I’ve recently done a couple of articles about cloud databases and there have been a several common responses. First, it’s clear (and I can understand why) that moving your databases to the cloud is not something most IT and database professionals are keen on doing. However, more interestingly there were a couple of common concerns that kept coming up regarding cloud database implementations that I’ll tackle in the this article. The first is security and the second is latency.
The first and foremost concern is security. Having toured the facilities provided by several cloud hosting vendors I can definitely say their physical security far exceeds the security that I’ve seen in the normal IT environment. While I’m sure that there are very secure private IT infrastructures, I’ve never seen private IT security equal to what cloud vendors offer. For instance, last year I toured two different facilities offered by different cloud providers. One of these facilities even had ex-military armed guards at the check-in. Next, inside the facilities there were man-traps at every door where the first set of doors must close before the second set opens. Then the actual computing hardware was located inside locked cages – sometimes two locked cages that required different security access codes in order to gain access to the real hardware behind the cloud. In addition, the electrical conduits came from two different providers. This far exceeds what most business provide. Most business do not have these levels of security and reliability. However, I realize that physical security isn’t the only concern. You do have to trust that the cloud vendor will respect your privacy concerns and that is not an issue when you are in control of the data security.
The next biggest concern that readers have expressed is about latency of cloud applications. The primary concern isn’t about latency caused by lack of compute power or storage performance. The bigger concern is network latency. If everything is in the cloud then network latency not an issue you really need to worry about. For instance, if your SQL Server database is primarily the backend for a web application that lives in Azure and the web application also lives in Azure then network latency really isn’t an issue. In this example, you don’t really have to worry about the latency that the public internet can introduce because the database and the application never really have to send data across the Internet. But what if you have local processing that depends on a cloud-based SQL Server database? In that scenario Internet latency really can be an issue. While Azure to Azure connections between the application and database will not be subject to Internet latency Azure or other cloud connections to on-premise systems clearly can be subject to Internet latency. The Internet is a public domain and you can’t be guaranteed that bandwidth will be there if you need it.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to using the public Internet to access your cloud databases. Both Azure and Amazon support private high speed on-premise to cloud connection technologies. Amazon calls it Direct Connect while Microsoft Azure calls it ExpressRoute. Both of these technologies are essentially private cloud connections that offer more reliability, faster speeds, lower latencies, and higher security than standard Internet connections. Essentially, they connect your private network directly to your cloud provider of choice without crossing the public internet. Noam Shendar, Vice President of Business Development, Zadara Storage stated that ExpressRoute provided one to two millisecond response time for Azure access. Very fast indeed. There low latency alternatives to the public Internet can help to overcome the latency hurdles for cloud-based databases.
The Bottom Line
Cloud vendors typically have implemented security measures that exceed most IT organizations. However, it really boils down to trust. You need to trust that the cloud personnel will secure your data and not permit or accidentally expose your data to unauthorized access. Next, while the Internet may be an unreliable medium, high performance alternatives like Direct Connect or ExpressRoute are available. Both can provide very fast on-premise to cloud database connections – at a price. To find out more about Direct Connect check out AWS Direct Connect to find out more about ExpressRoute look at look at ExpressRoute.