AWS Purpose-Built Databases, Part 3 of 3.

All good things must come to an end, including this 3 part blog post series. In this post, we’ll dive into one of the database systems I am not hugely familiar with, Apache Cassandra, and it’s AWS counterpart, Keyspaces. What is Cassandra, then? It’s an open-source distributed, wide column data store that is capable of providing extreme read and write performance for massive datasets, and delivering scalability and high-availability by forming a cluster from multiple nodes.

Cassandra clusters are also notoriously difficult to manage, with complex scale out and even more complex rollback operations. There are also a bunch of horror stories about the error-prone restoration mechanism, and patching operations of clusters gone horribly wrong. Moreover, it’s lacking a few things, like encryption support, and you do need to learn a new query language (CQL) to make use of it.

Luckily for us, AWS has something for most of the Cassandra pains. Read on, to learn about AWS Keyspaces.


AWS Purpose-Built Databases, Part 2 of 3

Continuing with the topic of purpose-built database on AWS. This time, I’ll be diving into the wonderful world of Document stores. For a while now, MongoDB has been the gold standard for Document databases. However, as of late, I have come to think AWS DocumentDB as a solid alternative for MongoDB as a document store.

And that is one of the reasons I am focusing on AWS and DocumentDB on this post, it’s an actual purpose-built Document store, rather than a multi-model database, such as CosmosDB. CosmosDB offers a wide variety of APIs to use, Document, Graph, Column and Key-Value, making it a multi-purpose database. The reason I am not touching on DynamoDB is, that the migrations from MongoDB to DocumentDB are much easier.

Before reading further, I’d recommend that you check out the first post in this series titled: AWS Purpose-Built Databases, Part 1 of 3. If you already did that, read on.


AWS Purpose-Built Databases, Part 1 of 3

I have been looking, for various reasons, to purpose-built database space recently. Purpose-built databases, as you can imagine, are databases that are specialized to provide just a single (well, in some cases it’s two) type of data store. Purpose-built databases are also great when you’re building modern, cloud native applications, which has led to the birth of some interesting, fully managed purpose-built database offerings. AWS especially has done a good work on the area, so I figured I’d explore available options there.

Since there’s actually a bunch of these databases available from AWS, I’ve decided to split the post into 3 parts. In the first part, we’ll look into Amazon offering for Redis. Redis is an open-source, in-memory database, that is very popular with the developers. It is also one where AWS is providing us with two alternatives for it. These are Amazon ElasticCache and Amazon MemoryDB.

Why two? Read on, and I’ll tell you…


Mitigating concerns for COTS application database migrations.

Cloud? Nnnnnnnooo!

I spend a lot of my working time and effort to move on-premises databases to the cloud. When I am not doing that, I am most often spending it planning on how to do it more efficiently. While I think today almost everyone agrees with the benefits of going to the cloud, there are a couple of sentences I keep hearing over and over, when we’re planning to move databases to the cloud.

“We haven’t tested it with version X, and can’t guarantee that it works!”

“We only support SQL Server databases running in Virtual Machines”

That, good reader, is the typical sound of a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) application making it’s way, kicking and screaming, towards the public cloud. Considering how often I hear these two things been said, it’s easy to end up thinking that public clouds are full of burning wrecks of old applications. However, my own experience from having migrated plenty of SQL Server workloads is, that, about 100% of the time, I don’t have problems with versions or PaaS services (well, except that one time).

In this post, I’ll write about a single feature that can be used as to ensure that your database will be just fine, or even better, and then something about Managed Instances.


Quick way to do security check for SQL Server database(s)

I previously wrote about Azure Defender for SQL that brings some remarkable security capabilities to your cloud-based SQL Server estates. And while you can also get some of that goodness to your on-premises servers, sometimes you just don’t need all that comprehensive solution. Well, I have good news for you. There’s also a quick and easy solution to do one off security checks against databases. And it only requires you to have Management Studio installed.

The feature is called “Vulnerability assessment for SQL Server”, and it’s available from version 2012 and onwards. Let’s take a look at how to use this great, and sometimes overlooked feature.


SQL Assessment API

Every so often, Microsoft puts some extra into their SQL Server product, which doesn’t get as much time in the spotlight as it should. Nope, not talking about any of the great, new things that we got coming in with SQL Server 2022. Today’s post will be used to look at something called. SQL Assessment API. It’s not a very exciting name for a feature, but it definitely provides a new, exciting capability!

So, what exactly is the SQL Assessment API, and where, and how would you use it?


Nevergreen SQL Server deployments and mitigating patching pains

Not green, but still pretty

Not too long ago, Microsoft released The Final Service Pack for any version of SQL Server, as a part of their move to a Modern Servicing Model. This (and the fall time here in Finland) got me again thinking about the benefits of running your database workloads on PaaS over self-managed VMs. And one of the very real benefits is, that PaaS databases tend to be running with up-to-date versions. This is what you might have seen called as “evergreen” by Microsoft. When it comes to SQL Server running on VMs, well, these tend to be more of a “nevergreen” type of deployments. At best, they are somewhat yellow, but almost always never green.

And this isn’t an on-premises problem only, patching self-managed database services in the cloud is just as unpleasant as it is on-premises. But unlike death and taxes, continuously patching your operating system and the database software is something that you can avoid, without having to fear cosmic powers or a prison. It does require us to adjust our thinking on how we’re managing these systems, though: The databases aren’t the same as the virtual machines, and your virtual machines should be treated like they are disposable, not like pets.