cloud technology devide 01
Image: Stock

The database market keeps growing thanks to the cloud. But as Gartner analyst Merv Adrian has detailed, there’s still plenty of life in the on-premises database market. How much life? In 2021, companies spent an incremental $2.2 billion for on-premises database software.

The cloud market, as I’ve noted before, is growing really fast, but with roughly 95% of the IT market still firmly on-premises (measured in terms of hardware, software and services spending), it’s fair to say that the cloud future is going to take time.

But perhaps not as much time as some might suppose.

The cloud’s impact on databases

As Adrian has explained, the overall database market has roughly doubled in the past five years, with cloud databases claiming roughly half of that (49%). There are several reasons for this shift to cloud: Cloud databases move data closer to the consumers and creators of data, even as they make it much easier to scale the underlying infrastructure necessary to power them.

So that’s why database workloads are moving to the cloud. So why aren’t all database workloads moving there?

SEE: Cheat sheet: How to become a database administrator (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The obvious answer is that the costs associated with moving to the cloud aren’t always outweighed by the benefits. For some database workloads, they’re running just fine in the data center and there’s little appetite to fix something that isn’t perceived to be broken. Throw in concerns (right or wrong) about data security in sensitive government or healthcare applications, or for large legacy applications where perceptions persist about latency in the cloud, and it’s clear that there’s room for on-premises database workloads to grow. Indeed, Adrian found that, by historic standards, on-premises workloads are growing at a rate consistent with how fast they’ve grown in years past.

The problem is that the cloud is growing significantly faster. Nor is it simply a matter of getting outpaced.

“On-premises revenue growth … continues along a stable trend, but it may be near a turning point as some vendors begin to decline there,” Adrian noted.

Specifically, he highlighted on-premises database software vendors like Microsoft that are growing their cloud revenue faster. Though he doesn’t say this, it’s likely that these vendors have an incentive to nudge customers to cloud (less likely to churn, among other reasons), causing even faster deterioration in on-premises revenue over the next few years.

Indeed, speaking of some other database vendors that have “registered a drop in on-premises DBMS revenue,” Adrian warned: “If they don’t get in gear in the cloud, the market will pass them by — if on-premises revenue is dropping and cloud revenue is not keeping up with the market, troubles lay ahead.”

Which is to say, yes, there’s still demand for on-premises database software. Quite a bit, in fact. But there’s also cause to believe that the very vendors selling that on-premises software are among the most motivated to help customers move to the cloud.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB but the views expressed herein are mine.