Unequivocally, yes on-premises SQL Server Instances are still relevant.
While I’m a firm believer that the cloud is not a fad and is not going away, it’s just an extension of a tool that we are already familiar with. The Microsoft marketing slogan is “It’s just SQL” and for the most part that is indeed true. However, that does not mean that every workload will benefit from being in the cloud. There are scenarios where it does not make sense to move things to the cloud so let’s take a look at a few of them.
The cloud can cost a lot
There is no such thing as a free lunch and the cloud is not excluded. I am sure that we’ve all heard horror stories of individuals leaving resources active which in turned costed large sums of money. While the cloud offers up a wide range of capabilities in aiding the day-to-day life of IT professionals everywhere, it might not be cost effective for your given workload or data volumes. Compute resources and all things associated with that cost money. If you need higher CPU, more money. If you need terabytes of storage, more money. If you need a higher CPU to memory ratio for that virtual machine, more money. All of the resources the cloud offers you essential rent and the bigger the space, the more money it takes. Of course, all of this is dependent on your organizational requirements and associated workloads.
By having an on-premises environment you can implement a lower cost of ownership for hardware. This being said, the cloud offers up more efficient means of upgrade and scaling which is usually limited with on-premises ecosystems which can actually save you money. It’s a trade-off that organizations have to weigh to see if moving to the cloud makes sense.
You want control of all things
Most things in the cloud require that organizations relinquish control. That is just a plain fact and that’s not changing. We are trading speed and agility from an infrastructure perspective for a lower ability to control certain aspects of the architecture. For example, with Azure SQL Database (Platform as a Service), database administrators no longer can control database backup method or frequency. In exchange for this loss of control, though, backups are taken automatically for us. In my opinion, this is a more than fair exchange and I sleep better knowing that a tried and vetted backup process is taking care of things without my intervention.
You have specific compliance or regulation requirements
While most of the players in the public cloud space (Azure, Amazon, Google) are all certified for a multitude of compliance regulations, it’s possible that you have a very specific one that the provider is unable to meet. If this is the case, then your ability to move to the cloud is limited and you are forced to remain on-premises. Regulations could also impose issues when moving to that cloud. These regulations could be imposed by the governing body of the organization or be sourced from various places. If this is the case, it’s possible that the cloud is not a viable solution for your organization.
I do suspect that as cloud technology continues to advance, regulations and compliances will slowly be brought into the fold and allow for appropriate cloud implementations.
You do not have the expertise
Put simply, you do not have the knowledge internally to successfully migrate to the cloud nor do you have the budget to hire someone to move you to the cloud. Shameless plug, this one of our core competencies here at Denny Cherry & Associates Consulting. We help organizations (big or small) get into the cloud to help push their data ecosystem forward. However, not every organization can afford to hire consultants (short or long term) to help them with such a project. In this instance, until you can get the expertise to help you are left with either staying on-premises or trying to figure it out on your own. In some respects, the cloud opens new security exposures that must be accounted for when moving to it. If these are not accounted for the organization severe issues could arise so I recommend not going down the “we’ll figure it out as we go” method without some level of guidance.
Your workloads do not perform in the cloud
Even though I am a huge fan of Azure, some workloads just won’t perform well unless you break out your wallet (see the first paragraph). Even with proper performance tuning, the performance comparison between on-premises and the cloud is not going to be a true apples to apples comparison. The infrastructure is just too vastly different to really get that “exact” level of comparison. Organizations must find that sweet spot between performance infrastructure costs and frankly, sometimes that sweet spot dictates remaining with on-premises hardware.
There are probably many other reasons why on-premises infrastructures will continue to be relevant. Each organization may have unique requirements that having SQL Server on their own hardware is the only solution. Remember, regardless of where you deploy SQL Server, it is just SQL and it’ll behave the same (mostly). This does not mean that you should not continue to expand your skill sets. Make sure to continue to learn about cloud technologies so that when your organization is ready to make the leap, you can do so in a safe and secure manner.
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