Home Topics Cloud Database What is a cloud database?
Explore IBM's cloud databases Subscribe for cloud updates
Illustration with collage of pictograms of computer monitor, server, clouds, dots
What is a cloud database?

A cloud database is a database service built and accessed through a cloud computing 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.

Managing engagement and application data for massive networks of mobile users or remote devices can be a scalability and availability challenge. The problem is that most databases require updates to occur in a central “master” database. This can result in performance bottlenecks and prevent applications from running if the connection to the master database is unavailable.

A cloud database enables organizations to push database access to the farthest edge of the network for mobile devices, remote facilities, sensors and internet-enabled goods. This helps to improve scalability and enable applications to continue running while offline.

Achieve workplace flexibility with DaaS

Read how DaaS enables enterprises to achieve the same level of performance and security as deploying the applications on premises.

Related content

Register for the guide on hybrid cloud

Set up, operate and scale a Db2 database on Amazon RDS in just a few clicks
How a cloud database works

Cloud databases collect, deliver, replicate and push to the edge all of an organization’s data by using the 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.

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

  • start small and grow big;
  • elastically scale on demand;
  • span clusters across multiple data centers;
  • manage cloud independently, or let a provider manage it for them; and
  • mix and match cloud providers to optimize geographic reach, service level agreements (SLAs), pricing and regulatory requirements.

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 must wait more than 4 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 (DBaaS) can replicate and distribute immediately and offer near real-time access to data worldwide.

Features of a cloud database
Benefits of a cloud database
Ease of access

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


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

Considerations for a cloud database

A cloud database can accommodate growing data management 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. Considerations for a cloud database include:

Control options: Users can opt for a virtual machine image managed like a traditional database or a provider’s DBaaS.

Database technology: SQL databases are difficult to scale but 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.

Maintenance: When using a virtual machine image, IT staffers should understand how to maintain the underlying infrastructure.

Related solutions
IBM Db2® on Cloud

Rely on a dedicated operations team, PITR and high-availability disaster recovery (HADR) with multizone region support and independent scaling.

Explore IBM Db2 on Cloud

IBM Cloudant®

Use this fully managed, distributed database for heavy workloads and fast-growing web and mobile apps. Cloudant is available as an IBM Cloud® service.

Explore IBM Cloudant

IBM Cloud Databases for MySQL

Build mission-critical web applications that offer high performance with scalability and security.

Explore IBM Cloud Databases for MySQL
Resources IBM Cloud Professional Architect

Build your cloud database skills through interactive courses and our learning path within the IBM Cloud Professional Architect curriculum.

The Masters hybrid cloud architecture

Discover how The Masters golf tournament used IBM Cloudant to deliver new ways for patrons to get closer to the game they love, from AI highlights to the Masters Fantasy Game.

What is Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS)?

Learn about DBaaS, one of the fastest-growing categories of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, and get tips for selecting best-fit DBaaS for your cloud applications.

Take the next step

Scale AI workloads for all your data, anywhere, with IBM watsonx.data, a fit-for-purpose data store built on an open data lakehouse architecture.

Explore watsonx.data Book a live demo