Cloud on cloud: Couchbase as a service on Azure

Azure Marketplace lets you add third-party tools and services, such as Couchbase’s NoSQL database, to your apps.

One of the advantages of modern cloud platforms such as Azure is their variety of PaaS and IaaS. You can combine and combine different technologies, bringing your own tools and applications to the cloud alongside Azure’s services. All you have to do is set up a virtual machine, host it in a resource group and choose from your software library or Microsoft’s.

Things get more interesting when you add to Azure Marketplace, which offers Azure-optimized applications from third-party providers, both familiar on-site tools and new native cloud applications. Apps purchased through Azure Marketplace are billed through your Azure account and installed from Marketplace’s own virtual machine library.

The cloud market as a new software package

As vendors become more excited to work with cloud providers and users become familiar with native cloud business models, a new class of applications is evolving. Supplied through markets, they operate in familiar virtual machine appliances, installed, managed and billed as you wish. But there is a new business model: the provider supports the management of these VMs, providing its own management console for new cloud-managed versions of its applications.

These new console-managed apps are available with traditional licensed versions, so you can continue to manage your own instances if you prefer. But in areas where you want to entrust updates and security to experts, opting for an application managed from the Azure Marketplace makes a lot of sense. You let the provider do what it does best: deliver a cloud-optimized experience and provide security and other updates as they roll out, while focusing on creating and running your applications.

A cloud-centric approach to service management makes sense with Azure Marketplace applications: users are already familiar with Azure’s own business model by the time they start using Marketplace. They expect security and application updates to be transparent, their applications will continue to work as updates are implemented, and they will have access to a set of application-based monitoring and management tools, not the virtual infrastructure that hosts the service.

Run Couchbase Cloud on Azure

One of the latest applications to make the transition to this cloud-based service model is Couchbase, a flexible NoSQL database in memory. Built around a JSON document database, it’s designed to quickly regroup and offers SQL-style query language as well as support for distributed transactions and alternative consistency models, just like those used by Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB.

Unlike installing a database instance in your own virtual infrastructure, Couchbase Cloud provides a one-stop shop for managing and deploying database instances across all your resource groups and in multiple Azure regions.

The Azure version of Couchbase is closely linked to its AWS Couchbase Cloud, built on the Couchbase Enterprise Server 6.6 product, with all control tools moved to a new Cloud Control Plane. This means you lose access to the Couchbase CLI and web console, but you can still transfer the settings from on-site systems to the cloud. Both versions offer similar features but have different service levels.

Couchbase’s approach is conceptually similar to that used by software-defined networks, separating the control plan and the data plan. Couchbase manages the control plan for you, providing a web-based management and monitoring environment as the data plan runs through your Azure resources, using them for calculation and storage. Using Couchbase tools, clusters are configured and deployed directly to your Azure account, with cluster and project-level monitoring.

The flexibility of Couchbase Cloud in Azure

Two versions are available: Cloud Developer Pro and Cloud Enterprise. You can use the Developer Pro version to create and test databases before moving them to a Cloud Enterprise instance. Most of Couchbase’s familiar tools are available in the cloud service, and you can use database replication tools to link on-site clusters to cloud instances, so you can easily move existing applications to the cloud or use a Couchbase cloud instance when you need burst capacity.

In practice, you are more likely to use Couchbase Cloud for production databases, working with local authorities for development purposes, either in VM in Azure or on your own hardware. Data and schematics can be transferred to cloud instances before they go online, and apps can receive cloud API endpoints, especially if you’re using the cloud service in conjunction with Couchbase’s mobile and device apps.

The Couchbase service will increase and decrease as needed, adding new nodes and automatically managing partitioning. Azure Couchbase Cloud instances are initially available in major data centers in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia, which should support most applications without significant latency and provide you with sufficient coverage to set up geographically isolated instances for resilient operations.

New relationships with providers in the public cloud

Like many other Azure Marketplace providers, Couchbase is adapting its business model to the functioning of the public cloud. Having a product already used on-site and in the cloud is an advantage over other NoSQL database providers who may struggle to move from selling products and services to operating databases as a service for hundreds or thousands of customers.

Billing is done on time, by node, with additional costs for Azure resources. Couchbase is a database in memory, so you’ll need to take this into account when sizing computational instances and choosing storage options. The entry-level price is $0.28/hour/node for Developer Pro and $0.44 per hour/node for Cloud Enterprise, although operational rates require contacting Couchbase’s sales team for a quote. Once operational, you can pay by the hour or buy credits in advance.

The latter option works well in combination with reserved instances, as it allows you to budget your application’s costs in advance. You can use a pay-as-you-go model when setting up and scaling an application, both in Azure and Couchbase, before using operational data to determine the fixed resources needed. Once you have the data, you can budget for planned expansion while significantly reducing overall operating expenses.

From a developer and user perspective, Azure Marketplace makes it easy to purchase platform services that work with the Azure application creation method. With the ability to purchase directly from Couchbase or via the Marketplace (coming in April 2021), it is possible to manage your expenses more directly, based on existing relationships with Microsoft or Couchbase. The result is a flexible way to add fast and powerful memory databases to your code, without having to worry about installing, setting up and managing a brand new virtual infrastructure.

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