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Cloud-Native Databases. Should you use them?

Written by Marius Rimkus
on October 04, 2019

Databases have always been a very important aspect of application development; from MySQL to Amazon’s RDS, there are numerous systems that allow developers to store, specify, and organize data.

As mass computing continues to grow, traditional databases are faced with a competitor that promises to deliver where they simply cannot – cloud-native databases.

 

What Is A Cloud-Native Database?

Simply put, a cloud-native database is exactly what it sounds like - a service that is built, deployed and delivered to the consumer through a cloud platform. This nativity to the cloud is what makes it unique compared to other types of databases.

As a cloud platform, it is delivered as a PaaS (platform as a service) model and is also commonly referred to as DBaaS, short for Database-as-a-service. Users can utilize this platform for a variety of purposes, such as storing, managing, and extracting data.

Its implementation is usually carried out by combining the installation of database software on top of an infrastructure cloud. This provides the feasibility of direct access and on-run time scalability, something that is uncommon in traditional databases.

As the importance of cloud-native data and mass computing continues to rise, there is more emphasis than ever on deploying such services to provide organizations with enhanced reliability and scalability.

Why Choose A Cloud-Native Database?

Migrating to a cloud-native database is not an easy decision – however, with 83% of all organizational workload expected to be on the cloud by 2022, there is little doubt that this is the future.

Here are several advantages of opting for a cloud-native database:

Disposability

In simple terms, disposability is the ability of a database to handle crashes or starting of processes without prior notice. Despite modern advancements, such events – disk failures, network partitions, virtual machine errors, etc. – remain inevitable.

For a legacy database, such disruptions were particularly harmful; with a single machine powering the entire database, even minor issues could affect all functionalities.

Modern cloud-native databases are designed to possess significant disposability that allows virtual machines to restart or reschedule at a moments’ notice. In fact, the disposability faction has expanded from individual machines to cover entire data centers.

As the world continues to advance towards a more stable environment, cloud-native databases will effectively reach a point where such failures will become a non-event.

Enhanced Security

DBaaS providers operate under highly monitored and secure environments where anti-malware, anti-virus, and firewalls protect them. Alongside round the clock surveillance and periodic software upgrades, a cloud environment simply provides added security.

On the contrary, traditional databases are susceptible to theft and unrestricted access. With several providers protecting data with point-in-time snapshot copies, you never miss the ‘RPO=0, RTO<60-second objectives’ rule.

Advanced Scalability

The ability to scale at will and on-run time is a prerequisite for any organization that wants to grow. This allows organizations to pursue their targets without worrying about size storage limits.

Unlike traditional databases – where all files and resources are stored in the same host – the cloud allows you to not only store differently, but do so without being hindered by storage issues.

Increased Accessibility

One of the most significant limitations of a traditional database is that it can only be accessed through the system where it has been deployed.

Cloud-native databases offer round-the-clock access to your database for any immediate changes that you want to make; all it requires is an internet connection and your computer. As such, this eliminates potential delays that may occur while also opening up an avenue for increased collaboration amongst multiple developers.

Significant Cost Savings

Setting up a data center is an entire project on its own with significant investment required for the hardware and for a skilled human resource who can reliably manage and maintain it.

Additionally, ongoing maintenance can put a considerable strain on your finances. With a cloud-native DBaaS platform, you get a scalable database for low upfront costs, which can free your hands for a more optimal allocation of resources.

Cloud-Native Databases – Like Distributed Databases - Are The Future

The technology landscape has evolved into a hyper-connected environment where applications, software, and different programs are used by millions of users across a multitude of devices.

This has set high expectations; users not only want them to be always online and responsive, but deliver a seamless experience.

Considering that fluctuations and failures are inevitable when maintaining such complex systems, conventional databases face an uphill challenge to ensure availability and guaranteed uptime.

Think about the number of applications you use on any given day – from instant messaging apps like WhatsApp to highly specialized ones like Salesforce, you require a secure login functionality, user profiles, customization capability, relational databases, content delivery networks and several other components. All of these functions need to work cohesively to provide the level of user experience expected by customers.

This is where cloud-native databases, like a distributed database, can provide users a reliable solution.

What Is A Distributed Database?

As the name implies, this features a collection of multiple interconnected databases that combine to form a single database for the user. In reality, these are spread across various data centers and communicate through a central server.

As Microsoft’s prized engineer Brendan Burns puts it in his book, Designing Distributed Systems:

“The increasing criticality of these systems means that these online systems must be built for redundancy, fault tolerance, and high availability. The confluence of these requirements has led to an order of magnitude increase in the number of distributed systems that need to be built. “

Why Distributed Databases Are A Matter Of ‘If’ Not ‘When’

Databases provide the structure and organization for advanced data manipulation and analytics. Without a modern database, you cannot apply business logic to your functions, which can effectively render your website or application useless.

Experts unanimously agree that distributed databases built into the cloud represent the future of how they will function in the near future. Hence, the advantages of cloud-native databases, coupled with the efficacy of a distributed database, represent an ideal solution.

Here are a few reasons why you might consider adopting a distributed database system:

Horizontal Database Scalability

Scalability is a crucial consideration when selecting the right way to store your data. This is why a cloud-native distributed database remains an ideal solution as it allows your organization to easily scale.

One of the key features of a distributed database is that computing processes across different sources of data occur independently from one another. This makes it very easy to add nodes and tweak the functionality, whenever required.

The option to increase computing power-on-demand and on such a huge scale is a powerful growth hack that enables modern organizations to grow globally in a way that was previously unheard of.

No Single Point Of Failure

The only measure of how well an application does is the level of user experience it provides to the end consumers.

With conventional databases, a single issue with the central server means that you compromise the availability of workloads as it is highly interdependent.

If the one (and only) server fails, it can crash the entire application, which would result in your UX metrics taking a nosedive. With the complexity and nuance involved in organizational databases, server crashes are inevitable – which further undermines the case for conventional data storage methods.

On the contrary, with hundreds of computer servers working with one another, a distributed database ensures that despite multiple node failures, the application continues to work smoothly. This means that only some of the features are affected, but the overall functionality is not.

Enhanced Performance Potential

Applications face hundreds of requests directed at the database each second, which requires substantial processing power. In a traditional setting, this can cause performance issues, UI lags, etc. that hinder the overall user experience.

For instance, if you receive an unusually high number of requests, this may even cause your application to crash.

In a cloud-native distributed database, workloads and access requests are broken down across multiple servers and computer systems. This means that each task is handled by a specific system instead of processing through a single system.

As a result, the database continues to function seamlessly and with increased working efficiency. Each request and workload in a distributed database is completed in parallel, after which it is compiled and returned to the central server to appear updated on the user side of the database – in real-time.

Conclusion

The application and software development world is experiencing a cloud-native wave – with everything from orchestration and management to analysis being configured to be built on the cloud from scratch.

As one of the most important aspects of modern-day applications, it’ not surprising that experts are advocating a shift from conventional methods to modern, cloud-native methods like distributed databases.

Their increased reliability, as well as the functionality of a cloud-native database, thwarts traditional data storage methods. Coupled with an increased scalability potential, there is little doubt that this is how databases will be built in the future.

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