Relational Database Service, More Memory, and Lower Prices

I’ve worked on our around relational database systems for more than 20 years. And, although I freely admit that perfectly good applications can, and often are, written without using a relational database system, it’s simply amazing how many of world’s commercial applications depend upon them. Relational database offerings continue to be the dominant storage choice for applications with a need for structured storage.

There are many alternatives, some of which are very good. ISAMs like Berkeley DB. Simple key value stores. Distributed Hash Tables. There are many excellent alternatives and, for many workloads, they are very good choices. There is even a movement called Nosql aimed at advancing non-relational choices. And yet, after 35 to 40 years depending upon how you count, relational systems remain the dominant structured storage choice for new applications.

Understanding the importance of relational DBs and believing a big part of the server-side computing world is going to end up in the cloud, I’m excited to see the announcement last night of the Amazon Relational Database Service. From the RDS details page:

Amazon RDS is designed for developers or businesses who require the full features and capabilities of a relational database, or who wish to migrate existing applications and tools that utilize a relational database. It gives you access to the full capabilities of a MySQL 5.1 database running on your own Amazon RDS database instance.

To use Amazon RDS, you simply:

· Launch a database instance (DB Instance), selecting the DB Instance class and storage capacity that best meets your needs.

· Select the desired retention period (in number of days) for your automated database backups. Amazon RDS will automatically back up your database during your predefined backup window. For typical workloads, this allows you to restore to any point in time within your retention period, up to the last five minutes. You can also restore from a DB Snapshot, a user-initiated backup that can be run at any time with a simple API call.

· Connect to your DB Instance using your favorite database tool or programming language. Since you have direct access to a full-featured MySQL database, any tool designed for the MySQL engine will work unmodified with Amazon RDS.

· Monitor the compute and storage resource utilization of your DB Instance, for no additional charge, via Amazon CloudWatch. If at any point you need additional capacity, you can scale the compute and storage resources associated with your DB Instance with a simple API call.

· Pay only for the resources you actually consume, based on your DB Instance hours consumed, database storage, backup storage, and data transfer.

AWS also announced last night the EC2 High Memory Instance, with over 64GB of memory. This instance type is ideal for large main memory workloads and will be particularly useful for high-scale database work. Databases just love memory.

I’ve been excited about cloud computing for years because computing really is less expensive at very high scale. There are substantial cost advantages that come with scale and, at the same time, infrastructure innovations and Moore’s law further contribute to dropping costs. Clearly, industry trends come and go. Those that have lasting impact are the big changes that really do change what can be done and/or allow it to be done at a fundamentally lower cost. I think it’s great to be working in our industry as we go through one of these fairly dramatic transitions.

Consistent with this observation, the AWS EC2 On-Demand instance prices were reduced by up to 15%. From the Amazon announcement:

Effective November 1, 2009, Amazon EC2 will be lowering prices up to 15% for all On-Demand instance families and sizes. For example, a Small Standard Linux-based instance will cost just 8.5 cents per hour of computing, compared to the current price of 10 cents per hour.

Lower prices, more memory, and a fully managed, easy to use relational database offering.


James Hamilton



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