On the opportunities for cloud-based databases and data warehousing

At last year’s 451 Group client event I presented on the topic of database management trends and databases in the cloud.

At the time there was a lot of interest in cloud-based data management as Oracle and Microsoft had recently made their database management systems available on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft was about to launch the Azure platform.

In the presentation I made the distinction between online distributed databases (BigTable, HBase, Hypertable), simple data query services (SimpleDB, Microsoft SSDS as was), and relational databases in the cloud (Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server on AWS etc) and cautioned that although relational databases were being made available on cloud platforms, there were a number of issues to be overcome, such as licensing, pricing, provisioning and administration.

Since then we have seen very little activity from the major database players with regards to cloud computing (although Microsoft has evolved SQL Data Services to be a full-blown relational database as a service for the cloud, see the 451’s take on that here).

In comparison there has been a lot more activity in the data warehousing space with regards to cloud computing. On the one hand there data warehousing players are later to the cloud, but in another they are more advanced, and for a couple of reasons I believe data warehousing is better suited to cloud deployments than the general purpose database.

  • For one thing most analytical databases are better suited to deployment in the cloud thanks to their massively parallel architectures being a better fit for clustered and virtualized cloud environments.
  • And for another, (some) analytics applications are perhaps better suited to cloud environments since they require large amounts of data to be stored for long periods but processed infrequently.
  • We have therefore seen more progress from analytical than transactional database vendors this year with regards to cloud computing. Vertica Systems launched its Vertica Analytic Database for the Cloud on EC2 in May 2008 (and is wotking on cloud computing services from Sun and Rackspace), while Aster Data followed suit with the launch of Aster nCluster Cloud Edition for Amazon and AppNexus in February this year, while February also saw Netezza partner with AppNexus on a data warehouse cloud service. The likes of Teradata and illuminate are also thinking about, if not talking about, cloud deployments.

    To be clear the early interest in cloud-based data warehousing appears to be in development and test rather than mission critical analytics applications, although there are early adopters and ShareThis, the online information-sharing service, is up and running on Amazon Web Services’ EC2 with Aster Data, while search marketing firm Didit is running nCluster Cloud Edition on AppNexus’ PrivateScale, and Sonian is using the Vertica Analytic Database for the Cloud on EC2.

    Greenplum today launched its take on data warehousing in the cloud, focusing its attention initially on private cloud deployments with its Enterprise Data Cloud initiative and plans to deliver “a new vision for bringing the power of self-service to data warehousing and analytics”.

    That may sound a bit woolly (and we do see the EDC as the first step towards private cloud deployments) but the plan to enable the Greenplum Database to act as a flexible pool of warehoused data from which business users will be able to provision data marts makes sense as enterprises look to replicate the potential benefits of cloud computing in their datacenters.

    Functionality including self-service provisioning and elastic scalability are still to come but version 3.3 does include online data-warehouse expansion capabilities and is available now. Greenplum also notes that it has customers using the Greenplum Database in private cloud environments, including Fox Interactive Media’s MySpace, Zions Bancorporation and Future Group.

    The initiative will also focus on agile development methodologies and an ecosystem of partners, and while we were somewhat surprised by the lack of virtualization and cloud provisioning vendors involved in today’s announcement, we are told they are in the works.

    In the meantime we are confident that Greenplum’s won’t be the last announcement from a data management focused on enabling private cloud computing deployments. While much of the initial focus around cloud-based data management was naturally focused on the likes of SimpleDB the ability to deliver flexible access to, and processing of, enterprise data is more likely to be taking place behind the firewall while users consider what data and which applications are suitable for the public cloud.

    Also worth mentioning while we’re on the subject in RainStor, the new cloud archive service recently launched by Clearpace Software, which enable users to retire data from legacy applications to Amazon S3 while ensuring that the data is available for querying on an ad hoc basis using EC2. Its an idea that resonates thanks to compliance-driven requirements for long-term data storage, combined with the cost of storing and accessing that data.

    451 Group subscribers should stay tuned for our formal take on RainStor, which should be published any day now, while I think it’s probably fair to say you can expect more of this discussion at this year’s client event.

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    5 comments ↓

    #1 451 CAOS Theory » Greenplum and the opportunity for cloud-based data warehousing on 06.08.09 at 9:50 am

    […] data warehousing Matthew Aslett, June 8, 2009 @ 9:50 am ET I just published a post about opportunities for cloud-based databases and data warehousing over on our Too Much Information blog, which I thought might be of interest to CAOS Theory readers […]

    #2 Andy on 06.10.09 at 6:18 am

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    #3 Start making sense: Mechanics under the tip of the social media monitoring iceberg β€” Far North on 07.22.09 at 6:02 pm

    […] these to grab the data, but the next part is actually storing it somewhere. That means a local or cloud-based database that you’ve structured to hold this information. Still sounds easy enough until you suddenly […]

    #4 CindyC on 08.08.09 at 4:33 pm

    This article mentions Amazon S3 and cloning databases to the cloud to provide disaster recovery.

    “Databases in the Cloud”
    http://www.ddj.com/database/218900502

    Is that likely more likely for data warehouses than other types of databases?

    #5 Matthew Aslett on 08.10.09 at 10:34 am

    To be honest I’m not sure about cloud as a database platform for disaster recovery (at the moment), due to the cost/complexity of keeping the cloud database in sync. However, we see a good opportunity for using cloud platforms to lower the cost of storing archived data, particularly if that data can also be queried (for example for regulatory purposes), which is not so much disaster recovery as disaster avoidance.