database as a service (DBaaS)

Database as a service (DBaaS) is a cloud computing managed service offering that provides access to a database without requiring the setup of physical hardware, the installation of software or the need to configure the database. Most maintenance and administrative tasks are handled by the service provider, freeing up users to quickly benefit from using the database.

DBaaS service variations

In a standard computing environment, the database server is part of the on-premises computing infrastructure and is installed, managed and run completely by an organization's IT staff.

In contrast, the DBaaS model is a fee-based subscription service in which the provider maintains the physical infrastructure and database and delivers it as a private cloud service. The service typically covers high-level administrative burdens such as installation, initial configuration, maintenance and upgrades. Additional database administration (DBA) services, such as backup and performance management may also be provided. Control over the content and usage of the database is the responsibility of the customer.

Database categories of DBaaS

DBaaS offerings are available for both relational and NoSQL database types. Relational DBaaS offerings utilize an SQL database and are offered for traditional database management systems (DBMS) like Db2, Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL, as well as for cloud-only database systems like Amazon RDS and Azure. NoSQL DBaaS offerings span multiple DBMS types, including graph, document, wide column and key/value stores.

Regardless of the type of cloud database, DBaaS offers elastic database services for application development, test and production deployment, typically with an easy to use web console and RESTful API.

DBaaS uses

The DBaaS model is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses that do not have well-staffed IT departments. Offloading the service and maintenance of the database to the DBaaS provider enables small to medium-sized businesses to implement applications and systems that they otherwise could not afford to build and support on-premises.

Workloads involving data with stringent regulatory requirements may not be suitable for a DBaaS model. Furthermore, mission-critical applications that require optimal performance and 99.999% of uptime may be better suited for on-premises implementation.

This is not to say that mission-critical workloads cannot run on cloud services, but much of the DBaaS adoption to date has been for less crucial applications, such as development and pilot programs.

Advantages of DBaaS

The DBaaS model offers some specific advantages over traditional on-premises database system management, including:

  • Reduced management requirements -- the DBaaS provider takes on many management and administrative burdens.
  • Elimination of physical infrastructure -- the infrastructure required to run the database is provided by the DBaaS provider.
  • Reduced IT costs -- users do not need to manage and plan for database hardware upgrades.
  • Increased savings -- users do not need to invest in costly hardware, because the physical infrastructure is no longer on premises. Additional savings can also come from reduced capital expenditures, less staff, decreased electrical and HVACoperating costs and a smaller physical space.

Disadvantages of DBaaS

There are also disadvantages with DBaaS in comparison with traditional on-premises database technologies.

Lack of control over the IT infrastructure is usually the most significant issue with DBaaS versus an in-house solution. In a provider-managed infrastructure, an organization's technicians do not have direct access to the servers and storage used to run the database.

If an organization's internet connection goes down, or if the system experiences an outage at the service provider location, the organization will not have access to its data until the service provider repairs the problem causing the outage.

Security can also be a concern because it is controlled by the service provider and an organization will not have direct influence over the physical safety of the servers.

Latency is another concern. The additional time required to access enterprise data over the internet can cause performance issues. These performance issues grow when loading large amounts of data, which tends to be slow and time-consuming.

DBaaS vs. IaaS vs. PaaS

Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis. In a pure SaaS model, all components of the IT infrastructure and application are provided by a third party. The application is made available to customers over the internet.

X-as-a-service (XaaS) models are differentiated by how much of the IT infrastructure is provided as a service over the internet. The IT infrastructure stack consists of:

  • Networking
  • Storage
  • Servers
  • Virtualization
  • Operating Systems
  • Middleware
  • Runtime
  • Data and Database Management Systems
  • Applications

Varying layers of this stack can be provided either on premises or as a cloud service. Other than completely on-premises models (where the entire stack is on site) and SaaS models (where the entire stack is remote), the three predominant XaaS models are database as a service (DBaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offers virtualized computer resources over the internet to deliver the core infrastructure (networking, storage, servers and virtualization). The remainder is provided and managed by the customer.

Platform as a service (PaaS) delivers additional components of the IT infrastructure. Typically, PaaS delivers networking, storage, server, virtualization, OS, middleware and runtime components.

Database as a service (DBaaS) adds data layer services to the provided stack.

DBaaS tools

DBaaS relies on a cloud database to store, manage and access data. The cloud service and the database service need not be from the same provider. For example, an organization can use AWS for cloud service with a Microsoft SQL Server database.

The first decision to make when adopting DBaaS is to choose a DBMS. Most of the popular DBMS offerings are available on one or more cloud service providers. Popular DBMS offerings include:

  • Oracle database
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • IBM Db2
  • MySQL

The next step is to decide which cloud service provider to use. Keep in mind that not every DBMS is supported on every cloud platform. Popular cloud service provider options include:

  • AWS
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Oracle cloud
  • Google Cloud Platform

An organization should ensure that it has the proper tools to manage databases and build applications using the DBaaS implementation it has chosen.

Many existing database and DBA tools, such as Navicat and Oracle Developer, can be used to manage databases and build applications that access the database in the cloud.

Finally, an organization's IT staff should be sure to understand the tooling that is offered by their chosen service provider(s), as most DBaaS and cloud service providers supply tools to help customers use their services.

This was last updated in January 2020

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