Companies these days are handling more data than ever: an average of 163 terabytes (163,000 gigabytes), according to a survey by IDG. Efficiently storing, processing and analyzing this data is essential in order to glean valuable insights and make informed business decisions.

Yet the question remains: What is the best way to store enterprise data? For many use cases, the most appealing choice is a relational database. 

In addition to Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most popular public cloud computing platforms. AWS includes support for a suite of database services, one of which is Amazon RDS, aka Amazon Relational Database Service.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about Amazon RDS: its architecture, functionality, top features, top alternatives, and how Xplenty can help you use Amazon RDS to its full potential.

Table of Contents

  1. Architecture: Amazon RDS and Amazon AWS
  2. Top Features of Amazon RDS
  3. Top Amazon RDS Alternatives
  4. Amazon RDS and Xplenty

Architecture: Amazon RDS and Amazon AWS

The purpose of a database is to store large quantities of information in an organized fashion. You can classify databases depending on how they structure and process this information.

Relational databases, of course, function with a relational model. The relational model is a method of structuring information that uses tables with columns and rows, similar to what you see in a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

Each row in a relational database represents a record in that database, while each column represents a new piece of information about that record. For example, imagine a relational database that contains information about the students enrolled at a university. The rows of the database represent the different students, while the columns represent different data points, such as the student’s ID number, major, and GPA.

Providers contrast relational databases with non-relational databases (also known as NoSQL databases), which use a different model. Some common types of non-relational databases are key-value stores, document stores, and graph databases.

Amazon AWS offers a wide variety of services, including its own relational database engine known as Amazon Aurora and, of course, Amazon RDS. But Amazon RDS is not a database. It is a cloud computing solution from Amazon Web Services that aims to facilitate setting up, deploying, and scaling a relational database in the cloud.

First introduced in October 2009, Amazon RDS includes support for many of the most popular relational database solutions, including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL. As a fully managed service, Amazon RDS handles many of the onerous tasks of database management, such as migration, patching, and backup and recovery.

Like any other managed service in the cloud, the cloud provider (in this case, AWS) is responsible for provisioning the infrastructure and performing the tasks of maintenance and management. The customer (in this case, you) is only responsible for creating, managing, configuring, and deleting Amazon RDS instances as you deem necessary.

Users utilize the AWS command-line interface and management console along with the RDS API (Application Programming Interface) to create a database 'instance' or DB instance. A DB instance is a particular database 'environment' set up by the user. It can include more than one database, and when users apply settings to one instance they can automatically apply them across all the included databases. A manager can configure these instances for a specific CPU and storage usage. 

Users can also set up 'read replicas.' These function as DB instances, but offer exclusively read-only functionality. You can use read replicas to offload read-only traffic from the principal or 'master' DB instance. If you set up Multi-AZ (availability zone), you may also set up read replicas in a different AZ from the principal database, meaning a different physical location. This can improve performance for certain locations. Finally, you can promote a read replica to the primary instance, typically with less than 30 seconds of delay, if the master DB experiences failover. This avoids problematic downtime. 

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Top Features of Amazon RDS

1. Availability

When hosting data in the cloud, it is crucial that you can access it at the time or place of your choosing. Amazon RDS can provide high availability via a feature called Multi-AZ deployment, which maintains a redundant copy of your data in a separate location. The Multi-AZ service-level agreement guarantees a database uptime of at least 99.95 percent every month. Failovers can be processed with minimum latency through synchronous replication to a secondary database. 

2. Scalability

Trying to scale an on-premise self-hosted database can be a serious challenge, but Amazon RDS makes it much simpler. Amazon RDS offers two different types of automatic scaling: horizontal (adding more machines) and vertical (adding more resources). The service comes equipped with a load balancer that can distribute requests evenly when the database is under increased demand.

Amazon RDS is unique compared to many other similar services in that the CPU and storage can scale independent of one another in a particular database instance. You can also easily scale them back down. If, for example, you have a major sale or event in your business that only lasts a month, you will want to have the ability to quickly scale down again afterward. Users can also add RDS instances to an instance class so that they can scale them simultaneously.

Also, Amazon Aurora has an auto-scaling configuration to scale compute capacity as needed called Amazon Aurora Serverless. This is just one of the many ways AWS offers an edge over the competition when it comes to scalability. 

