Database hosting has become an increasingly popular option for companies and developers looking to build data-driven applications without having to manage database servers themselves. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of some of the most popular open source database options for cloud hosting – MySQL, PostgreSQL, and some alternatives – discussing the pros, cons, and best use cases of each. We’ll also look at some of the top database hosting providers and how they can simplify deploying and managing databases in the cloud.
MySQL Database Hosting
MySQL is one of the most widely used open source relational database management systems. Originally released by MySQL AB in 1995, it is now owned by Oracle. MySQL rose to popularity in the 2000s as a core part of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl) stack that powered many early web applications.
Here are some key advantages of MySQL that make it a popular database option:
- Wide language and framework support – Given its longevity, MySQL has drivers and libraries for every major programming language and web framework. This makes it easy to connect to MySQL from just about any application stack.
- Performance and scalability – MySQL is designed to be fast, light, and easily scaled horizontally across commodity servers. Its storage engines like InnoDB provide ACID-compliant transactions and foreign key support.
- Cost effectiveness – As an open source database, the core MySQL server is free. Paid enterprise editions add advanced features like authentication plugins, audit logging, and high availability configurations. But overall, MySQL can provide a highly functional relational database at a fraction of the cost of proprietary databases.
- Cloud native support – MySQL’s horizontal scalability makes it well suited for cloud infrastructure like Amazon RDS, Google Cloud SQL, and Azure Database for MySQL. Major PaaS providers have MySQL hosting options.
Some downsides of MySQL include:
- Less robust enterprise features – Unlike paid databases like Oracle and SQL Server, MySQL lacks some advanced enterprise functionality around security, monitoring, and high availability. The free community edition also lacks official support.
- Structured for simplicity over strictness – MySQL’s design emphasizes simplicity and performance over rigorous adherence to relational database principles. Some features common in other databases, like check constraints and stored procedures, are missing or limited.
- Scalability pains – While MySQL can handle very large datasets (petabytes), scaling write operations across shards adds complexity. Single master topology can become bandwidth bottleneck.
Overall, MySQL is a great choice for cost-conscious organizations and applications where simplicity, performance, and horizontal scalability are priorities. It powers everything from small web apps to massive Internet services. Cloud hosting takes away the operational burden making MySQL even more appealing.
MySQL Cloud Hosting Options
Many cloud providers offer fully-managed MySQL hosting options:
Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) provides resizable MySQL instances with built-in replication for failover. RDS automates tasks like backups, software patching, scaling capacity, and redundancy. High availability multi-AZ deployments mirror data between availability zones. Integrates with other AWS services.
Google Cloud SQL
Fully-managed MySQL servers on Google Cloud Platform. Includes hands-free database administration, replication, encryption, security patching, and backups. Scale up to 30TB of data per instance. High availability configurations in multiple zones. Integrated with Google Cloud console and APIs.
Azure Database for MySQL
MySQL-as-a-Service on Microsoft Azure. Single and multi-AZ configurations available. Automated backups, patching, failure detection, and repair. Scales to 50,000 IOPS. Access controls and network security options. Integrates with Azure Active Directory authentication.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) provides dedicated MySQL instances called MySQL HeatWave. Includes automated provisioning, data encryption, load balancing, and failover. HeatWave provides in-memory query acceleration. Access via console, CLI, APIs.
Many other cloud platforms like DigitalOcean, Linode, Rackspace, and Heroku also offer managed MySQL database hosting. These provide user-friendly interfaces to launch MySQL servers rapidly.
Self-Managed MySQL in the Cloud
In addition to fully-hosted solutions, cloud servers allow deploying self-managed MySQL databases. With IaaS providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, developers can provision virtual machines and install standalone MySQL themselves.
This allows for greater control over configuration and direct access to server OS resources. However, the user takes on the responsibility for administration, scaling, uptime, backups and other operational tasks. Replication and sharding may be needed to scale.
Cloud-based object storage like S3 can provide durable backup storage and disaster recovery for self-managed MySQL clusters. Tools like Terraform and Ansible allow automating deployment of MySQL infrastructure.
So fully-managed MySQL cloud databases provide simplicity and ease of use, while self-managed deployments allow for more customization and control.
PostgreSQL Database Hosting
PostgreSQL is another widely used open source relational database. First released in 1996, PostgreSQL has a strong reputation for its reliability, robust feature set, extensibility, and standards compliance.
