A Hitchhikers Guide To The Cloud – Database Challenges To Consider

A Hitchhikers Guide To The Cloud – Database Challenges To Consider

A Hitchhikers Guide To The Cloud 

The cloud has turned traditional data management on its head. People still think they will be able to command endless resources while being able to deploy, run and consume a distributed data solution anywhere, anytime. But there are key database challenges when putting your applications in the cloud that are unique and can’t be ignored.

1. High Availability



In the cloud, high availability isn’t just about hardware resiliency anymore. Because customers are removed from the actual hardware, you can no longer plug in an extra power supply, network card or swap hard drives if anything goes wrong or if you need additional resources. The cloud is not predictable and needs to be closely monitored and managed. Besides the large-scale cloud outages we all know about (such as the Amazon-EC2 US-East meltdown recently), we have to face the facts: server crashes, hardware malfunctions and other slipups are all part of the territory in the cloud. With that in mind – cloud users need to be prepared. There are hardly any SLAs for databases in the cloud. To prepare and run effectively on the dynamic cloud environment, every database, regardless of its size, must run in a replicable set-up, which is typically more complex and expensive. Maintaining high availability depends on the availability of “more of the same” resources and the ability to dynamically provision them on the fly once a failure is identified.

Often, when speaking about high availability of the database, the most obvious component is the availability of the data itself, via replication. Yet, if we remember that high availability means that the application continues to communicate with the database as usual, then the plot thickens.

Any solution to ensure availability of the data storage layer must address the availability of the front-end layer of accessing the data so that the connection between the application and any operational DB replicas is not compromised.

On the data storage level, you’ll need to replicate the data, ensure data consistency and synchronization across replicas. Then you’ll need to set up an auto-failover mechanism to monitor the cloud for any failures, identify when a replica is unresponsive and continue service from the remaining surviving replicas.

This then creates the issue of how to manage high-availability of the DB connection. Procedures to ensure high availability, as well as numerous scaling considerations – in particular scale-out – result in several copies of the database that can all be accessed via different addresses. If a replica crashes, you need to monitor which hostname is no longer available and then stop directing traffic from the application to this database.

How do you manage high availability of your database connection string, in a dynamic environment prone to failures in addition to being prone to scaling-out to additional servers (and additional connection addresses) to accommodate bursts in demand?

One way to ensure high availability of the database connection would be to provide users with the multiple front-end addresses and ports and let them handle it on the application level. Users will have to manage connection failovers, load balancing, etc. Needless to say, this will be a major headache as the developer would need to manage the DB connections 24/7 by connecting the app with an available database front-end (very similar to phone operators in the early days).

Another way is to embed high availability into a driver. The driver will be supplied with the initial front-end details and would be updated automatically with any additional front-ends. The driver will balance the connections between front-ends, handle failover automatically, and move connections seamlessly in scale-in and scale-out cases without closing the connection on the user side.

The third alternative is a balancer component on servers, which is installed with each database instance. This component takes care of balancing and availability between all the front-end nodes and seamlessly moves connections when scaling in or out.

2. Management

Database management systems are not only complex systems, but they are also key components in the operation of most software stacks. Given its criticality and complexity, operating a database can be a daunting task that requires significant expertise and considerable resources that are not always readily available to everyone.

Maintaining high availability requires continuously monitoring the cloud environment for any failures, configuring auto-failover mechanisms and keeping multiple copies of the database tier always synchronized and ready to spring into action. Ensuring elasticity means you need to monitor and re-configure and deploy your servers (and sometimes change your app) to add additional resources or to remove them if they go underutilized.

Developers flock to the cloud, and with good reason. The flip side is that once the application gains momentum, it requires a skill set not readily available for most developers. To allow developers to focus on their code rather than on the IT, the cloud ecosystem provides a myriad of off-the-shelf development platforms and cloud services to integrate with to streamline development and time-to-production.

3. Scalability

Scalability and elasticity are the trendiest words in the database arena these days – everybody scales, and everybody claims that only they scale the right way.

Scaling an application (by adding additional servers and load balancers) is pretty much a no-brainer, and many cloud providers offer that. Some, like Amazon EC2, even offer the automatic addition of servers to scale an application once CPU usage is high.

While scaling an application is pretty straightforward, scaling the database tier is more difficult, particularly when scaling out by adding nodes. Scaling a database in general is no trivial task because of its “statefull” nature (unlike the cloud’s stateless environment), and in the cloud, it is even more difficult.

Cloud applications are often characterized with fluctuating demand (spiking at any moment). Databases need to be able to instantly and automatically scale both in throughput and size to accommodate increasing demand from the application.

When evaluating a database solution, ask yourself how it scales and see if it scales in a way that would be optimal for the needs of your application.

4. Elasticity

The cloud is all about flexibility in resources – allowing you to add/remove resources to match your needs, with no need for over-provisioning or over-paying to prepare for any future peaks. Elasticity isn’t just about increasing resources when you need to by scaling up or out, but also shrinking those back down when your database is underutilized, to save on costs. Elasticity needs to be supported to accommodate very granular increases in resources so that to gain +0.X more power doesn’t mean you need to commit any pay for a much larger (+XXX) machine.

Understanding these key challenges can help to successfully deploy, run and consume a database in the cloud. Developers who are aware of the dynamic nature of clouds will take extra care protecting their assets and will be able maintain a successful application that is usable, satisfies users and produces revenue.

By Razi Sharir,

Razi Sharir, CEO of Xeround, has more than 20 years of management experience in product/solution development. Prior to Xeround, Razi has led the strategic transition from traditional data centers to cloud computing at BMC Software and the Incubator/Innovation Lab business unit.

