The Cloud is Just a Tool

The cloud is a term that’s full of hype. We hear from various media outlets all the time: the cloud is the answer, the cloud is cheaper, the cloud is the way of the future, the cloud handles your DR, the cloud managers availability, and more. Microsoft has been pushing the message of “cloud-first” (and mobile-first), which has many SQL Server professionals confused, concerned, or  even angry. There are also plenty of professionals that dismiss the idea of cloud anything when it comes to data.

I’ve felt similar emotions, and certainly I have been skeptical of the cloud versions of databases. I remember the first cloud service, a key-value store, which seemed woefully inadequate for most purposes. Since they I’ve seen the Azure SQL Database grow, and many other products get released. Across that time, I’ve become more and more impressed with what Microsoft has done, and as Visual Studio Team Services has expended, I’ve come to really embrace and get excited by the cloud. It’s still not something I’d always recommend, but I would always start there.

Mike Walsh wrote a great blog post on the move to the cloud, which I recommend you read. The end message that I get from Mike’s thoughts are that the cloud is a tool, and it can be a tool that really enables you to solve issues without getting caught up in the details of implementing every little part of the system. That’s a mantra that I think many of us embrace, even if we don’t really realize it. How many of you deal with SQL hardware? How many of you install or configure Windows? For many of you, do you even worry about backups or do you have scripts/tools/products that just start backing up new databases? I used to do all those things, but I haven’t even seen a production database server with my own eyes in a decade, despite connecting to many.

We all move at different paces. Some of us still deal with SQL Server 2008, 2005, 2000, or even earlier versions. Some of us will need to manage those platforms for years to come, even as we may end up helping build applications on Azure SQL Database and deal with data integrity, quality, and security issues through a remote connection. I’d like to be even more hands off. Enabling TDE in Azure is clicking a button. I wish it were that simple on premise (whether really here or in an IaaS scenario), because it should be. I should be able to click a button, get prompted to confirm, pick a backup location for my cert backup, maybe give the cert a name, and it should just get completed.

The cloud really is a set of tools and services that take away some of the details and drudgery. Sometimes that’s fantastic, and it enables more rapid, more scalable deployment of resources. Sometimes it’s dangerous because the vendors haven’t really thought through the process completely. I really think that’s where we add value as professionals. We shouldn’t be doing too many tasks that can be more easily automated. We should understand what the automation does, and be able to examine it, but we should be spending our time examining problems and evaluating solutions. We should be using tools, of which the cloud is just one, to ensure our organizations become more productive and more efficient over time.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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