this solution will look like has yet to be detailed, but the goal of it is to bring the power of the cloud in-house. Once rolled out, developers and other IT professionals will be able to take advantage of Google’s secure cloud-storage tools, using them seamlessly to create applications within their own internal systems environment.

Both Cisco and Google have said that it’s important for customers to be able to take their networking and security capabilities with them when utilizing cloud resources. They say that any multi-cloud solution must also include support for customers’ policy requirements, as well as the ability to get real-time networking and performance data.

Managing Applications Like Never Before

Many companies rely on a combination of public and private cloud services, but there are significant differences between the two. Because of those differences, it’s difficult for developers to write applications that can move easily between environments. Developers must learn to operate in each environment separately. They’re not able, for example, to develop an application in the public cloud and deploy it in the private cloud.

Some applications belong on-premises, and some belong in the public cloud. But what if those applications could all work together? What if applications were able to extend across environments, where they can take advantage of applications and services housed in other data centers and clouds?

The Cisco-Google partnership will offer open-architecture hybrid cloud solutions that allow customers to better develop and manage applications either in-house or in the cloud. It will help developers to make use of open source platforms, such as Kubernetes and Istio, GCP Service Catalog and service mesh monitoring.

Cloud Expertise Gets Companies in the Game, Keeps Them There

The roll-out of the new hybrid cloud solution is expected to occur in early 2018 with a limited number of customers, followed by a full roll-out later in the year.

In the meantime, companies considering Google-Cisco hybrid cloud services would do well to consider taking advantage of the hybrid cloud expertise third-party database managers have to offer. Whether companies are considering the cloud or are already there, a knowledgeable DBA or cloud expert can help them get the most from their cloud investment.

RDX – the #1 onshore provider of remote DBA services – has the people, processes and technology required to speed and simplify cloud deployment, optimize assets and help you achieve business benefits faster. From needs analysis to production deployment, our cloud solutions help you successfully navigate every phase of your cloud journey. Once you’re in the cloud, we can help solidify your presence there with reliable, secure monitoring and administration services. Contact us today for more information on how you can make the cloud work for your business success.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage for Businesses

Each year, more businesses turn to cloud solutions for storing business files – documents, spreadsheets, images, etc. As security in the cloud becomes stronger, especially through token and encryption techniques, business leaders have warmed to cloud storage as a way to cut costs, create efficiencies and take advantage of third-party expertise. Forbes estimates that, by 2018, at least half of IT spending will be cloud-based. Before business leaders move their company information offsite, there are a number of cloud storage pros and cons worth considering.

Why Businesses Store Files in the Cloud

Companies realize a number of obvious benefits of cloud file storage:

1. Cloud storage allows users to work wherever they are. Documents are shared seamlessly across office locations, facilitating better collaboration among staff. Employees can access information whether they’re at the office, at home or on the road. All that’s needed is a laptop (or other electronic device) and an internet connection.

2. It may save on company bandwidth. When files are routinely emailed back and forth, it can stress a company’s IT infrastructure. Like a crowded highway, it slows down traffic and creates storage challenges. Storing business files in the cloud, however, places the burden of keeping traffic flowing squarely on a third-party provider. Plus scalability can be accomplished almost instantaneously.

3. Cost savings are another big benefit of cloud storage. Cloud providers distribute storage and service costs across many businesses, passing much of the savings along to their clients. Storing files in the cloud enables most businesses to cut back on hardware and maintenance expenses, including labor costs.

4. When a business suffers a catastrophic event – a fire, natural disaster, data hijacking or total systems crash – cloud storage is a reliable way to manage disaster recovery. Files are stored securely offsite and can be easily and effectively replaced.

5. Most cloud storage platforms have the added benefit of applications and other tools that allow businesses to optimize their information. Many cloud providers make it possible for businesses to stream files (such as audio or video) directly to customers, upload and download content directly from mobile apps and websites, host and serve the static assets of websites, and run data analysis programshave developed business intelligence (BI) analytic tools that help companies sort, understand and use the big data they accrue throughout the course of doing business.

Considerations of Cloud Storage

Security has always been a top consideration when it comes to storing information in the cloud. Businesses with sensitive information may be especially concerned about public cloud security, as firewalls between company information and that of other businesses could, theoretically at least, fail.

Despite the improved security most public cloud providers demonstrate today, some data-sensitive businesses have resigned themselves to internal or private cloud storage of business files. A private cloud may be good for companies that have already established their own data centers, but it does require on-premises IT staff to manage it, not to mention the expense of maintaining hardware.

