July 9, 2021

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

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

Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS), also known as managed database service or simply managed databases, is a cloud-based database service fully hosted and managed by a third-party provider. 

DBaaS includes the software, services, support, and skilled staff necessary to set up, manage, and scale databases. Organizations have the option of going with hosted relational or NoSQL databases. Going with DBaaS allows companies to move away from on-premises databases, while shifting headaches and maintenance concerns to the cloud provider. 

DBaaS offers many benefits beyond outsourcing database management. They include: 

  • Scalability
  • Cost reduction
  • Fast time-to-market
  • Easy provisioning
  • Data security
  • Reliability 

With the hassle of database management removed, development teams can use the saved time to focus on building more innovative applications.

Understanding Database-as-a-Service

DBaaS took hold as a viable option in 2009, when AWS introduced its Relational Database Service. Now, with more than a decade of proven successes, DBaaS is one of the fastest-growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) categories with an estimated market size in the billions.

Like other “as a service” offerings, a simple sign-up and subscription gives you everything you need to get started fast and operate a database in the cloud. 

Signing up for DBaaS isn’t just about what you receive. It’s also about what you remove. You’ll no longer have to worry about tedious and long processes to research, purchase, install, and set up the hardware and database software that would otherwise be necessary. The service takes it all off your plate. You can rest easy knowing state-of-the art equipment and tools have been carefully selected to optimally run your database.

In fact, when you move to DBaaS, you can offload a long list of items, including:

  • Hardware purchase process, setup, and upgrades
  • Software buying decisions, installation, and updates
  • Infrastructure
  • Storage
  • Maintenance and support
  • Performance configuration
  • License management
  • Replication, backups, availability, and fail-over management
  • Security
  • Meeting varying regulatory compliance standards around the world
  • Hiring highly skilled and expensive staff normally necessary to do all these tasks 

It’s all included in your subscription. Access, use, benefit, and develop on top of the cloud-based database foundation the third-party vendor is providing. With modern, cloud-based database resources and cloud-hosted APIs readily available, it’s a great sandbox to extract value from your data and build great apps.

Database-as-a-Service Architecture

Let’s take a quick look at how a DBaaS is usually provisioned and managed. 

In general, DBaaS providers are responsible for provisioning and installing the database and the underlying hardware is abstracted from end users. 

After the initial setup, DBaaS simplifies database operation, monitoring, and maintenance. 

  • Built-in tools are included to help with areas like key management, logging, and activity tracking. 
  • Extending and improving data operations, along with administrative tasks, can often be taken care of with a few clicks. 
  • Developers can quickly provision databases, without help from the IT infrastructure team. 
  • API calls can be used to provision and manage a variety of database engines. 

Enabling developers to knock out these tasks quickly, lets them get back to their core work faster, while allowing the IT team and database administrators (DBAs) to focus on more important tasks. Those typically more involved tasks, such as resizing a cluster or creating a backup of the database, are also greatly simplified. The platform handles all the behind-the-scenes, backend operations necessary to make them happen.

Database-as-a-Service vs. On-Prem Databases

DBaaS offers significant operational and financial benefits when compared to traditional, on-premises databases. 

With DBaaS, the cloud provider completely manages backend administration, making it much simpler to get things done. While you always have the option to come in to assume control when needed, the DBaaS service provider is responsible for ensuring the hardware and software are always running at an optimal level. Offloading infrastructure administration saves considerable time and resources. 

Once things are up and running and data has been uploaded, interacting with the DBaaS platform is almost identical to the on-prem environment developers, database administrators (DBAs), and data engineers are familiar with. No retraining will be necessary. 

In fact, for any given organization, it’s likely the system might have the same core components that were previously used locally. Now, they’re running in the cloud, but the interaction with them is the same. Developers can also lean on the readily available, cloud-based APIs that are part of the DBaaS platform, as a launching point for building innovative new apps.

