Moving to the cloud is all the rage. According to an IDC Survey Spotlight, Experience in Migrating Databases to the Cloud, 63% of enterprises are actively migrating their databases to the cloud, and another 29% are considering doing so within the next three years.

This article discusses some of the risks customers may unwittingly encounter when moving their database to a database as a service (DBaaS) in the cloud, especially when the DBaaS leverages open source database software such as Apache Cassandra, MariaDB, MySQL, Postgres, or Redis. At EDB, we classify these risks into five categories: support, service, technology stagnation, cost, and lock-in. Moving to the cloud without sufficient diligence and risk mitigation can lead to significant cost overruns and project delays, and more importantly, may mean that enterprises do not get the expected business benefits from cloud migration.

Because EDB focuses on the Postgres database, I will draw the specifics from our experiences with Postgres services, but the conclusions are equally valid for other open source database services.

Support risk. Customers running software for production applications need support, whether they run in the cloud or on premises. Support for enterprise-level software must cover two aspects: expert advice on how to use the product correctly, especially in challenging circumstances, and quickly addressing bugs and defects that impact production or the move to production.

For commercial software, a minimal level of support is bundled with the license. Open source databases don’t come with a license. This opens the door for a cloud database provider to create and operate a database service without investing sufficiently in the open source community to address bugs and provide support.

Customers can evaluate a cloud database provider’s ability to support their cloud migration by checking the open source software release notes and identifying team members who actively participate in the project. For example, for Postgres, the release notes are freely available, and they name every individual who has contributed new features or bug fixes. Other open source communities follow similar practices.

Open source cloud database providers that are not actively involved in the development and bug fixing process cannot provide both aspects of support—advice and rapid response to problems—which presents a significant risk to cloud migration.

Service Risk. Databases are complex software products. Many users need expert advice and hands-on assistance to configure databases correctly to achieve optimal performance and high availability, especially when moving from familiar on-premises deployments to the cloud. Cloud database providers that do not offer consultative and expert professional services to facilitate this move introduce risk into the process. Such providers ask the customer to assume the responsibilities of a general contractor and to coordinate between the DBaaS provider and potential professional services providers. Instead of a single entity they can consult to help them achieve a seamless deployment with the required performance and availability levels, they get caught in the middle, having to coordinate and mitigate issues between vendors.

Customers can reduce this risk by making sure they clearly understand who is responsible for the overall success of their deployment, and that this entity is indeed in a position to execute the entire project successfully.

Technology stagnation risk. The shared responsibility model is a key component of a DBaaS. While the user handles schema definition and query tuning, the cloud database provider applies minor version updates and major version upgrades. Not all providers are committed to upgrading in a timely manner—and some can lag significantly. At the time of this writing, one of the major Postgres DBaaS providers lags the open source community by almost three years in their deployment of Postgres versions. While DBaaS providers can selectively backport security fixes, a delayed application of new releases can put customers in a situation where they miss out on new database capabilities, sometimes for years. Customers need to inspect a provider’s historical track record of applying upgrades to assess this exposure.

A similar risk is introduced when a proprietary cloud

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By: Marc Linster
Title: Five risks of moving your database to the cloud
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Published Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2022 17:00:00 +0000