What is a cloud database?
A cloud database combines the functionality of a traditional, on-premises database with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of a cloud computing service.
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What is a cloud database?

A cloud database is a database service built and accessed through a cloud platform. It serves many of the same functions as a traditional database with the added flexibility of cloud computing. Users install software on a cloud infrastructure to implement the database.

Cloud databases:

  • Enable enterprise users to host databases without buying dedicated hardware.
Benefits of cloud databases
Ease of access

Users can access cloud databases from virtually anywhere, using a vendor’s API or web interface.


Cloud databases can expand their storage capacities on run-time to accommodate changing needs. Organizations only pay for what they use.

Disaster recovery

In the event of a natural disaster, equipment failure or power outage, data is kept secure through backups on remote servers.

Variables and considerations
  • Control options: Users can opt for a virtual machine image managed like a traditional database or a provider’s database as a service (DBaaS).

  • Database technology: SQL databases are difficult to scale but very common. NoSQL databases scale more easily but do not work with some applications.

  • Security: Most cloud database providers encrypt data and provide other security measures; organizations should research their options.

  • Maintenance: When using a virtual machine image, one should ensure that IT staffers can maintain the underlying infrastructure.

An IBM perspective on cloud databases

Managing engagement and application data for massive networks of mobile users or remote devices can be a scalability and availability nightmare.

The problem is that most databases require updates to occur in a central “master” database. This can result in performance bottlenecks and also prevent applications from running if the connection to the master database is unavailable.

A cloud database such as IBM Cloudant® enables you to push database access to the farthest edge of the network, such as mobile devices, remote facilities, sensors, and Internet-enabled goods, so you can scale bigger and enable applications to continue running while offline.

Hybrid databases create a distributed hybrid data cloud for increased performance, reach, uptime, mobility, and cost savings:

  • Start small, grow big.

  • Elastically scale on demand.

  • Clusters can span multiple data centers.

  • Manage your cloud yourself, or let a provider manage it for you.

  • Mix and match cloud providers to optimize geographic reach, service level agreements (SLAs), pricing and regulatory requirements.

This is the path to hybrid cloud that accommodates growing data management needs, not infrastructure needs. Organizations can continuously optimize the data layer for cost, performance, security, and reach. They can break up their data, distribute it, and move it closer to their users.

For example, financial organizations are embracing the hybrid concept by using the database as a central repository for all their disparate data sources, and then delivering this financial data in JSON format. This data is then distributed to the database as a service and replicated to geographic regions across the world.

If a customer in Singapore has to wait more than four seconds for their mobile application data to be retrieved from a database in New Jersey, that customer is not likely to use that application again. Database-as-a-service can replicate and distribute immediately and offer near real-time access to data worldwide.

Cloud databases can collect, deliver, replicate, and push to the edge all your data using the new hybrid cloud concept. Users no longer have to deploy the dependent middleware to deliver database requests anywhere in the world. They can connect applications directly to their database.

Related solutions
IBM Cloudant

The data layer for hyperscale, resilient, globally available applications, based on open source Apache CouchDB.

Explore IBM Cloudant

IBM Db2 is the cloud-native database built to power low latency transactions and real-time analytics at scale. 

Explore IBM Db2
IBM Cloud Pak for Data

Predict outcomes faster using a platform built with data fabric architecture. Collect, organize and analyze data, no matter where it resides.

Explore Cloud Pak for Data
Resources What is a relational database?

A relational database organizes data into linked, or related, tables. Analysts use structured query language (SQL) to explore, summarize and report on data in relational databases.

What is NoSQL?

NoSQL is an approach to database design that enables the storage and querying of data outside the traditional structures found in relational databases.

What is an API?

APIs simplify software development and innovation by enabling applications to exchange data and functionality easily and securely.

Take the next step

IBM Cloud database solutions offer a complete portfolio of managed services for data and analytics. Using a hybrid, open source-based approach, these solutions address the data-intensive needs of application developers, data scientists and IT architects. Hybrid databases create a distributed hybrid data cloud for increased performance, reach, uptime, mobility and cost savings. No matter where you are on your database solution journey, IBM can help you take the right next step.

Get started with IBM Cloud database solutions