The top three insights from the 2021 State of Database DevOps report

Last year was a year of unprecedented challenges for everyone in every part of the world and every industry, and it was also a year of big changes in the IT sector. The pandemic underscored the role of the IT department as an enabler and a critical part of the transition to remote working.

While digitalization was well underway before 2020, no one could have predicted the acceleration the pandemic brought on. The way our customers use our products changed significantly, but we also saw changes in the way we all work, shifting to being more remote and working together in a distributed way. We had to adapt to how our customers wanted to use our products and at the same time change the way we collaborated across our own teams and organizations.

Redgate actually had a ringside seat in observing how organizations, companies and business across the world adapted and updated their use of technology as result of the pandemic. From 2016 onwards, we’ve conducted the annual State of Database DevOps survey, which charts and follows the rise of DevOps in both application and database development, providing insights into the challenges organizations face and the advantages they gain. The latest survey was conducted in December 2020 and more than 3,000 IT professionals around the globe participated.

The findings offer a unique glimpse into the shift in IT strategies across every business sector and I want to focus in this article on the three that I found the most fascinating: the way databases are monitored; the uptake in cloud adoption; and the rise in the use of multiple databases.

The need to monitor remotely

Like most, we’ve experienced at first hand the issues that arise when database administrators and IT professionals can no longer be in the same location as the estate they’re managing. For many too, the demands on server estates became even more critical over the last year, and even though we saw a lot of growth, estates had to be managed remotely in a secure and efficient manner.

In our 2021 State of Database DevOps report, perhaps unsurprisingly, we saw an increase in the adoption of monitoring capabilities of over 90%. We suspect this was driven by the additional requirements that remote monitoring throws up.

For example, there’s the recognition that viewing all servers, instances, clusters, and virtual machines on one central interface, regardless of location or restrictions to access, is preferable. There’s also the desire to zoom in on detailed performance statistics when problems occur to quickly pinpoint the cause. Every time an organization makes a deployment, it’s desirable as well to pick up this information and display it alongside other metrics, again to track any issues that might arise. We’re also seeing a strong need for one consistent way to provide reporting and be able to share reports about the servers and incorporate those in company held metrics.

The rise and rise of the cloud

In tandem with the need to monitor remote server estates, we’ve also seen a change in the make-up of those estates, with the shift to remote working increasing the use of hybrid environments. In our Database DevOps report, 25% of respondents this year reported that their databases are either entirely or mostly hosted in the cloud, with a further 33% using a combination of cloud and on-premises. That’s a rise of 12 percentage points over the previous 12 months and compares to only 20% now having only on-premises estates.

The biggest benefit to businesses from cloud adoption is a faster time to market, simplified innovation, easier scalability and reduced risk. What is important is that cloud platforms can help to deploy new digital experience in days rather than months. They can also support analytics, which would be uneconomical or simply impossible with traditional technology platforms.

But whether organizations are using hosted virtual machines, Azure SQL databases, Amazon RDS, Azure Managed Instances or on-premises servers, they all need to be viewed and managed, preferably from the same dashboard.

That takes us back to the big rise in the use of monitoring capabilities, in order to be able to see the status of any server or instance, whether on-premises or in the cloud, from anywhere, with one tool on one screen. It’s also a reminder that exploiting the cloud requires investment and is more efficient in the long term, but requires building additional capabilities and having a solid migration strategy.

The move to multi-database environments

We’ve also seen that the creation of new applications in this changing world has boosted the adoption of different database technologies. While SQL Server remains the most popular database, we’re seeing a rise in cross-database estates. 70% of respondents to the Database DevOps report are using more than one database, and 48% have teams working on three or more different databases.

When we look at the trends over the past few years, SQL Server and Oracle are still in the top spots, but teams starting new projects may now decide instead to use a database that is open source. In the report, we’ve seen the usage of those systems steadily growing, with the adoption of both open source and cloud-first databases on the rise.

While this makes complete sense and creates a lot of new opportunities, our customers also tell us it introduces added complexity in terms of delivering changes frequently, having reliable deployments, and using automated and repeatable process for faster delivery. Standardizing changes across teams and technologies requires support for a wide range of database environments in the toolset itself.

Consequently, we’re seeing the need for intuitive and flexible database DevOps toolchains, with solutions that are firstly simple to adapt and, secondly, can improve the quality of deployments over time. The ability to have an overview of every change to the database, with insights and tracking that can support subsequent review and audit processes is also highly desirable.

Summary

These are challenging times for every company and organization, everywhere. The pandemic has prompted many businesses to work remotely, speed up their move the cloud, and explore the new opportunities different database platforms offer. However, there have been some positive outcomes as well. We’ve seen that IT teams can adapt quickly and introduce new technologies and toolchains to meet the challenges, while also making the most of the advantages they bring.

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