About CloudTweaks

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in connected technology information and services.

We embrace and instill thought leadership insights, relevant and timely news related stories, unbiased benchmark reporting as well as offer green/cleantech learning and consultive services around the world.

Our vision is to create awareness and to help find innovative ways to connect our planet in a positive eco-friendly manner.

In the meantime, you may connect with CloudTweaks by following and sharing our resources.

View All Articles

One Response to A Hitchhikers Guide To The Cloud – Database Challenges To Consider

  1. There is a lot of talk about how cloud computing is evolving
    in develop nations, and how companies in most cases startups are using this new
    technology to their advantage. But what is often not said is it takes a lot of
    knowledge and expertise to implement an IaaS solution and truly get its
    benefits, thats why you can clearly see that the bast majority of clients of
    popular public clouds like AWS and Rackspace are silicon valley startups and
    organizations with deep technical knowledge. The business model of those public
    clouds is designed for the DIY approach of the technology startups , but where
    does this leave the SME organizations that doesn’t know how to take advantage
    of all the benefits of cloud computing. That why we need another breed of
    public cloud provider, that doesn’t seek mass adoption of its platform and full
    automation, but instead looks to help and be a partners with clients to easy
    their migration to this new world of IT. This is more relevant in Latin
    American countries where the average organization does not have a clue of how
    to move to the cloud. In Colombia there are several companies that are  appering just to do that , close that knowledge
    gap that exist beetween campanies in the USA and companies in Latin America so
    that so that we can also benefit from cloud computing , here is an example of a company that is doing that: http://www.kumo.com.co/

How You Can Improve Customer Experience With Fast Data Analytics

How You Can Improve Customer Experience With Fast Data Analytics

Fast Data Analytics In today’s constantly connected world, customers expect more than ever before from the companies they do business with. With the emergence of big data, businesses have been able to better meet and exceed customer expectations thanks to analytics and data science. However, the role of data in your business’ success doesn’t end…

Data Protection and Session Fixation Attacks

Data Protection and Session Fixation Attacks

Keeping the man out of the middle: preventing session fixation attacks In a nutshell, session fixation is a type of man in the middle attack where an attacker is able to pretend to be a victim using a session variable. For instance, let’s say you have an application that uses sessions to validate the user.…

E-Commerce Advances For Savvy Marketers

E-Commerce Advances For Savvy Marketers

Digital Marketing Platforms Advertising and marketing techniques have progressed rapidly in the last decade with both channel focus and the direction of content shifting considerably due primarily to advances in cloud technology. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce 2016 singles out a few ecommerce providers who are topping their sector in both ability to execute…

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Energy Battle

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Energy Battle

By David Fletcher Please feel free to share our comics via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. Clear attribution (Twitter example: via@cloudtweaks) to our original comic sources is greatly appreciated.

Recent Articles - Posted by
Cloud Comings and Goings

Cloud Comings and Goings

Cloud Power Amazon Web Services – the giant of cloud computing – is on track to do $10 Billion in revenue this year. Yet, rumors swirl that Apple may take a huge chunk of business away from them and Dropbox has definitely left AWS. Is something wrong at AWS? Wait, Salesforce.com (SFDC) – the granddaddy of…

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Digital Marketing Trends In the past, trends in the exceptionally fast-paced digital marketing arena have been quickly adopted or abandoned, keeping marketers and consumers on their toes. 2016 promises a similarly expeditious temperament, with a few new digital marketing offerings taking center stage. According to Gartner’s recent research into Digital Marketing Hubs, brands plan to…

Infographic: IoT Programming Essential Job Skills

Infographic: IoT Programming Essential Job Skills

Learning To Code As many readers may or may not know we cover a fair number of topics surrounding new technologies such as Big data, Cloud computing , IoT and one of the most critical areas at the moment – Information Security. The trends continue to dictate that there is a huge shortage of unfilled…

The Future Of Cybersecurity

The Future Of Cybersecurity

The Future of Cybersecurity In 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order to protect critical infrastructure by establishing baseline security standards. One year later, the government announced the cybersecurity framework, a voluntary how-to guide to strengthen cybersecurity and meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to approve the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), moving it one…

5 Predictions For Education Technology

5 Predictions For Education Technology

Education Technology Although technology has fast influenced most sectors of our world, education is an area that’s lagged behind. Many classrooms still employ the one-to-many lecturing model wherein the average student is catered for while a few are left behind, and others bored. Recently, there’s been a drive to uncover how to use technology successfully…

M2M, IoT and Wearable Technology: Where To Next?

M2M, IoT and Wearable Technology: Where To Next?

M2M, IoT and Wearable Technology Profiling 600 companies and including 553 supporting tables and figures, recent reports into the M2M, IoT and Wearable Technology ecosystems forecast opportunities, challenges, strategies, and industry verticals for the sectors from 2015 to 2030. With many service providers looking for new ways to fit wearable technology with their M2M offerings…

Fintech Investments Are Seeing Consistent Growth

Fintech Investments Are Seeing Consistent Growth

The Financial Services Cloud Fintech investment has been seeing consistent growth in 2015, with some large moves being made this year. The infographic (Courtesy of Venturescanner) below shows the top Fintech investors and the amount of companies they’re currently funding: Just this week, a financial data startup known as Orchard Platform raised $30 million in…

The Big Data Movement Gets Bigger

The Big Data Movement Gets Bigger

The Big Data Movement In recent years, Big Data and Cloud relations have been growing steadily. And while there have been many questions raised around how best to use the information being gathered, there is no question that there is a real future between the two. The growing importance of Big Data Scientists and the…