As an alternative to expensive, relatively inflexible onsite database solutions, database-as-a-service (DBaaS) providers offer flexible, cloud-based databases as a subscription service. One of the most widely used and trusted DBaaS platforms is Azure SQL Database. There are at least five compelling reasons to transition to the cloud model for your SQL database with Azure: cost savings; enhanced scalability and performance; exceptional security; streamlined database administration; and state-of-the-art business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR). Here we take an in-depth look at each:
1. Cost savings
Transitioning from capital expenses to operating expenses
One of the most striking benefits of transitioning to the Azure DBaaS model is that you will no longer need to invest heavily in expensive, onsite hardware. Rather, you can treat your Azure database costs as an ongoing operating expense. This helps both with cash flow and budgeting. Furthermore, you no longer need to worry about depreciation, obsolescence, replacement, and other financial concerns surrounding capital assets and expenditures. There are also ways to save on software costs. The Azure team, for example, recently announced that in many cases they’re going to allow Microsoft SQL Server license holders to extend their software licenses to the cloud as part of the growing Azure Hybrid Use Benefit.
Less financial risk
When compared to an on-premises implementation, there is less financial risk running your database in the Azure cloud. If you choose the wrong architecture, hardware specs, and so on, you can switch over to another architecture, or change the specs, relatively easily and quickly. However, with onsite hardware, you are generally stuck with what you bought.
Azure uses best-of-breed hardware that you might not be able to afford as an onsite IT expenditure. As Azure’s hardware improves, so will the performance of your cloud implementation.
2. Enhanced scalability and performance
DBaaS is a highly flexible and scalable model by design. Unlike onsite hardware, you can quickly spin up additional instances to accommodate traffic spikes, seasonal ebbs and flows, or a rapidly growing site, app or service.
Ways to circumvent database maximums
The size of the SQL database you’re migrating to the cloud is a key consideration. Azure has a present maximum single-database storage size of 1 to 4 TB, depending on region. However, you can easily scale your cloud implementation beyond this maximum by partitioning much of your data across a number of instances, or shards. Because this approach can greatly enhance scalability, many database administrators recommend it anyway.
A performance edge
Microsoft specifically designed SQL Azure for cloud implementations, giving it a performance edge over other DBaaS solutions in many contexts. Azure also now fully supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL. Therefore, if you have pre-existing applications running on MySQL or PostgreSQL and want to preserve seamlessly functionality in the cloud, Azure can now fully support the transition.
3. Exceptional security
Given the capacity of the DBaaS model for rapid provisioning and reduced time-to-market, DBaaS is quite often the ideal solution for rapid development scenarios; testing environments; proof-of-concepts; and business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR). Therefore, if you have highly sensitive data, and security is your dominant concern, you may want to start moving to the Azure cloud model on these fronts first. However, as the DBaaS model continues to mature, it’s also rapidly becoming a competitive, even favored, solution for many production environments with sensitive data as well. Azure’s enterprise-class security solutions, such as network firewalls, sophisticated access restrictions, timely security patches/updates, and both at-rest and in-transit encryption can all serve as reassuring security safeguards for many businesses.
4. Streamlined database administration
Transitioning entirely to the Azure DBaaS platform will have a significant and enduring impact on your need for database administration. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that after a successful transition to the cloud that you will no longer need a DBA to supervise and maintain your database. You will simply need a DBA for a smaller, but just as important, set of tasks. Depending on whether your transition to the cloud is a complete or partial one, you may no longer need a DBA to implement and configure your onsite hardware, oversee conventional backup and recovery, or handle any number of other tasks associated with an on-premises implementation. However, even if you have moved all of your SQL databases entirely to the cloud with Azure SQL database, you will still need a DBA for key tasks such as SQL upgrades, database health checks, data warehousing, database tuning, and performance optimization.
You can often hire an independent, remote team of highly qualified Microsoft cloud database experts to serve your new set of DBA needs as part of a flexible monthly plan, according to the SLA you prefer. These DBaaS experts can also serve in an advisory role to help you make key decisions regarding your move to the Azure cloud itself.
5. Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)
If you’re not ready to move entirely to the Azure cloud, but want to take initial steps, there are a number of compelling options. One of the most widely used initial cloud adoption strategies is to leverage the Azure DBaaS model as a supplement to, rather than a replacement of, your existing on-premises hardware. As part of your BCDR strategy, your duplicate cloud database can automatically engage whenever your traffic exceeds your onsite hardware’s capacity. For example, Azure has a particularly elegant option called Azure Site Recovery (ASR) for seamlessly transitioning your traffic to the cloud whenever your onsite hardware suffers an outage. As soon as power and services are restored onsite, ASR returns the traffic back to your onsite hardware. The same basic approach works for handling traffic spikes.
On the backup front, Azure offers Azure Backup, a powerful cloud backup service that provides six backup copies stored across several Azure datacenters; both at-rest and in-transit encryption; incremental backups for maximum efficiency and minimum storage footprint; a service availability SLA of 99.9%; and a wealth of flexibility parameters to adjust backup frequency, retention times, bandwidth throttling and other settings.
Making the transition
Rather than continuing to invest small fortunes in one-off hardware purchases, an increasing number of businesses are looking to the DBaaS model as a solution for their SQL database needs. Many are turning to Azure SQL Database as the preferred platform for their transition to the cloud. There are at least five key reasons driving widespread adoption of the Azure cloud model, as explored above:
- Cost: the Azure DBaaS model allows you to treat your database-related expenses as a predictable, monthly operating cost, rather than an unpredictable series of expensive, one-off capital expenses.
- Scalability and performance: the Azure DBaaS model offers an easier path for growth while handling traffic spikes with more ease than onsite implementations.
- Security: the Azure DBaaS model bolstered by a network firewall and other safeguards is widely considered highly secure for development environments, as well as many production environments.
- Database administration: moving to the Azure cloud will call for a new set of DBA needs easily addressed by a qualified remote team of Azure specialists.
- BCDR: For those that would prefer to take incremental steps toward cloud adoption before moving their entire database to the cloud, Azure has two outstanding tools (ASR and Azure Backup) that leverage the Azure cloud to fully protect your onsite implementation from downtime and data loss.
To learn more about Azure SQL Database and other Azure services, contact us.