As enterprises look to scale support for a mounting number of applications, I expect that Database-as-a-service (DaaS) options will emerge from the recently nascent cloud computing infrastructures. Already, we're seeing the usual cast of suspects targeting the DaaS arena including: Amazon, Google, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce.com. While smaller vendors like EnterpriseDB, Elastra and LongJump are also in the mix. In instances where traditional processes for database management and deployment are challenged by the need to scale more rapidly in a cost-effective manner, DaaS will prove attractive.
In general, DaaS can be defined as technology that provides a database on demand at lower costs. Basically, a database offered through the cloud on a pay-as-you-go basis. By providing demand driven access to data storage via standard like REST and SOAP, I can picture DaaS evolving into the entry point for enterprises wishing to migrate to larger cloud-based infrastructures. In parallel, open source database vendors are faced with the opportunity and threat represented by this model. Why both? Well, DaaS use cases overlap with those of the current wave of open source databases. However, the DaaS model also represents somewhat of a natural transition for open source database vendors to extend service portfolio. Currently, the gaps met by open source will begin to be met by a new generation DaaS offerings.
- Application development and testing. Developers often face a lack of database resources as they seek to thoroughly test applications. In many of these instances open source databases have become the defacto option that enables developers to grab a database and perform functional testing without minimal stress. DaaS has the potential to offer on-demand database resources that reduces the hassle and cost associated with an on-site database.
- Web 2.0 offshoots. The notion of departmental collaboration has greatly benefited from Web 2.0 apps that speed the sharing of data, ideas and information. While email is still the primary collaborative tool of choice, newer Web 2.0 offshoots are making headway. Developing these types of applications will become even more feasible with the availability of a lightweight manner of storing and accessing data from a centralized location, that DaaS represents.
- Data archives. In the majority of cases, only 20% of production is consistently accessed. The other 80% of data is mainly used as fuel for historical reporting and compliance efforts. Open source databases continue to provide a low cost alternative to tape, one which scales better in terms of scan and retrieval. DaaS will do the same.
- SMB applications. With application requirements that mirror those of larger organizations minus the IT budget, resources or physical infrastructure, this has been touted as a natural fit for open source. Still, the SMB marketplace hasn't quite proven to be the promised land for open source vendors in general. Plus there is an opportunity for software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors who are already dead set on further penetrating this market, to offer DaaS within the context of hosting not just data but also application development tools for building smaller apps.
In that light, open source database vendors might find their sweet spot in the marketplace encumbered by any number of DaaS alternatives from a host of players both large and small. The size of the DaaS market is anyone's guess/IDC's job to predict so it remains difficult to project what type of effect this might have on the open source database market itself.
However, to determine the trajectory of and effect upon open source I'm looking for EnterpriseDB and Sun as key indicators. The former will make a play with its Postgres Plus Advanced Server Cloud edition offered through Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Services (S3). All of which amounts to a full-featured, dedicated hosted relational database which can be setup, maintained, backed up and monitored through a web based graphical interface. The Sun-MySQL offering should shape into a serious contender as Sun has been somewhat of a pioneer with the Infrastructure-as-a-Service model (use of Sun servers and storage at $1/CPU per hour). On that note, it wouldn't surprise me to see Sun yank the MySQL DaaS offering on the Amazon EC2 cloud as it ramps up a more comprehensive offering in the near future.
Still, there are key shortcomings that the DaaS model must address, namely: security, response time for data access/update, and integration with existing applications/platforms. And it remains to be seen whether DaaS providers can scale the way their SaaS cousins have proven capable of. Will the model ever take hold as anything more than an add-on for database vendors? Only time will tell, but one thing's for sure: the evolution of DaaS will definitely leave its mark on the open source database landscape.