Other businesses prefer to use a storage service that’s fully administered by someone else but still has an increased level of privacy. These operate a lot like the other public cloud storage services but with one major difference: the data is encrypted and stored in a way that nobody except the business can access it. Even the employees of the service can’t access the files.

Some businesses are now using a hybrid of private and public cloud services. Certain files are stored locally, while other files are deployed to the cloud. A hybrid cloud solution must meet certain key requirements to make it work. For example, it must appear seamless to users. Hybrid clouds also depend on policy engines to define when specific files get moved into the cloud or pulled from it.

Cloud Storage Options

Cloud storage options are expanding rapidly, as more and more vendors enter the market. For storing flat files, businesses often look to Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and Oracle (Cloud File System and Cloud Infrastructure Storage) for various products or platforms that address their individual needs.

Companies looking for help in selecting, integrating and taking full advantage of these platforms might find it beneficial to engage a technology consultant. As the #1 onshore provider and pioneer of remote DBA services, RDX puts technology to work for business worldwide. From needs analysis to production deployment, RDX’s cloud solutions help businesses successfully navigate every phase of the cloud journey. RDX enables customers to fully leverage the inherent benefits of cloud architectures and assists them in overcoming some of the more challenging cloud activities.

ICYMI- RDX Insights Webinar: Microsoft SQL Azure Overview & Demo

This month, RDX’s VP of Delivery Strategies and Technologies, Chris Foot, and RDX Azure Expert, Jim Donahoe, teamed up to present Microsoft SQL Azure Overview and Demo.

During the webinar, Chris and Jim took a deeper look at some of Azure SQL DB’s most popular and interesting features in addition to how the product differs from its on-premises and IaaS counterparts. They also covered a wide range of topics from purchasing and provisioning to geo-replication, sharding and advanced automations.

The presentation concluded with a demo from Jim explaining how to:

  • Deploy a DBaaS instance
  • Configure a DBaaS firewall
  • Configure resource locks
  • Use Query Performance Insights(QPI) to analyze DBaaS workloads
  • Perform failover group configurations and use cases

If you missed yesterday’s webinar, you can view a copy of the slides on SlideShare.

You can also get access to the live recording of the presentation here.


Join our mailing list for updates about future RDX Insights Series presentations by emailing info@rdx.com.

Azure Automation- Scheduling Stored Procedures

As database administrators, we are always looking for ways to automate our daily processes.  SQL Server Agent has always been a great tool for doing this, whether it be for scheduling regular maintenance or administrative jobs.  For those of you making the leap to the PaaS offering of Azure SQL databases, you will quickly discover that SQL Server Agent is no longer a feature.  For those of you who might start to panic thinking you will now be required to wake up at 2:00 AM to manually run your weekly maintenance or nightly administrative job- don’t worry! This is where Azure Automation comes to save the day!  Azure Automation brings a PowerShell workflow execution service to the Azure platform that allows one to automate those maintenance and administrative tasks all within the Azure portal and take the role of the SQL Server Agent.  To demonstrate how you can leverage Azure Automation, I will take a common request that I have encountered with many clients who have the need to schedule a stored procedure execution.

Continue reading Azure Automation- Scheduling Stored Procedures

Considering Cloud DBMS Systems? Choose Your Architecture Wisely!

Databases in the Cloud
Technology leaders are being inundated with a flood of new cloud architectures, strategies and products – all guaranteed by vendors and various industry pundits to solve all of our database challenges.  The seemingly endless array of public cloud based DBMS offerings can quickly become bewildering.  This article is intended to peel back the veil of cloud based DBMS offerings by providing readers with our experiences with cloud based database architectures.

Continue reading Considering Cloud DBMS Systems? Choose Your Architecture Wisely!

The current rise of the open source RDBMS

Enterprise IT has long been an industry that plays it safe. This statement applies directly to database management systems more so than any other technology, as these essential tools act as the repository for the most prized possession an organization can have: corporate data.

Continue reading The current rise of the open source RDBMS

Clearing 3 multicloud hurdles with 3 tips

Nowadays, the cloud is leveraged by almost every organization in the world in some way or another, whether it’s using Amazon Web Services Relational Database Service or something for end users such as Salesforce.com. It’s nigh-on impossible to avoid cloud computing, and these platforms have become so popular that many organizations have turned to multiple cloud-based solutions.

Continue reading Clearing 3 multicloud hurdles with 3 tips

What do businesses need to prepare for cloud migration?

Whether to host applications or increase storage, migrating workloads to cloud environments is a consistent trend. However, many database support services are discovering that businesses unfamiliar with the technology often don’t know where to begin. 

Continue reading What do businesses need to prepare for cloud migration?