Going On-Prem?

When I started in this business, every company owned their own servers, and had their own data center. Now, some of those data centers were closets (including that for one state government Senate). Some were offices-converted-to-computer rooms, rarely with separate air conditioning until I requested it. Some were actual data center rooms, though usually for larger companies. The idea of putting your computing resources off-site was seen as ludicrous.

As time passed, the idea of using a co-location facility grew. In fact, SQLServerCentral went from a couple machines in a residential basement to a locked rack at a facility in Denver. Many companies started to use third party data centers, and in the late 90s and early 2000s, this was common, with facilities springing up. Full time employees will often racked equipment and visited data centers when they needed physical access.

This changed over time as virtualization grew, and more and more companies started to rent a VM, rather than purchase a physical box. Some still used physical machines, but they rented the machine, allowing a third party to setup and mount the equipment, sometimes even installing the OS and then providing access to the lessee. We’ve come to the place now where we have cloud services that are often just platforms or services, where we have no idea of the underlying equipment. In the case of things like Salesforce, Azure SQL Databases, or Amazon’s RDS, we don’t even care, just asking for a certain level of performance.

Is this the future? Will we now be asking ourselves if we “want to go on-prem” as the default question? I ran across the blog linked, which is from a SaaS perspective, that is trying to always get customers to use the service (or platform) and never have a local install. I know Microsoft would like to do this, especially for Azure databases as they make more profit on compute services.

Some of you think this is crazy. In fact, I know plenty of industries that struggle with this from a regulatory standpoint. However, I’d point out that the idea of letting someone else run your email system was seen as crazy 20 years ago. Today many people (myself included) would never think to install Exchange or any other email software. We would always purchase this service from someone else.

Tim Mitchell had a podcast interview recently talking about whether the on-premise data warehouse is dead. While I think the Azure Data Warehouse has some great advantages, and is worth considering, I’m not sure the local DW is dead. In fact, for lots of tasks I perform, including software Continuous Integration builds (.NET or database), I prefer to have some local resource doing the work. Especially when I can’t predict the number of times I’ll build and that task is easy to scale on local machines.

I don’t think that we are at the point where we’d put more databases in a cloud service than on premise, but I do think that for new applications, it’s a valid question to ask whether the database and application could be hosted in the cloud.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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2 Responses to Going On-Prem?

  1. On-prem is not dead, especially in some heavily regulated industries. One of my government was basically told that they could not move to the Cloud for anything resembling sensitive data.

    • way0utwest says:

      I don’t think on-prem will ever be dead. There are still people running their own email, and locking down other systems for security, regulatory, or stubborn purposes. However, I think it’s a legitimate question to think about whether new apps should be on prem or in the cloud. You should consider this for many industries, probably most. The calculations constantly change, and you might never make a different decision, but it’s worth considering a bit.

      Note that I think some things shouldn’t be in the cloud at all, things like control systems (SCADA) for various companies. These should not only be privately networked, but also with physical controls and circuit breakers, as well as regular monitoring for penetration.

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