Data Base Management Systems (DBMS) as a Cloud Service

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DBMS as a Cloud Service

Most DBMS or database management systems are simply software packages that users can acquire to create, maintain or use a database.  However, since the introduction of cloud computing, DBMS has morphed into an entirely new type of (cloud) service with its own unique benefits and task specific advantages.   For one thing, any type of cloud service model will have to employ a dedicated cloud DBMS in order to truly provide customers with excellent access to data and databases.  Traditional DBMS’s are simply not set up or equipped to deal with the demands of cloud computing.  And of course, if DBMS was deployed as a service as part of a larger package provided, it would likely be much more efficient in its duties and therefore cheaper in the long run (or providing more actual service for the cost of deployment).

Just what is a DBMS?  The concept of the DBMS has been around since the beginning of commercial computing; such as the navigational DBMS of the1960’s.  Database management systems are one of the oldest integral components of computing, essentially making it possible to scan, retrieve and organize data on hard drives and networks.  All DBMS, despite whether traditional or cloud-based, are essentially communicators that function as middlemen between the operating system (OS) and the database (hardware / storage resources).

How is a cloud DBMS different a traditional one?  For one thing, cloud-based DBMS are extremely scalable.  They are able to handle volumes of data and processes that would exhaust a typical DBMS. Despite their scalability however (as of the time of this writing), cloud DBMS are still somewhat lacking in their ability to scale up to extremely large processes; this is expected to be remedied in the coming months and years however.  Currently, the use of cloud DBMS’s are principally used in the testing and development of new cloud applications and processes.  But while a stand-alone (non-cloud) DBMS can be used on a cloud infrastructure; most are not designed to take full advantage of cloud resources.  DBMS as a cloud service-type models seek to capitalize on the disparity between antiquated DBMS models and their lack of full cloud functionality.

All DBMS (database management systems) utilize four key elements as part of their operation, they are:

  1. Modeling language – Provides definitions for implements used on each and every type of database that operates on a system.
  2. Data structures – Data structures are essentially the configurations of specific data that have been set up by administrators and/or users.  When a DBMS interacts with data, it is data structures that allow it to do so without compromising the integrity of said data.
  3. Data query language – Specifically involved in the security of the DBMS; monitors login activity, access privileges, and works hand in hand with the data structure elements to maintain the integrity of information on a database.
  4. Communication apparatus – Aside from existing to ensure that duplication of records doesn’t occur, a communication apparatus also exists to prevent the exploitation of records and/or the data itself, for security purposes.

Cloud DBMS may utilize all of these components or may have devised new strategies that combine one or more elements (like combining data structures and the data query language, for example).  Many organizations are exploring the option of utilizing pre-existing modeling languages as a basis for expansion in a cloud model.  This strategy ultimately saves on the time spent developing cloud DBMS’s as well as enhances their overall effectiveness, since traditional modeling languages are more than adequate for handling data.

Despite the benefits offered by cloud-based DBMS, many people still have apprehensions about them.  This is most likely due to the various security issues that have yet to be dealt with.  These security issues stem from the fact that cloud DBMS are hard to monitor since they often span across multiple hardware stacks and/or servers.  Security becomes a serious issue with cloud DBMS when there’s multiple Virtual Machines (which might be accessing databases via any number of applications) that might be able to access a database without being noticed or setting off any alerts.  In this type of situation a malicious person could potentially access pertinent data or cause serious harm to the integral structure of a database, putting the entire system in jeopardy.

There is however a proposed method for dealing with these types of incongruence.  An obvious solution is the deployment of an autonomous network agent, which rigorously monitor and defends all activities related to database access.  The limitation of this method however, is that a network agent may be unable to handle extremely large and dense volumes of activity / traffic.

Arguably, the best solution for dealing with security issues is to employ continuous database auditing.  This involves setting up a system that meticulously records, analyze and report on all activities regarding database access, especially suspicious database access.   All information regarding these activities is logged and stored in an extremely remote and secure location with alerts being sent out to cloud management (or including any other individual(s) they might have designated to receive this information) in the event of a breach.  This will provide those in charge of security with the information necessary to determine who is responsible, where they are located as well as the specifics of their machine / hardware.

While deployment of a dedicated and thorough cloud DBMS hasn’t occurred yet, it is certainly under development.  The emergence of a comprehensive solution for all cloud service models regarding database management will open the door to a new era of cloud computing.

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