It was a bit of a surprise when Amazon recently announced support for MySQL. To that point the company's cloud database effort was highlighted by SimpleDB, which takes a less complex approach to cloud data architecture. Still, one analyst says he is surprised a SQL offering was not first on the Amazon list.
Amazon has grown a very large-scale online marketplace that consists of many relatively straightforward transactions. Collins said he suspects SimpleDB coming first could have to do with Amazon needing to scale out its marketplace to meet the demands of the Christmas rush. Since the data types of transactions are all quite similar, a full relational database would not be necessary. It is where database operations are complicated by things like varying data types and multi-table joins that a relational model becomes more necessary. In the cloud, Collins said these are very much a work in progress.
While cloud computing has seen successes for prototyping and Software as a Service, enterprise architects remain skeptical about using the cloud for mission-critical infrastructure. "I think most organizations see the benefit of cloud computing in terms of the business model," said Collins. "But almost as soon as you open that box, people want to run full-scale applications."
Amazon's non-relational SimpleDB has set of loyal users, but most large enterprises are used to SQL databases. Collins said complex problems often require multiple database tables, strict rules and, above all, data quality. These are not necessarily strong points of SimpleDB.
Microsoft took a similar step this past spring when it announced the addition of SQL Azure Database (then SQL Database Services) to its upcoming Azure cloud platform. Originally, the company had planned to center the data architecture for Azure around Representational State Transfer (REST).
"I think [Amazon's MySQL support] is a little bit like the Microsoft realization," said Collins. "Sure, people want cloud databases, but what they really want is cloud relational databases."
The developer community wanted SQL and Microsoft gave it to them. Collins said if SQL takes off on Azure, we can almost surely expect other cloud vendors to follow suit.