Oracle is the top database vendor, leading with a market share of 41.6% in an industry that is worth $36 billion. Amazon Web Services trails way behind Oracle on that list, in fifth place. At first blush, this may seem like a no-contest between a leader and a laggard, but you’d be mistaken. AWS is the top cloud database today.
AWS has climbed the ranks fast, and is a growing threat to Oracle. This is obvious in the amount of time Larry Ellison spent trashing AWS databases at the last Oracle OpenWorld. But how do AWS’ database services compare with those of Oracle’s? That’s what we discuss in this post.
AWS database options
AWS provides a wide range of cloud services, including VMs, databases, storage, monitoring, serverless computing, and more. Over the last decade, Amazon has been evolving its database services, and today has a foothold in the entrenched database market.
Amazon’s first cloud database service was SimpleDB, a NoSQL database launched in 2007. This database has a storage limit of 10GB per domain, and isn’t very scalable. However, AWS offers a slew of other database products such as RDS, DynamoDB, and Aurora, each serving a different purpose.
DynamoDB is a NoSQL database service that’s easy to manage. However, AWS Aurora, the newest of AWS’ databases, delivers high throughput at lower costs than DynamoDB, and is now preferred over DynamoDB. RDS is a relational database service with options to run six different database engines, including Oracle and Aurora.
But what makes AWS databases stand out from competitors? The cloud. Amazon made it easy for users to migrate and run traditional databases like Oracle’s—on its own cloud. While the competition was happy to sell more physical servers to their customers, AWS focused on building a database service that’s cloud-native, fully managed, and delivers on the key objectives of a database service.
AWS databases perform well on three important and basic features of a database—elasticity, availability, and cost efficiency.
Elasticity: Traditional databases scale up. This is a big drawback because you need to keep purchasing expensive servers as your needs grow. AWS databases, on the other hand, are able to scale to any extent on demand. So, as your organization grows and requires more storage, AWS databases scale automatically and greatly improve utilization.
Availability: Creating backups of your work is very important, as there is always the chance that you could lose your data for good. Oracle lets you perform basic backups using RMAN (and for advanced backup, you need to pay for a separate backup service). With AWS, though, your data is automatically backed up in two different locations apart from your original database. So if by chance the original data is corrupted or lost, you have two other backups.
Flexible cost: Traditional database vendors like Oracle charge customers on a yearly or monthly licensing model. This requires you to plan ahead and over-provision resources in case of a spike. AWS, on the other hand, lets you pay for use. This saves costs, and ensures you’re ready for any spike in volume.
AWS’ focus on making databases easy to manage and scale is paying off. At the recent AWS Summit, Werner Vogels, AWS CTO, said that in a single month, customers migrated 23,000 databases from traditional vendors like Oracle to AWS. But this is still a byte-sized stat when compared with Oracle’s long list of customers. You can’t count Oracle out just yet.
Oracle’s fight back
Even though Amazon is growing fast, Oracle is still the most popular database provider. Oracle databases carry features yet to be developed by Amazon. Oracle’s chairman, Larry Ellison, harped on these strengths in his OpenWorld keynote. These include features such as a variety of hosting options, and a more mature database platform.
Hosting options: AWS gives its users only a single storage option—the AWS public cloud. Oracle, on the other hand, gives its customers three different choices—private cloud, public cloud, or a public cloud instance running in the user’s datacenter. Shedding its image of a traditional server-centric vendor, Oracle now puts cloud front and center of its database strategy.
Management console: Oracle boasts about its platform, Exadata, as the most reliable and powerful database platform. It can provide a server-to-server speed of up to 40 gigabits per second. Exadata provides better resource usage and resource information, amongst many other features.
Compliance and governance: Oracle’s E-Business Suite (EBS) is a popular suite of enterprise applications that many large organizations rely on. These organizations have chosen EBS for compliance, security, and a host of other criteria. It’s easier (and even necessary) for these organizations to go with an Oracle database that better integrates with their applications, and meets compliance requirements. This holds true for banking, insurance, and healthcare where compliance is the number one priority.
According to Larry Ellison, the fight has just begun, and it will take a lot more from AWS to compete with Oracle. Oracle is without a doubt the more mature option, but AWS is making databases easier to manage and more cost-effective. What you end up using will depend on your situation. For modern cloud-native applications with regular workloads, you’re probably better off with AWS, but for compliance-heavy apps and Oracle-native apps, Oracle’s databases are ideal.