Predictions for 2014: DataBase-as-a-Service


It’s that time of year again where lots of people write articles which begin with the words “It’s that time of year again…” and make endless references to crystal balls, tea leaves and the benefits of hindsight. But not me, I’m not descending into cliché. Apart from that first sentence, which with the benefit of hindsight could have been reworded.

Anyway, as 2013 draws to a close it’s time to look forward into 2014 and make some suitably vague predictions about cloud computing, big data 2.0 and the internet of things. But the thing is, my focus is on enterprise applications that use enterprise database software such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server. The people I meet in my day job – and to some extent the people that are kind enough to read my blog – tend to work in this field too. Cloud computing will definitely affect us all in the long term, but I’m not sure it will drastically change our lives in 2014. Likewise, the only way I see the internet of things affecting us next year is the possibility of more data in our data warehouses… and if I made the prediction that your data warehouses would get bigger, you would be pretty unimpressed.

What about the raft of technologies that come under the heading big data? (By the way, I only said “big data 2.0” to tease Gwen Shapira) Will we see SQL-on-Hadoop threatening the Oracle ecosystem? Maybe even being adopted for OLTP workloads? Maybe some day, but it won’t be mainstream in 2014. And that kinda makes all of the usual predictions a bit … well, irrelevant to us.

So with that in mind, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball, read the tea leaves and abandon any cliché-avoidance claims I made in the first paragraph.

A Lesson From Intel

There is a theory that Intel is suffering from the rise of the what is called the mobile/cloud era. Instead of users sat behind desktop computers accessing application servers (and the database servers behind them) it’s now very common to find users with smart devices (i.e. phones and tablets) accessing applications which run in (public) cloud data centres. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has noticed the savage decline in PC sales. But what does it mean for Intel?

CPUIn general it’s bad news. Firstly and most obviously it’s bad because Intel has the desktop PC market sown up but is struggling against ARM in the mobile device market (so much so that it now even makes ARM processors in its own fabs). But the second reason is more interesting: cloud computing is allowing data centres to run Intel enterprise-class processors at higher utilisations. The nature of cloud computing, i.e. shared and consolidated resources running flexible, virtualised workloads, means better value for money can be extracted from compute resources. Cloud computing means better efficiency, which is good for customers but bad for Intel.

Why am I talking about this? Because this is a problem based around the cost of CPUs. And as you may remember, the CPUs in your database server are the most expensive CPUs you own because they are tied to your database software licenses.

Moore’s Law: Diminishing Returns

Moores-LawWe all know that Moore’s Law is bringing us more transistors on a circuit every couple of years, meaning increasing amounts of compute power in your servers. But there is a catch: average CPU utilisation in most private data centres remains the same, with industry reports claiming the average is between 4% and 15% (and I personally know of a global financial organisation with an average of 4% so these are realistic estimates). Considering the cost of server resources (including power, cooling, real estate, people to maintain them) that makes for uncomfortable reading; but if you add on top the price of database software licenses (licensed by the core) it becomes prohibitively expensive. The knock-on effect of Moore’s Law is that as compute resource increases, so does the money you are wasting. But the good news is, it’s also a massive potential for saving money: just like Intel’s mobile/cloud problem above, driving more compute from your CPUs means more efficiency for you and less money for Oracle.


The way to increase CPU utilisation is to virtualise and consolidate databases: regular readers will know that I’ve been banging on about this for ages. As part of my day job, I’ve been travelling around Europe for the last 18 months talking about DBaaS (but under various other names such as Database Virtualisation or Private Cloud) to customers big and small – and I know a number of large enterprises who are actively planning or building such solutions, so it came as no surprise to me when 451 Research issued this report in August 2013. This is my prediction for 2014: the adoption of database-as-a-service solutions will enter the mainstream. The benefits are too hard to ignore: increased agility, reduced operational costs and better utilisation of compute resources (meaning lower total cost of ownership). It also acts as an on-ramp to running your databases in the (public) cloud at some point in the future.

At one end there will be hyperscale customers such as the telcos and financial organisations that I have already seen embark on this journey. But at the other end, even smaller customers can benefit from a simple VMware, Hyper-V or OVM-based solution to drive up CPU utilisation. And it’s not just me who thinks this either. Just don’t forget to build your solution on flash.

Oracle Wants Its Piece Of The Action

Of course, this could be bad news for Oracle, since customers who use their compute resources more efficiently will require less Oracle licenses, along with less support and maintenance contracts. What does Oracle do to avoid this situation? Well… if you can’t beat them, join them:


Yes, Oracle wants (more of) your money and it’s prepared to use its mighty marketing machine to get it. This means:

Personally I see DBaaS as an opportunity to embrace open systems and build flexible architectures. But, unsurprisingly, Oracle’s viewpoint is that you can build your DBaaS to use any solution as long as it’s red.


So there you have it. In a stunning leap into the unknown I’ve predicted that DBaaS will be widely adopted (even though this has already started happening), that your data warehouses will grow larger and that Oracle wants more of your money. And with that hat-trick in the bag, I’m taking the rest of the year off. See you in 2014…


4 Responses to Predictions for 2014: DataBase-as-a-Service

  1. Vijay says:

    I do enjoy your blogs and style of writing especially, when you talk technical.
    I have issues when you portray oracle as a evil entity waiting to grab your money. This is not true. I am no marketing person, but i do find many online hosting applications ( like SAS sware that only after using exadata, does it make sense in terms of ROI.
    Also, remember that exadata has CPUs in the storage that is not counted towards the Oracle license, but still help to get more work done with fewer CPUs.
    Oracle is still going further and make it possible to do more with less using say in-memory option and pluggable database, both designed to do more with less.

    To be a market leader, it is not enough to embrace change, but be visionary and lead the way. Oracle has been leading innovations in DBaaS since they call their database GRID 10 years ago…

    • >Oracle is still going further and make it possible to do more with less using say in-memory option and pluggable database, both designed to do more with less.

      These are buy-up options you speak of. How does spending (a *lot) more result in spending less?

    • flashdba says:

      Hi Vijay

      I can’t help it. My opinion of Oracle, which has been formed over years of being a customer, an employee and a partner, is that some of the things they do are hard to admire. Take the idea of making Hybrid Columnar Compression (a generic feature) only usable on Oracle storage. Or the way in which they attack competitors with aggressive marketing. I don’t really like it and my articles tend to reflect that.

      Also, as my learned friend says, the features you mention are all additional cost options. The price of innovation is additional licensing, it seems.

      Don’t be too disappointed. I still greatly admire Oracle for some things – and after all, if it wasn’t for Big Red I wouldn’t have had a career at all. Or at least, not this one.

      Thanks for stopping by…

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