Key advantages of PostgreSQL include:
- Advanced SQL support – PostgreSQL offers full support for the latest SQL standards and concepts like window functions, recursive queries, upserts, and advanced data types. This makes it attractive for applications with complex data models.
- Extensibility – Custom data types, functions, operators, aggregates etc. can be created with PostgreSQL’s extensibility frameworks like custom data types. Stored procedures can be written in several languages like PL/pgSQL, Python, Perl, and more.
- ACID compliance – Transactions in PostgreSQL follow strict ACID semantics for consistency, atomicity, isolation, and durability. Sophisticated MVCC implementation allows for high concurrency.
- Open source with enterprise features – Developed by the PostgreSQL Global Development Group, PostgreSQL is fully open source. But it rivals proprietary databases in features for replication, high availability, security, monitoring, parallelization etc.
Downsides of PostgreSQL include:
- Performance – Out-of-the-box PostgreSQL provides good but not exceptional performance. Tuning complex queries and large databases requires expertise. Response times can lag compared to MySQL or Oracle.
- Limited horizontal scalability – While PostgreSQL has some multi-master options, scaling write operations horizontally adds overhead and complexity compared to MySQL. Single node performance tuning is often needed to scale PostgreSQL.
- Steeper learning curve – PostgreSQL’s advanced feature set means a steeper learning curve for new developers. The SQL dialect has its own syntax quirks and optimizations to learn.
Overall, PostgreSQL suits applications where data integrity, durability, and standards compliance are critical. The enterprise-grade feature set makes it very popular for SaaS and financial applications.
PostgreSQL Cloud Hosting Options
PostgreSQL is available through all the major cloud vendors:
Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL
Fully-managed PostgreSQL on AWS RDS. Includes automated provisioning, OS patching, backups, monitoring, security, and failover. Scales up to 64TB of storage and high IOPS performance. Can deploy multi-AZ for high availability. Integrates with other AWS services.
Google Cloud SQL for PostgreSQL
Google Cloud Platform’s hosted PostgreSQL with built-in replication, failover, and flexibility to scale instance sizes up to 30TB of data per instance. Automated backups and security patching. Integrated with Google Cloud console and APIs.
Azure Database for PostgreSQL
Azure Database for PostgreSQL from Microsoft provides single and multi-AZ PostgreSQL databases. Automated patching, upgrades, backups, and auto-scaling of storage. High availability options with up to 500GB storage per database. Integrates with Active Directory for identity management.
Part of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), this provides dedicated PostgreSQL instances with automated backups, patching, and failover protection. Includes transport layer security and data encryption. Scaling, load balancing, and configuration handled by service.
Managed PostgreSQL hosting available through Heroku, DigitalOcean, Linode, Alibaba Cloud, and more. These offer user-friendly interfaces to launch and manage PostgreSQL servers rapidly.
Self-Managed PostgreSQL Hosting
Similar to MySQL, cloud servers like EC2, Compute Engine, and Azure VMs allow deploying self-managed PostgreSQL as well. Users have full control over PostgreSQL configuration and access to the underlying server OS.
This allows for greater customization and advanced administration. But the user takes on the burden of scaling, high availability, backups, security patches, failure recovery, etc. Caching layers like Redis may be needed for performance. Replication and sharding architectures can scale writes.
Overall PostgreSQL’s enterprise-ready features make it well suited for mission-critical cloud applications. Both fully-managed and self-managed options are widely available across top cloud vendors.
Alternative Open Source Database Options
Beyond the traditional RDBMS, many other open source database technologies have risen to prominence. Here are some top options available for cloud database hosting:
MongoDB pioneered the document data model for NoSQL databases. JSON-like documents store data in flexible schemas with nested attributes. Developed by MongoDB Inc., MongoDB is designed for high availability and horizontal scalability.
Key features like secondary indexes, powerful querying, and aggregation frameworks make MongoDB a popular alternative to relational databases. Fully-managed MongoDB hosting is available on all major cloud platforms.
Originally created at Facebook, Apache Cassandra is a distributed NoSQL database designed for high scalability and fault tolerance. Its decentralized architecture provides linear scalability across commodity servers with no single point of failure.
Cassandra excels at write throughput and is popular for time-series data like logs. Cassandra clusters are available on cloud platforms like DataStax Astra DB or Instaclustr.
Redis is an in-memory data store often used for caching, transient data, and message queuing. It provides sub-millisecond response times for key-value reads and writes. Redis supports data structures like strings, hashes, lists, sets, sorted sets, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, geospatial indexes with radius queries and streams.
