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Database in the Sky

Using a web service as your database can save you lots of time, money and frustration.
April 2, 2008

Web 2.0 concepts may be difficult for some businesses to implement, but it gives entrepreneurs new and improved ways to operate their business.

Take data storage, for example: Due to the popularity of transforming software into services, there have been huge advances in data storage. Amazon is leading in this area with their beta version of SimpleDB, a web service designed to make web-scale computing easier and more cost-effective for developers.

SimpleDB is different from its competitors because it stores structured data and has its sights on eventually replacing traditional databases such as Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 or mysql.

Traditionally, I see business using relational databases, so transitioning into data storage services has interesting implications for entrepreneurs trying to create a highly scalable web-based system.

SimpleDB is a web service that simulates a database. Here are some of the major features and benefits this service offers:

But SimpleDB is still in Beta and has the following limitations:

Amazon does a good job explaining the mechanics of how the online storage system works and compares how their concepts equate to a spreadsheet. You can find more details here.

The Future of Databases
Data is the lifeblood of all systems. Typically, we are using a system only to get to the "data" or "information." Oracle has made a fortune based on that concept. Many large companies would never think of moving their data to an external company or service. As a web/technology entrepreneur, the concept is pretty interesting and compelling--especially the fact that you wouldn't need to spend as much capital upfront to prove a concept.

For Amazon, this seems to be part of a well thought out plan to provide scalable web services to technologists and entrepreneurs that want to build the next generation of web systems and applications.

Large technology and software companies are competing to provide services and tools for the gold prospectors of the internet--developers and entrepreneurs. does this with its, but it's more like an entire holistic application development environment than a data storage service. Amazon is providing discrete separate services that integrate well together. SimpleDB works closely with S3 (their Simple Storage Service) and their Elastic Compute Cloud. Microsoft, Google and other vendors will also look to compete in this area, assuming it continues to gain momentum. We'll see what the future brings for structured data storage and retrieval via web services.

Frank Bell is's "Web 2.0" columnist and a principal at IT Strategists, a leading business and technology consulting firm in Southern California. He has consulted with many internet startups, as well as companies such as Yahoo!, Vivendi Universal, Disney, Toyota, Nissan, Deluxe Digital Studios, AEG, Sony and Ticketmaster.