With an on-prem database infrastructure, you have to purchase expensive hardware and software and make sure they’re always up-to-date and running smoothly. You also need to make your best guess, at any given time, about the capacity you need and scale accordingly. Despite your best efforts, it’s inevitable that plans for future needs will miss the mark, from time to time. Compared to a DBaaS approach, this is inefficient and wasteful. 

That’s because DBaaS platforms scale up or down to meet demand as needed. Your company will save money in the process because the DBaaS provider will only charge for the storage and computing capacity used. DBaaS helps your company’s bottom line even more by alleviating the need to hire the kind of large, in-house IT infrastructure teams normally needed to handle on-prem database operations.

With data stored in the cloud and distributed and replicated across many servers, DBaaS solutions are much more reliable and available than locally housed data. And, as mentioned in the previous section, DBaaS also simplifies and significantly speeds up the time to set up, provision, and deploy databases. Time-to-market is much faster with DBaaS than on-prem.

Database-as-a-Service vs. Cloud Databases 

Cloud databases reside on a cloud computing platform. Accessed through a web interface or service provider’s API, they provide a secure, responsive home for data, without the need to purchase dedicated hardware. Relational or NoSQL cloud databases are available to provide the best fit for an organization’s data structure and to meet its goals.

This probably sounds a lot like how we’ve described DBaaS in this article. Well, there’s a good reason for that. Cloud databases come in two flavors of deployment and DBaaS is one of them. With the other option, organizations install and run their own self-managed database on a cloud virtual machine. Other than residing on a cloud platform, this option is just like operating a traditional, on-premises database. And, unlike DBaaS, the company is responsible for all management and operations.

Benefits of Database-as-a-Service 

Moving to a DBaaS has many advantages. The cloud service provider will take care of all the details for tasks like provisioning and backups, while scaling to meet demand, guaranteeing high performance, availability, and security. And your company will only be charged you for the resources you consume. Let’s explore some of the key DBaaS benefits in more detail. 

Key DBaaS benefits



DBaaS solutions are fully managed. That means the DBaaS service provider installs, manages, and maintains the database. Overhead is dramatically reduced because the service provider handles all infrastructure, hardware, software, and operating system needs. Teams can focus on building innovative apps and extracting value from the data. 


The database scales up to meet business needs and demand without worrying about upfront investments in additional hardware or guessing about capacity needs. It also maximizes operational efficiency, scaling down resources during non-peak times. You’ll never take on more than you need.

Cost savings

DBaaS solutions are pay-as-you-go. It’s an extremely cost-efficient approach, since organizations are only charged for resources they use. Potentially costly overages that can occur with on-premises databases are eliminated from the equation.

Speed of setup and provisioning

DBaaS radically simplifies and speeds up database provisioning and deployment. A process that can take weeks in a traditional, on-prem environment is reduced to minutes. Provisioning is especially fast when self-service capabilities are enabled. That allows users, such as developers, to provision new database instances with a few clicks and without help from the IT infrastructure team. 


DBaaS platforms store data and use replication techniques across many cloud-based servers. This makes them much more reliable than on-premises databases, while ensuring availability. Cloud service providers usually also guarantee a certain amount of uptime.


DBaaS solutions usually include enterprise-grade security, with encryption to protect data at rest, in transit, and during processing. They often include integrated identity and access management. And it’s common for the providers to ensure their platform is compliant with various regulatory compliance standards wherever their servers are located around the world.

Test drive a powerful DBaaS for free

We hope this article has given you a better understanding about what Database-as-a-Service is, how it works, and how it compares to on-premises databases. As highlighted throughout, it offers many advantages including ease-of-management, scalability, quick provisioning, reliability, security, and consistently high performance. Cloud-based with easy access to data APIs, DBaaS platforms also provide an ideal platform for innovation and ultra-fast application development.

Experience the power of DBaaS for yourself. Take a free test drive of Astra DB, DataStax’s multi-cloud DBaaS built on Apache Cassandra.


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