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Amazon and VMware unveil RDS on VMware

Amazon and VMware teamed up to create RDS on VMware. It should appeal to VMware users and has some compelling features, but it still faces several barriers to widespread use.

Overseeing vast, complex and variable corporate data is a challenge, but VMware has teamed with AWS to extend vSphere management into Amazon cloud services -- specifically, by modifying RDS for VMware. This effort could ease the amount of work enterprises must do to deploy and monitor their database management services, but users might hesitate to adopt it because of the wide reach such systems have on the operations of the rest of the data center and the risks that come with switching.

VMware and AWS modified Amazon's Relational Database Service (RDS) to run on VMware. RDS is Amazon's managed relational database service that works with popular database engines, such as Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MySQL and Oracle.

Automate routine chores

Many businesses allocate internal and third-party resources to address database management tasks, such as measuring applications' storage requirements or processing data quickly. RDS has a number of scripts to perform tasks such as:

  • compute scaling;
  • database instance health monitoring;
  • failover;
  • OS and database patching;
  • provisioning new on-premises databases;
  • creating backups; and
  • restoring instances to select points in time.

Increased automation has led to a rise in the popularity of RDS.

"AWS has been disrupting organizations that made a living helping enterprises manage their DBMS (database management system)," said Marco Alcala, CEO at Alcala Consulting, an IT VMware service provider based out of Pasadena, Calif. "Their automation services replace the work that many third parties provided to enterprises."

Reduce duplication

Some companies relying on VMware were slow to accept RDS initially. If they already relied on VMware's vSphere for database management, adopting an Amazon service would force them to adapt to another management user interface, resulting in duplication and unnecessary expenses.

Companies invest a lot of money in personnel doing tedious busy work: backup, patching, installing and provisioning. They can automate those tasks, so their personnel can focus on more strategic initiatives.
Marco AlcalaCEO, Alcala Consulting

RDS on VMware addresses those concerns, enabling access to database management performance information via vSphere. It also makes it possible for organizations to run backup and disaster recovery services in the data center or the cloud. As a result, it might finally entice VMware-centric businesses to use RDS.

"Companies invest a lot of money in personnel doing tedious busy work: backup, patching, installing and provisioning," Alcala said. "They can automate those tasks, so their personnel can focus on more strategic initiatives."

AWS and VMware also hope to simplify the process of adopting the service. VMware relies on its native tools to provision a database management system. It will now provision the Amazon service.

RDS on VMware's limitations

RDS on VMware does present a few challenges. Customers must be AWS clients or sign up for Amazon cloud services before they can use RDS. Cost might also be a barrier.

"Sometimes, running a DBMS in the cloud can be more expensive than on premise," said Carl Olofson, research vice president at IDC, an IT consulting firm based out of Framingham, Mass.

On site, a company has set fixed costs. The cloud offers more flexibility, but this means that if a business's traffic fluctuates, then its costs can, too. RDS on VMware lacks the flexibility that comes with the cloud.

Many large businesses require backup and disaster recovery that work with a variety of storage options. That way, if one storage system is having a problem, they can just use another without changing the rest of their backup and recovery system and leaving themselves vulnerable. RDS on VMware doesn't support that capability and can only work with one storage option at a time.

Customer support might create another issue. AWS manages support, even when the service runs on VMware infrastructure. Some organizations -- those that already primarily use VMware, for example -- might be more comfortable working with the VMware support team and find themselves frustrated that this product won't allow that.

What to expect when switching

Database management systems can be complicated.

"Consequently, organizations need to be realistic about the process of moving them to a new foundation," Olofson said. Vendors tend to tout their own database management capabilities, so businesses might become overly optimistic about the ease or speed of the implementation process.

The biggest limitation for RDS on VMware adoption, though, is customer resistance. The legacy database management market is large. IDC found that businesses spent $36.75 billion on these systems in 2018 compared to $5.2 billion on cloud-based database management services.

"Large enterprises are very leery of moving their DBMS to the cloud," Olofson said. Such products have connections into hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of business applications. In certain cases, a change of database management service can sever the link between a database and a crucial application, creating massive problems for the company.

Despite the challenges in executing a DBMS switch, a number of organizations will likely still opt to adopt to RDS on VMware. AWS and VMware have tempered some of those challenges in their service with its various features. Still, organizations should be careful when deploying RDS on VMware and make sure that their plans for switching are financially and technologically feasible.

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