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SQL and Cloud Databases Are the Perfect Match!

Do you want to do analytics in the cloud? Are you considering learning SQL and wondering whether you can use it with cloud-based databases? Do you want to know how cloud databases and SQL work together? We answer your questions in this article. Read on!

You may be an analyst who has heard about cloud databases and SQL and want to learn more. Maybe you are already familiar with them and want to know if the two technologies fit together.

Cloud databases have taken over the world at a breathtaking pace. This is making many people wonder whether SQL, the main database querying language, will remain relevant. This question is especially critical if you are contemplating learning SQL for your future career.

This article gives an overview of cloud databases and the usefulness of SQL in working with them. While the database world is constantly changing, SQL remains a super useful and important tool regardless of the underlying infrastructure.

Would you like to learn why? Let’s start with a look at cloud databases!

The Emerging Trend of Cloud Databases

What Are Cloud Databases?

Cloud databases run on a cloud computing platform you access remotely as a service. This approach is different from “traditional” databases hosted on the premises of an organization. In the on-premises case, your organization provides and maintains the components of the database infrastructure, like a server park, the computational environment, the database software, and the data.

If the focus of your organization is not IT infrastructure, it makes sense to outsource this work. Hardware and software maintenance requires special skills and are too costly to maintain at scale.

A cloud database simplifies this situation by delegating most background infrastructure work to a cloud database provider. Doing this allows you and your organization to focus on high-value activities like analytics and making data available.

Today, even “software” and “tech” companies use cloud providers. Are you familiar with Netflix? They do it too.

Types of Cloud Databases

There are two main types of cloud databases:

  • Virtual machines on a cloud server. The cloud computing provider is responsible for the maintenance and availability of the hardware and the computational environment.
  • Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS). The service provider is also responsible for database management and operations.

As with “traditional” databases, you can classify cloud databases into SQL or NoSQL. NoSQL (or “not just SQL”) databases do not follow the relational data model underlying the SQL ones. Instead, they offer approaches that allow less structure in the data model or optimize for a specific use case (e.g., document management, graph data, time series, etc.).

We can use these two dimensions to categorize most cloud database providers. Here are some of the most popular ones:


Virtual Machine Deployment

Database as a Service


  • IBM DB2

  • MySQL

  • Oracle Database

  • PostgreSQL


  • Amazon Aurora

  • Amazon Relational Database Service

  • Azure SQL Database

  • Google Cloud SQL

  • Oracle Database Cloud Service

  • SAP HANA Cloud

  • Snowflake Cloud Data Warehouse


  • Apache Cassandra

  • CouchDB

  • Hadoop

  • MarkLogic

  • MongoDB

  • Neo4J

  • Amazon DocumentDB

  • Amazon DynamoDB

  • Amazon SimpleDB

  • Azure Cosmos DB

  • Google Cloud Bigtable

  • Google Cloud Datastore

  • MongoDB Database as a Service

  • Oracle NoSQL Database Cloud Service

Popular Cloud Database Services (source)

The Benefits of Cloud Databases

A cloud database service has many benefits over the “traditional” on-premises ones. Here are the most common ones:

  • Reduction of Cost and Operational Load. Cloud services do not require servers. Your organization can reallocate resources from building and maintaining the physical, computational, and operational infrastructure to higher-value processes.
  • Scalability of Operations. The cloud has a worldwide reach. You can move data and services globally to places that had previously been inaccessible. You can even maintain parallel versions of your data centers tailored for different regions and customer groups.
  • Guaranteed Availability and Security. Cloud database providers are experts in running and maintaining cloud database software and infrastructure. They can guarantee high availability, prevention of data loss, and protection against cyber and physical threats.
  • Flexibility. Cloud databases give you options. They give you several ways to access your databases at multiple locations. You can reallocate database resources quickly based on your changing needs and requirements.

How Popular Are Cloud Databases?

Hosting databases in the cloud has become more the norm than the exception. Market analysts predict that “cloud databases will soon overtake traditional on-premises databases” and that “a whopping 75 percent of all databases will be deployed or migrated to a cloud platform by 2022.”

This trend also means an increase in the cloud database market. While estimates fluctuate, consistent high-level growth is predicted for the coming years. For example, MarketsandMarkets forecasts the cloud database market size will grow to USD 24.8 billion by 2025, and another market research firm predicts it will reach $68.5 billion by 2027.

SQL and Cloud Databases Are the Perfect Match!

Forecasted growth of cloud database market size between 2018 and 2025 (source)

These estimates point to cloud-based databases replacing on-premises ones in the near future. If your organization is still keeping its data on its premises, expect this to change within the next few years.

We have learned what cloud databases are, their main types, and their benefits over on-premises databases. In the next section, we discuss how well SQL skills convert to a cloud database environment and the main reasons for the popularity of SQL in the cloud.

SQL and Cloud Databases

What Is SQL?

SQL (Structured Query Language) is the most widely used database querying and management language created in the early 1970s. You can use SQL to analyze and manipulate data, define its structure (or “schema”), and control data access.

SQL is widespread. You find it in the most surprising places from ATMs to airplanes and in a wide range of database types. The two main reasons behind its popularity are the prevalent use of the relational database model (RDBMS) and its highly readable, easy-to-learn syntax.

The place of SQL as the top language for on-premises databases is well established. However, the recent rise of cloud services and the upsurge of NoSQL databases have made many people wonder whether this will continue to be the case.

The Usefulness of SQL in Cloud Databases

Many cloud databases provide an SQL-based database engine by default. For a list of them, see the table in the previous section. You can use SQL with them as you do with an on-premises database. If you know SQL, you can query and manage data in the biggest cloud database services provided by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, or SAP.

You may think this isn’t true with NoSQL languages. However, many NoSQL engines accept SQL for limited querying and database management operations. Examples of popular NoSQL databases that allow the use of SQL include:

  • Elasticsearch
  • MongoDB
  • Vertica DB
  • Apache Hadoop and Spark

Of course, this is not true the other way around. Rarely can you use NoSQL languages to query RDBMS and other NoSQL databases.

This universal recognition of SQL makes it a great choice if you want to manage data in the cloud or simply be up to date with ongoing trends within the data management and analytics space.

Why SQL Is Popular in Cloud Databases

There are many reasons why SQL remains the standard language for cloud databases. The main drivers are similar to what drove SQL to the top in the pre-cloud era. SQL is a well-tested and continuously improving tool tailored for effective analytics and database management.

The legacy aspect of SQL does not mean its development has stopped. Database providers introduce improvements to their SQL dialect for more effective and useful data analytics and management. If you are interested in these developments, be sure to follow our blog where we frequently cover SQL dialects.

Overall, SQL continues to be a standardized language that is easy to learn even for the non-developers supporting the relational model. If you are considering learning SQL, you can be confident you can use it in cloud environments.

Leverage the Power of Cloud Databases by Learning SQL!

Want to analyze and manage data in the cloud? Future-proof your skillset? Learning SQL is a great way to do that.

You get surprisingly far with a little bit of SQL. It is easy to learn, especially if you have good learning materials. We at have developed courses that teach you SQL and database skills specific to your needs. Learn the fundamentals to start analyzing right away or get comprehensive A to Z knowledge to become the SQL expert in your team or organization.