Here is a perhaps naïve but none the less important question for all senior managements in every business. Is the purpose of your business to provide work for internal IT staff, or is it to do what it says your company actually does
In practice, yes, you will probably need some IT staff, but is some of the work they do better done by services providers who can share their richer expertise of a group of specialists across a number of customers. This question is a key example of the change that the cloud is bringing.
Having your own IT resources can have some advantages for some companies, and for some users it is probably necessary. But for many businesses it is just a consumer of time and staff resources that could be better directed to contributing to the real purpose of the business.
An example of this can be seen with the new Concierge Service from EnterpriseDB, the company that provides open source SQL database system, Postgres. It has had on-premise services and applications available for a while and is now well established in the cloud, both with its own cloud services, and with the Aurora service recently introduced by Amazon AWS.
This latter is gaining some traction not least because Postgres has come for some time with tools to allow users of Oracle’s database systems to port to the open source alternative. Having it available on AWS makes for an interesting counterpoint to Oracle’s own cloud services.
When it comes to the cloud a lot of Postgres database workloads are now moving to AWS Aurora. This gives users more flexibility, but by the nature of the beast it is a fairly standard service which requires a fair degree of user knowledge and skill to set up and use. And that can be both time and resource consumptive.
Dave Page, the company’s Vice President and Chief Architect for Tools and Installers, feels that for a good many users, the resources that need to be dedicated to giving themselves a reliable full service can soon become a burden:
This is why EnterpriseDB has set up what we call the Concierge Service, aimed at those that are looking for 24/7 third party support. But it is on AWS, and with the best will in the world AWS is a service not designed to provide in-depth, tailored service support for customers.
Giving such companies an opportunity to offload that burden, especially if it is to a service provider that is better resourced and equipped for the task, may be a better option. Yes, ‘outsourcing’ may have currently got itself a poor reputation here in the UK, but that does not mean it is a fundamentally bad idea. And when it is coupled with the provision of cloud services, it usually makes for a sensible alternative.
That is at least part of the reasoning behind EnterpriseDB introducing its Managed Database as a Service offering, to give Concierge Service its formal name. At its simplest, it is designed to provide Postgres users with just about any level of operational cloud service they require. Page says:
We can’t get involved in what a customer wants to do with a database, of course, but we aim to be able to provide just about any level of operational handholding they need. We want to make it similar to our on-premise customers.
The service is available to run, by EnterpriseDB, on AWS, Azure and OpenStack environments, giving customers a good range of options. This could, for example, allow users to opt for a mix of services, including on-premise, that are best suited to the appropriate cost/performance/service levels required by each workload.
The aim is to cover all ends of cloud services, from both Postgres users with no cloud services at all through to those which have never had an on-premise installation. It is also looking to use it as a pathway for users currently on proprietary database environments looking to move on to open source, particularly as part of a broader plan for transition to a cloud-based environment.
To this end the service comes with what Page calls a simple migration tool kit that, in many cases, is said to be able to handle migrations automatically. For users examining the possibilities of transition, there is also a Migration Assessment Service available to help users evaluate the possibilities.
It offers a full remote DBA service, either as a supplement to an in-house service or fully remote, capable of providing any services a local DBA team can provide. In fact, for many users it can provide a more complete admin team than they can afford to employ as staff, adding services such as proactive reaction to alerts as part of the deal.
It can also work with containers for Kubernetes and OpenShift for those users that envisage moving databases between environments as workloads demand. In practice Page expects to see only limited need for this capability as containers are not normally tuned for what he refers to as “high velocity database applications”.
An issue here is that some cloud services can present problems when running large database applications on systems that also run other applications, even if they are not running in a multi-tenant mode. A growing number of cloud service providers do now have bare metal services available, however.
There is scope for the company to extend the Concierge Service into an even richer surrogate DBA service for users, though Page is aware that this could lead to being drawn into becoming a full-blown outsourced services organisation, which is not part the plan. However, there are opportunities to add some cherry-picked additional services such as the just introduced GDPR advice and implementation service.
Here is another example of the new outsourcing -an increasingly simple sum that the cloud is pushing under the noses of IT users. Specialist service providers – either an arm of a vendor as here, or third party organisation – sells the capabilities of its collection of experts against the option of a business using its own specialist staff.
For the majority of businesses, an objective analysis will normally show that the outsourced service provider is the better option. After all, many of the relevant skills are in short supply, a situation that is unlikely to get any better. Most businesses simply cannot afford to hire suitably qualified staff and have them work at, say, 20% of their true potential.
The other side of that coin, however, is a question many users are still reluctant to face – why on earth should they even try to have their own IT staff? While it may have made some sense BC (Before Cloud), there is now very little to defend the argument, in either economic or operational terms.
Image credit - Pinterest