With the holiday season officially underway I’m often impressed how well retailers are able to maintain – or unable to maintain – a level of service for their web sites. E-commerce continues to grow while traditional retail treads water at best. The spectacle of Black Friday aside, the crowds are still real, people may just be queued up electronically rather than physically and the amount of information being processed is staggering.
It’s not just the Amazons and eBays - smaller and niche e-commerce sites take in conversations and information about products and consumers from thousands of sources, including social media, blogs, product reviews and rankings. All this preliminary work is conducted in order to offer customers and prospects appropriately considered information and opportunity while the respective and follow-on information helps determine future priorities and activity.
The challenge many retailers and other seasonal businesses have isn’t so much how to process the vast amount of data or manage demand during this peak time of year but to do so in a cost effective and efficient manner. Traditional, on-premises hardware and software has been sufficient but in the Digital Age cloud deployment, and the flexibility associated with that model, is a competitive necessity. Generally speaking, the cloud is an excellent resource for DBAs to augment existing workloads with off-premises services that can be easily acquired, managed remotely and spun up or down on demand. Because of the seasonal increase in demand, huge volume of information and the potential rewards, it’s essential that databases are elastically scalable to accommodate spikes in capacity and offer a cost model that matches your business needs and the same manner that compute services are available.
Read Postgres in the Cloud Accelerates Business Success to learn which organizational needs are best suited for cloud deployments.
When pondering cloud database options there are three dimensions for consideration: technical capabilities, service levels and cost/procurement. In each of these dimensions a cloud database should be easily accessible, flexible and require no compromises when compared to traditional models.
A cloud database is a service - it’s a system supplying a need by doing something for someone. The service a cloud database offers is the ability to store and retrieve data – as any other database - but without the traditional expense and complexity associated with the acquisition, setup and maintenance of hardware and software. EnterpriseDB (EDB) marries the technical foundation of Postgres with enterprise-class performance, security enhancements and (optional) compatibility with Oracle with the benefits of a database-as-a-service in its Postgres Plus Cloud Database (PPCD). We also have a staff of trained Postgres DBAs and cloud experts who are available for help and guidance with the same level of expertise you get with our traditional, on-premises databases.
A database-as-a-service eliminates the need for system configuration and setup, making the database capabilities accessible with no effort and available to anyone with the click of a button or two. The tradeoff here can sometimes be knowledge and expertise. When you don’t do the work yourself it’s quite easy to lose track of what’s been done, and this information can be important later. Think about changing your car’s oil – how much oil does your car require? How often should it be serviced? Is there anything else going on with the engine that you’re likely to notice with your head down and hands dirty? EDB’s Postgres Plus Cloud Database ensures you have this information with an easily accessible dashboard that offers real-time visibility into operational performance, simplified management, such as backup and recovery right out of the box, along with easy-to-use scaling that doesn’t require Postgres expertise in order to scale processing and storage.
Beyond the technical capabilities, EDB and PPCD make sure the service acquisition itself is readily accessible - it’s available in the Amazon marketplace (and soon on premises), or directly through EDB and can be trialed for an extended period of time with no commitment.
One of the things you may lose with a service is choice. If you want things done in a certain way, at a certain time or within a certain cost you’ll need to do it yourself. The process and outcome is often a black box. EDB PPCD provisions an optimized installation of Postgres but it’s still Postgres and we do so in an open VM, offering the flexibility to further optimize or extend your service. Let’s take a simple example - you know your database workload better than any service provider. If you do a lot of complex sorts and have the memory to spare then you may want to edit your configuration and change the sort_mem parameter allowing Postgres to do larger in-memory sorts and improve your performance.
Now let’s take a more complicated example. You want to scale out processing of ephemeral workload data but don’t want to modify any existing applications to share information between your seasonal databases and other systems of record in-house. You can run PPCD with EDB xDB Replication Server and replicate information between on and off premises databases. PPCD isn’t locked down and your experts can turn the knobs and dials or install the same supporting software as with any on-premises installation. Some database-as-a-service providers limit the database capabilities when compared with an on-premises solution. This may be necessary to fit the software into certain limitations of the virtualized hardware or limit what affects their software running behind the scenes, or maybe it’s necessary to fit the database-as-a-service into their business model. PPCD offers the same set of features you’ll find with our on premises database, Postgres Advanced Server, but with the added benefits of our expertise, codified into the management software.
The other choice you often give up with a service is pricing. Services - software or any other - are often sold in a limited manner: By the hour, month or year. Hourly and monthly service plans do offer flexibility but take away other options and they can be very expensive, not matching your business costs if you’re a heavy user. EDB offers PPCD with fine grained hourly and monthly pricing but we also offer a subscription to our service, providing unlimited usage. One of these pricing models, pay as you go or an unlimited subscription, ensures that service costs can fit your business requirements. Between these pricing models it’s very easy to line up your service costs with the seasonal or volatile demand retailers and other businesses are facing.
Cloud adoption has been steadily increasing as companies continue to advance from development and testing to production deployment. It was ranked the fourth-highest enterprise spending category in a May 2015 survey by Cowen & Company with many companies predicting more of their processes could be moved into the cloud. Consumers may be a driving force for expanding into the cloud for a critical category this season. This Thanksgiving weekend was a record in online shopping with Adobe, which tracks such activity, reporting $11 billion in online sales, a 15% increase. By now, most organizations have tested the cloud and are poised for expansion should the need arise. The big question this holiday season is choosing the right cloud database that provides the required capabilities, services and support and pricing flexibility to meet your needs.
Alan Santos is a Product Manager at EnterpriseDB.