When we talk about databases being consumed as cloud services, we’re talking about Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS). While this isn’t a silver bullet that will simplify the lives of anyone who requires a database for some task or application development project, DBaaS is not only simple, it’s flexible. It has many of the benefits and disadvantages common to other services in the cloud, such as better cost controls on the one hand but more limited features than the on-premises alternative on the other hand. However, it also doubles as engine-style software that powers a large array of other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps, everything from directly related data visualization tools to organization-spanning enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms. But DBaaS is also a solution unto itself with pros and cons unique to database functionalities.
Benefits of DBaaS include lower entry barriers, greater access to technologies that were previously only in reach of large enterprises, and digitally native use cases such as Internet of Things (IoT) data streaming, machine learning (ML) training, and hybrid apps such as an adjunct to computing on the edge.
Disadvantages of DBaaS include the general rigidity of databases, the complexity of data science, inflexibilities in integrations, network performance issues, and the complexity that comes with large data transfers. If you’re moving sensitive data between your DBaaS provider and some other site, you’ll also need to take security precautions, which could involve anything from robust identity management protocols to implementing a virtual private network (VPN). In addition, there are various kinds of DBaaS providers from those that do nothing else to large-scale cloud service or web hosting providers for whom a database is only one service out of many. Choosing the best provider from among such a list means sifting through a long list of variables, including price, geographic proximity, support, and even the final taks the database is meant to perform. All of these limitations can lead to the real need for assistance from a database administrator (DBA) despite the claims of many DBaaS vendors that their platforms are self-service and user-friendly.