The unpleasant truths about database-as-a-service

Real issues and problems will slow migration to this useful cloud technology, but less so if you're prepared

The recent announcement of Amazon.com's Redshift -- and other cloud-delivered databases, for that matter -- makes it clear we're moving to a future where some or even most of our data will exist in public clouds. Although the cost savings are compelling, I believe this migration will happen much more slowly than cloud providers predict. Indeed, for the Global 2000, cloud-based data stores will initially be a very hard sell, though the poorer small businesses won't have any other choice, economically speaking.

That said, there are a few problems you need to consider before you load your data onto USB drives and ship it to a cloud computing data center. First and foremost, you're dumping your data onto USB drives, when are then dropped off at UPS. No kidding -- it's too much data to upload.

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There are other problems to consider as well.

Ongoing data integration with on-premise data stores is a problem. Although a one-time movement of data is a pain, it's not an ongoing issue. But cloud-based data stores aren't static repositories, so enterprises that need to migrate data weekly, daily, hourly, or even in real time will have their work cut out for them. They must figure out data-integration mechanisms that work consistently. In some cases, when there is too much data to move, it will be impractical to use cloud-based databases.

Data security remains an ongoing concern. The ability to encrypt information, both in motion and at rest, is a solvable problem. However, there needs to be a holistic approach to cloud-based data security that does not exist in most implementations I've seen. This means securing data at the record and table levels, with links to data-governance systems, and an identity-based security infrastructure. In other words, encryption will only get you so far when you place data in public clouds.

Data rules and regulations still get in the way. In many instances, the data you place in the cloud is regulated, such as health and financial info. You need to be diligent in understanding the regulations and the laws that govern the use of that data, including if or when the data can be moved out of a political jurisdiction and how the data should be secured. Many organizations that move data into the cloud often overstate the impact of these regulations, and they push back on the use of the cloud without good reason. But some don't understand the regulations and end up with compliance issues that can result in fines -- or worse.

None of this should scare you away from using cloud-based databases. But you need to understand that nothing is truly free. There are problems that must be understood and solved -- as is the case with any shift in technology. Cloud-based databases are no different.

This article, "The unpleasant truths about database-as-a-service," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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