Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS)

Okay, I admit it. I come primarily from a Microsoft background. I have been using Microsoft tools and technologies for most of my professional career. While they are certainly not perfect they are pretty darn good. I have come to have a certain level of comfort and familiarity using them. Indeed there are many organizations in the world that have real, working, business-critical solutions deployed on Microsoft platforms.

The cloud certainly does make different technologies and platforms accessible. For a minimal investment a developer can provision machines with platforms and software that may be unfamiliar. This allows for real, hands-on experience and in depth looks at many different platforms and approaches.

We have, in past posts, looked at Microsoft’s SQL Azure. Today we will look at Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS). This will allow us to compare and contrast the two offerings.

Amazon RDS is MySQL running on a machine provisioned in the Amazon cloud. The RDS can be accessed from an EC2 instance or from other machines not running on EC2. It is also possible to run MySQL on your own EC2 instance. Many AMIs come pre-bundled with MySQL or you could install it yourself. We are going to just consider here the RDS service, though, which offers several advantages over running MySQL on your own instance.

For one, the server software is managed for you. That means that the software is patched and kept up to date by Amazon. It is also very easy to schedule backups on RDS. In short the RDS approach reduces the administration and overhead. It is also possible with RDS to modify the settings on a live deployment. This allows you to scale both your instance and your database size on the fly in response to your application’s requirements.

We can compare Amazon RDS and SQL Azure on price and features:


Amazon RDS

SQL Azure

Minimum Database Size

5 GB

1 GB

Maximum Database Size

1 TB

50 GB

Minimum Cost per Month (5 GB database)




extra cost

yes, 3x

Change size of live database?



Change machine size on live instance?



Table 1 Amazon RDS to SQL Azure Comparison

This screencast walks through the process of provisioning an RDS instance. We then connect to that instance using MySQL Workbench which is freely available from the MySQL website.

In summary, Amazon RDS is a compelling offering for applications that require a relational data store in the cloud. It offers many of the same features as SQL Azure and can support larger databases. By architecting your application with a clear separation of the presentation, business and data tiers you will be in a position to choose the right storage solution for your application and to minimize vendor lock-in.

In Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing Technologies: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction (course 1200) we take a look at both SQL Azure and Amazon RDS. We also consider other storage options available in the cloud.


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