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Cloud Considerations for DBAs

Author: Eric Russo | | October 10, 2013

Before moving to the cloud, a database administrator (DBA) must weigh the pros and cons — the numerous advantages and challenges — to determine whether such a transition meshes with the organization, its available resources, and goals.

The database administrator plays a key role in the planning and implementation process of a cloud move as he or she has the technical skills, knowledge, and expertise coupled with an intimate familiarity with the enterprise that can insure a project’s success.

Moving a database to the cloud has numerous obvious advantages when properly executed. It can alleviate the need for the administrator to install, configure, and provision the database. This enables the database to scale as needed.

It can also mean the administrator has an ongoing role that is more strategic. Rather than performing rote tasks associated with performance tuning or workload balancing, the database administrator can provide value-added services to further enhance the organization’s operational efficiency or competitive edge. This might include offering opinions on the appropriate size and resources for optimal cloud database operations based on the DBA’s knowledge of the business’ needs.

When considering a move to the cloud, administrators must work with others in the enterprise to develop a comprehensive operational plan that includes database security and resiliency in the event cloud services are down. This is particularly important for maintaining 24/7 mission-critical data and services.

Database security, in particular, is key. When moving to the cloud, the database administrator needs to assure the organization that all critical information — financial and competitive information, private data, intellectual assets — remains secure while meeting any government mandates such as Massachusetts’ Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth, the European Union’s Data Protection Directive or the United States’ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The database administrator can select from an array of mainstream cloud-based services available from familiar vendors, including Amazon Web Services’ EC2, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud. Providers can offer both SQL and NoSQL databases. Google Cloud SQL and Rackspace are but a few of the companies with cloud-based SQL services. Vendors providing NoSQL are proliferating and including firms such as Datastax, Joyent, and Cloudant.

In addition, a variety of specialty services are available from providers. These include database backup services, such as those offered by Carbonite; migration, middlewear, and other administrative tools. Yet other firms offer managed services to complement hosting or other cloud offerings.

Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean the database administrator abdicates any responsibilities. The tasks and duties may change some with the shift to the cloud, but the DBA still has a valuable role within the organization.

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