3. Security

The AWS suite of offerings includes extensive security measures like IAM (Identity and Access Management). Also, thanks to Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud), you can isolate a particular database instance and connect to infrastructure with an encrypted VPN. 

Different types within the RDS engine may offer slightly different levels or kinds of security, but some things you can generally count on are automated patching and security monitoring. 

4. Performance

Amazon RDS includes a Performance Insights dashboard that makes it easier for users to analyze and troubleshoot the performance of their relational databases. Amazon CloudWatch allows users to better monitor performance and form metrics so you can get a clearer view of your business.

The system also provides two different types of storage: General Purpose SSD Storage and Provisioned IOPS (input/output per second) SSD Storage. 

  • General Purpose Storage gives as a baseline 3 IOPS for every provisioned GB. It also has the capability to burst as much as 3,000 additional IOPS. 
  • Provisioned IOPS storage offers greater speed. Users can specify their desired IOPS rate, up to 40,000 IOPS for each RDS instance. 

5. Pricing

Pricing in Amazon RDS is very straightforward. With no up-front costs to worry about, users can pay for exactly what they need every month. It comes without any minimum fee. 

You only have to pay full price for active instances. You can reserve instances for long periods of time and receive a discount. Additionally, you can pause database instances for a full week if necessary. 

Amazon RDS includes multiple service tiers with different levels of storage and performance that can fit the needs of most users. The free tier offers 750 hours of use with 20 GB of storage for anyone who wants to test out the service. Feature-level pricing can be complex and depends on which database engine you are using. Among the choices are Amazon Aurora, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Oracle and SQL Server. Thankfully, Amazon offers a pricing calculator

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Top Amazon RDS Alternatives

While Amazon RDS can be a strong offering for users who want a managed relational database in the cloud, it is not the only alternative out there.

Besides Amazon RDS, solutions such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB are all highly popular ways for businesses to store and manage their enterprise data. However, with so many different options for building a relational database, these solutions do not always come with a built-in way to integrate data from multiple sources, which is essential in order to gain deeper insights for your business needs.

The good news is you can easily integrate Amazon RDS with other data sources by using a third-party solution such as Xplenty. With just a few clicks, Xplenty enables data integration in the cloud between Amazon RDS and other relational databases. After that, you can process and analyze the combined data and then store the results back in your Amazon RDS database.

MySQL

MySQL is another managed database service that enables users to deploy cloud-native applications. It is open-source and originally developed by Oracle. MySQL is one of the most popular solutions on the market. The software tends to be extremely fast and is a robust solution, although it does not deliver the same level of ease of use as Amazon RDS. It is highly scalable and you can use it with various operating systems.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is also open-source. It is an object-relational database system and is ACID-compliant (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability). PostgreSQL is compatible with a variety of data types and formats and has various disaster recovery methods. The system supports synchronous, asynchronous and logical replication. There are different administration tools available, both free and paid. The main benefits of PostgreSQL are that it is risk-tolerant and low-maintenance and the source code is freely available. Many functions can, however, be very complex, and its speed is lacking compared to MySQL. 

MariaDB

From the creators of MySQL, MariaDB is a fork from MySQL, developed as an alternative after Oracle bought MySQL. It performs replication faster. MariaDB is community-developed and supported, though the MariaDB Foundation primarily leads in documentation and developing the system. The entire purpose is to be as transparent and open as possible in development. 

Xplenty helps to monitor and analyze your data. The software can integrate with any of the solutions mentioned and brings you an additional level of ease with out-of-box data transformations.

The primary reason many businesses choose Amazon RDS over these other options is because of the AWS suite of tools that comes with it and the AWS management console. Other reasons are the system's enhanced availability, excellent durability, easy scalability, pricing model, and ease of managing individual database environments. Add to that robust documentation and tutorials managed and offered by Amazon itself.

Amazon RDS and Xplenty

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Try Xplenty free for 14 days. No credit card required.

 

AWS RDS is a feature-rich and mature offering that makes it easy for even less tech-savvy users to operate their own relational databases. Xplenty can help you gain the most benefit from your Amazon RDS deployment.

Xplenty offers comprehensive data analysis and management and can integrate your Amazon RDS database with dozens of other services and products. In this way, you can use the technology stack that gives your business the greatest advantage. To learn more about how Xplenty can benefit your business, get in touch to begin your journey toward simpler and more-efficient data integration.