Redis Enterprise Cloud delivers fully-managed Redis hosting on public clouds. Redis on Flash provides Redis caching fronted by SSD storage.
Based on Apache Lucene, Elasticsearch is a popular open source search and analytics engine. It powers fast text searches, filtering, aggregations, and real-time analytics for diverse data sources. Elasticsearch horizontal scalability makes it a useful complement to databases.
Hosted Elasticsearch offerings include Elastic Cloud, AWS Elasticsearch Service, GCP Elasticsearch Service and Azure OpenSearch Service.
Developed by Yandex, ClickHouse is a high performance analytic SQL database for running fast aggregations on large volumes of data. It uses columnar storage and vectorized query execution to achieve speed.
ClickHouse cloud offerings include fully-managed hosting from Altinity and self-managed deployment on cloud VMs. ClickHouse integrates with cloud data lakes like S3 and ADLS.
TimescaleDB is a PostgreSQL extension for managing high volumes of time-series data. It uses hypertable partitioning and compression to optimize storage and performance. Single-node and multi-node cloud TimescaleDB instances are available through fully-managed TimescaleDB Cloud.
CockroachDB is a distributed SQL database modeled after Google Spanner for strong consistency, survivability, and horizontal scalability. Its multi-active architecture and replication transparently scale reads and writes. Managed CockroachDB is available on Google Cloud, AWS, Azure and other platforms.
Evaluating Database Hosting Providers
When evaluating database hosting providers, some key considerations include:
Managed Services – Does the provider offer fully-managed databases that reduce operational burden? Or only more basic IaaS servers for self-managed DBs?
High Availability – What resiliency and failover options are available? Multi-AZ? Cross-region replication? Automatic failure recovery?
Performance – Is fast storage like SSDs or memory-optimized options available? What network bandwidth and IOPS support?
Scalability – Can storage and compute scale independently to manage growth? Is horizontal read/write scalability supported?
Security – What encryption, network security, access controls, and audit logging available? Any regulatory compliance like HIPAA?
Backup and Recovery – Does provider perform automated backups? Point-in-time recovery if needed? Easy ways to export or import data?
Monitoring and Alerting – What insight provided into database status, performance metrics, logs and events? Notification options?
Support Options – Is technical support, consultation and troubleshooting available 24/7? What SLAs provided?
Ecosystem Integration – How easily can the database integrate with other components – IAM, automation tools, data analytics, messaging, workflows?
Cost Structure – Are pricing options simple and flexible? Is scaling cost effective? Any bundled offerings available?
Evaluating providers in these areas will help determine the right managed database or self-managed deployment approach for a given use case.
Key Considerations When Migrating to Database Hosting
For organizations moving on-premises or self-managed databases to the cloud, some key considerations include:
- Data migration – Safely and efficiently migrating terabytes of data to the cloud. Most providers offer database migration tools, services and guides.
- Security and access controls – Locking down cloud databases with network security, access policies, SSH keys, and encryption. Integrating identity providers like SAML with cloud IAM.
- Re-architecting – Assessing if legacy schemas and queries will perform well in cloud. Tweaking any outdated practices for cloud scale.
- Testing – Rigorously testing performance, failover scenarios, and rolling updates before full production rollout.
- Monitoring – Implementing robust monitoring of database resources, performance metrics, query efficiency, and logs.
- Cost management – Right sizing instances, using autoscaling, serverless options, and reserved capacity to optimize cloud spending.
- Hybrid deployments – Retaining some on-premises databases while shifting others to the cloud. Ensuring smooth interoperation between environments.
With careful planning in these areas, organizations can migrate legacy databases to cloud hosts smoothly while modernizing their stack.
Database hosting and managed services allow running critical data infrastructure in the cloud without operational burden. MySQL and PostgreSQL lead open source options, while NoSQL databases like MongoDB have also gone mainstream. All top cloud vendors now offer fully-managed versions of popular relational and non-relational databases.
Beyond ease of deployment, cloud database services add high availability, security, scalability, backup performance, and automation capabilities. They integrate smoothly with other cloud services for a complete data application stack. For organizations willing to take on more operational responsibility, IaaS servers provide self-managed database capabilities.
Over time, fully-managed services tend to win out over self-managed deployments for all but the most sophisticated users. Database hosting has clear advantages – allowing developers to focus on apps and analytics rather than database devops. As databases continue proliferating across organizations, managed services will play an even bigger role in the years ahead.