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Five reasons to consider data warehouse as a service

DWaaS offers benefits that are unmatched by on-premises counterparts, including improved agility and cost-effective big data storage.

Data warehouses continue to grow in complexity and scope, encouraging a growing number of organizations to consider transitioning key information and assets to the cloud.

By switching to data warehouse as a service (DWaaS), organizations can streamline the cost-intensive management, administration and tuning activities that conventional on-premises data warehouses require. And as organizations face rapidly growing data volumes, rising service-level expectations and the need to integrate structured and unstructured data, DWaaS promises a convenient and cost-effective option.

Organizations still on the fence about whether to transition to a cloud-based data warehouse should consider these five data warehouse-as-a-service benefits.

The ability to handle big data more cost-effectively

As big data-beleaguered organizations look for a faster way to gain actionable insights, DWaaS has emerged as a quick and easy answer.

"By eliminating most of the steps required for an on-premises deployment -- such as deploying, testing, integrating, testing some more, addressing problems and so on -- organizations can hit the ground running," said Mike Leone, senior analyst at technology research and analysis firm Enterprise Strategy Group.

Another benefit cloud-based data warehouses offer is scalability. Cloud vendors also allow organizations to scale services up and down as needed.

"You can move between plans, something you can't do if you're tethered to in-house hardware," said Germain Chastel, founder and CEO of NewtonX, a technology research and consulting firm.

Customers always seem to want more after a small taste of what a data warehouse brings them, said Jeff Garbus, CEO of database consulting firm Soaring Eagle Consulting and author of Sybase SQL Server 11 Unleashed and numerous other IT books. Data warehouse as a service "gives companies the ability to scale upwards (size) and outwards (content) easily."

Make life easier for end users

Simplicity is a core DWaaS attribute, not just from an infrastructure and administrative standpoint, but also for an end user interaction.

"Think [of the] business analyst needing to run ad hoc queries on a dataset that is accessible through an intuitive interface in the cloud," Leone said. "These concepts are a reality for the 40-plus-percent of organizations already doing some form of analytics/BI in the cloud."

Data warehouse as a service also offers end users a level of accessibility that on-premises deployments typically lack.

"With in-house data warehousing you have to set up specific access for external users, which is labor intensive and usually ends up being less user friendly," Chastel noted.

"Cloud scalability also means the company can have more users tapping the data without the lag we often see in on-premises warehouse usage," said Karrie Sullivan principal consultant at management consulting firm Culminate Strategy Group.

Reduce costs

Building and maintaining a traditional data warehouses is expensive.

"If you're an organization with an initiative around being more data-driven, there's a huge upfront investment that needs to be made, and that's just the start," Leone said. "Once factoring in ongoing operational costs, administrative costs, maintenance costs, and personnel costs, what you thought was a decent budget is now completely gone and you're asking a superior for more money," he said.

"You get access to the infrastructure and expertise of a company whose bread and butter is data warehousing, which frees up your in-house resources," Chastel observed. "There are no upfront costs and you pay only for what you use, which makes rapid [service] increases or decreases both easy to deploy and easy to manage financially."

Yet the cloud's ability to eliminate upfront costs, minimize administrative and personnel expense and end most maintenance costs don't come automatically.

"Organizations need an understanding of their workloads to evaluate the costs of both [options]; things like data growth, data processed and the number of users who need access to the data," Leone said.

Improve agility

Cloud-based data stores are all about speed and efficiency.

"They can be spun up and down fast; the overhead [involved with] standing up a data store isn't an issue anymore," said Radu Miclaus, principal product manager for cloud and platform strategies at SAS. "Companies can use [a cloud-based warehouse] to move a lot faster from innovation to production," he said.

Cloud-based data warehouses also allow organizations to deploy a separate analytical capability quickly and easily.

Data warehouse as a service "allows for agility in platform migration, implementation and growth," said Sue Clark, senior CTO architect at Sungard Availability Services.

Strengthen disaster recovery and business continuity

Reliability features are built directly into most cloud-based data warehouses to ensure fault tolerance.

"For instance, Amazon's Redshift data warehouse service automatically replicates data and performs continuous back-ups," said Ryan Kroonenburg, co-founder of cloud computing training firm Cloud Guru.

Having data stored across diverse physical locations is another benefit.

"Any cloud-based warehouse will have geographically separate warehouses so they can fail over between them in case of a disaster," Chastel said. "If there were an earthquake in San Francisco, the cloud-based data warehouse would be able to keep everything running from their warehouse in Michigan."

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