XML Database in the Cloud

February 11, 2009

The success of cloud computing is as inevitable as the success of alternative energy sources. It’s going to take quiet a few years to realize its full potential. But it will, in time, comprise a significant portion of the market.

Cloud computing just makes sense on so many levels. It is classic “ecomony of scale” in action. For some organizations, it will prove to be a more cost-efficient option for certain tasks than an in-house data operations. Or, for larger organizations, it will allow the centralization of IT resources in ways that were not previously considered. It will allow organizations to quickly have an enterprise-class infrastructure, without the significant up-front costs. In some instances, it will allow organizations to focus their energies and activities on their core competencies, and outsource certain IT activities to the cloud. The reasons for its adoption will be numerous, and will depend on the particular circumstances of each situation.

However, the cloud won’t be for everyone. There are many organizations that have large capital investments in their data centers that they will be reluctant to write off any time soon. Also, many organizations have efficient IT operations, that quite frankly are more cost-effective than the cloud over the long haul. And many organization many want to retain “control” over their data center operations for various reasons. Although I expect this concern to diminish over time. But, while the cloud may not be for everyone, it will still occupy a significant portion of IT spend.

Also, there will probably be justified resistance when it comes to moving certain types of applications to the cloud until we have concrete proof points for their successful implementation. For instance, transactional and latency-sensitive systems may not use the cloud for performance reasons, and mission-critical systems may not use the cloud because of the high costs associated with the data bandwidth required. Concerns about reliability are also warranted, especially for mission-critical systems. Even a few hours of downtime can have a devastating effect on a business, so unless there are acceptable back-up provisions in place, cloud computing may be unacceptable for such applications.

However, this still leaves many, many opportunities for cloud computing. My best guess is that spending on cloud computing will rise to something approaching 7.5% of total IT spending in 3 years time, with significant growth expected beyond that timeframe. I have seen respected sources forecast higher rates of adoption. But 20 years of working with emerging technology has taught me to be relatively conservative when forecasting new technology adoption.

You may have noticed a number of cloud computing announcements from IBM yesterday. Well, there are even more announcements today. In one of those announcements, IBM revealed that you can now use DB2 software licenses on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). This is similar to a recent announcement from Oracle, where they allow you to transfer certain Oracle Database licenses to certain cloud environments. However, with this announcement, IBM is going further than Oracle by also offering an hourly pricing alternative. That’s right, you can use DB2 on Amazon EC2 by paying only a low hourly rate.

Amazon will offer both developer and production versions of the IBM database software as part of the Amazon Web Services. Immediately available at no charge are DB2 Express-C Amazon Machine Instances (AMIs) for development and test purposes. These provide an ideal opportunity for you to create a “DB2 in the cloud” prototype, or to quickly build pre-production applications based on “DB2 in the cloud”.

So now you have no excuse for not checking out DB2 and its native XML storage capabilities in the cloud. For more information and to download the AWIs, see DB2 Express-C 9.5 Amazon Download page.

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