Amazon, RDS, Cloud
At the end of August, Microsoft released a preview of their Azure SQL database, a database rival to Amazon's Simple DB. But while Simple DB is non-relational and designed for fast querying, the Azure SQL would support relational queries. An Azure Team blog post at the time said, "we are leading the industry by offering a relational database service." Amazon Web Services (site, news) seems to have heard that loud and clear. Here's the response.

Amazon has unveiled their cloud-based relational database service (RDS), pre-empting the release of Microsoft's SQL offering.

Priced along the lines of Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) services, RDS will run subscribers US$ 0.11 to over $3 per core processor hour, with additional fees per million I/O requests, and for exceptionally large backup storage requirements.

Similar to MySQL Database

In keeping with the open standards approach of the rest of Amazon Web Services' offerings, RDS is basically a MySQL 5 installation, just farther from home.This offers the immediate advantage that it makes porting tools or re-purposing applications fairly easy.

The RDS implementation supports InnoDB and MyISAM. As the RDS page puts it, "any tool designed for the MySQL engine will work unmodified with Amazon RDS."

In fact, a standard mysqldump export/import operation will get an RDS instance up and running. From then on, managing your new database is a matter of command line tools or one of the PHP, Java, C#, VB.NET or PERL libraries.

As you can see from the screen shot below, taken from Jeff Barr's Amazon Web Services Blog, the code will be familiar to anyone with a little experience coding for mySQL.

Amazon

Managing Amazon RDB Databases

Cloud Promise, Cloud Concerns

With all of cloud computing promises of faster deployment times, simplified data centers, flexibility and scalability, enterprise clients are still wary of the uncertainties posed by cloud computing. The proverbial dust has yet to settle, and it's anybody's guess who the industry players will be when it does -- even if it's likely Google, Amazon and Microsoft will be somewhere in the pack.

No one is sure how secure the public cloud model really is, and benchmarks and auditing for cloud computing have yet to really be defined. On top of that system administrators are wary of relying on a shared service for essentials like monetary transactions, email, and other business essentials.

Easier, But Perhaps Not Cheaper

As far as cost goes, for data intensive applications, the bill could get steep quickly. One system administrator commenting on the RDS release estimated that his company would pay 20k USD for what they currently host in-house for 7k.

Still, not every business has the data base administrators or the hardware to run a database with sufficient redundancy and fail-safes, and for them, RDS could be a perfect solution. A solid, secure database is another piece of the puzzle if the Infrastructure, Platform or Software as a service providers hope to lure more enterprise clients into the cloud. Or, at least that's what Microsoft and Amazon are banking on.