Database-As-A-Service – Are You In The Cloud?

"To cloud or not to cloud" sounds kind of Shakespearean in tone and is a legitimate question every IT organization faces when looking to simplify operations and deliver services. But really, this is an old argument. Everything in the datacenter is being cloudified. The real question is whether to keep services and functions on-prem. Everything is moving to an "as-a-Service" (XaaS) model thanks to the simplicity and cost savings companies have seen through the public cloud. 

I think the way this XaaS evolution happens is pretty logical. The "killer apps" or low-hanging fruit is first to transition, and everything follows. And as the title of this article would imply, I think database services are a prime candidate for cloudification.

In the following few paragraphs, I will unpack this and show what companies like Nutanix are doing to compete in this DBaaS space.  And if you're interested in digging a little deeper, click here for a research report on the topic. 

First, the setup - It’s a data(base) driven world

Data is the fuel that drives modern business. While this is a played-out statement, it's more accurate than ever. Statista estimates that 2021 will see 74 zettabytes of data generated. And that number will grow to over 180 zettabytes by 2025.  

While this is an impressive number, there is a substantial downstream impact on IT organizations and, more precisely, database professionals that go unnoticed. These teams are being pushed beyond their limits. For a few reasons:

1.    The sheer proliferation of database and database instances being stood up across the average enterprise.  While exact quantification is difficult, it is fair to estimate the average number of active databases in the enterprise is in the hundreds. 

2.    The different database distributions are deployed across the enterprise. The database environment of your average enterprise is not a monolith. MySQL is a very popular database at the departmental level and is pushing enterprise-level capabilities. Oracle, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL Server dominate the enterprise segment for structured data management. These are four different database distributions with different control planes and management schedules (e.g., backup, patching, capacity planning, etc.).

3.    The rise of DevOps and somewhat disaggregated IT operations in the business unit has led to less regulated IT operations. Managing database operations from a fully centralized team and in a fully centralized environment is challenging. As businesses and business units progress along the digitization journey, database teams' job becomes nearly impossible as database environments are spun more frequently and "managed" (or not) in a very siloed fashion. 

So that’s the setup. IT organizations need help managing database operations, and one viable option is the public cloud. It can deliver real savings in terms of cost, simplicity, and agility. But many organizations are a little less comfortable with the idea of all its data sitting in somebody else's datacenter because of control and sovereignty issues. 

Nutanix thinks it has an answer with Era

Era is Nutanix's response to this dilemma. It’s a database operations management platform built on its cloud platform. DBaaS delivered on prem. The value prop is pretty simple - centralize control over your database environment and deliver one-click simplicity for many of those jobs and tasks that cause database teams to order dinner at the office while working overtime. Think this sounds a little too good to be true?  It may be, but Nutanix backs this claim up with numbers from a sponsored study:

  • Database provisioning with Era is 97% faster than traditional methods
  • Storage requirements for database copies and backups were reduced by 60%
  • Automated database patching and management results in loss avoidance of $35,000 per hour 
  • DBA overtime hours reduced by up to 50%

As a person who has spent time as an IT executive, these numbers jump off the page at me. They are exactly what I expect to see when I employ a public cloud service. 

From an operational perspective, I like the idea of having a single interface for my DBAs to access and perform database operations management. And I like the fact that this also allows me to keep my data in my datacenter under my control. 

Nutanix Era’s single control plane for the multi-database environment NUTANIX

What about the infrastructure?

While a solution like Era delivers the DBaaS in a cloud environment on-prem, more is needed to gain a competitive position against the public cloud. In the case of Era, the company partnered with HPE to deliver Era on GreenLake. I think this is important to call out as it delivers a cloudified experience in two ways – cost and agility. 

Solutions like HPE GreenLake enable IT organizations to consume infrastructure in a cloud-like model from a cost perspective. Pay for the resources you use when you use them. No more.  No less. 

The other element I mentioned is operational agility and time-to-value. While finance people will tell you those cost savings are the most significant benefit of Era on GreenLake, to me, this is what IT will most appreciate. The engagement between a company consuming Era on GreenLake looks something like this: 

  • DBAs are overwhelmed and give the “SOS” to IT executive management 
  • IT reviews its options and lands on Era on GreenLake
  • HPE delivers, deploys, and configures Era on GreenLake in IT’s datacenter
  • IT starts managing its database operations 

Sounds a lot like the cloud, no?  That’s because it is. No heavy lifting from IT for ramp. No dedicated resources. No pizza and Mountain Dew (or Jolt) to “enjoy” before deploying during off-hours. 

Closing thoughts 

XaaS is the future of how IT consumes and delivers services to its customers. I don't believe this is in dispute.  And the discussion of whether to consume the cloud or not is also a discussion that is not in dispute. The question for enterprise is whether to consume services entirely in the public cloud, through a hybrid-cloud deployment, or a private cloud. 

Every IT organization is unique and has different strategic, business, regulatory, and other reasons for taking the path it takes in employing services from the cloud. And while the public cloud is so good at delivering on IT services, I can see where data and database operations may be slightly different. 

I will be curious to track how Era on GreenLake trends as the two companies continue to drive concerted GTM efforts.  I think there’s a lot of potential for success in the enterprise as it allows IT organizations to deliver the cloud without putting their data somewhere else. 

Look for an update in the next couple of quarters. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.