What Is Amazon RDS and How Does It Work?

Proper organization, interpretation, and storage of data is the key to any successful startup. It can also require huge investments in infrastructure, security, and knowledge to do properly, but it doesn’t have to. Amazon RDS offers a simple way for startups to create their database infrastructure on the cloud, providing enhanced flexibility, security, and cost efficiency. 

Let’s take a moment to dive into what Amazon RDS is, and how it can become an invaluable tool for startups.

What is Amazon RDS? 

Amazon Relational Database Service (better known as Amazon RDS), is a collection of managed services designed to make it easy to set up, operate, and scale databases in the cloud. It supports a variety of different database engines, and it also helps with relational database management tasks like data migration, backup, recovery, and patching. 

How Does Amazon RDS Work? 

Amazon RDS isn’t a database itself, but a way to manage relational databases within the cloud. A relational database is a kind of database that uses tables to store and organize data with defined relationships. This enables businesses to run data queries across multiple tables, which makes it easier to organize and understand related sets of data, which is useful from both a security and a practical perspective. 

Traditionally, these databases would require on-site servers that would need constant maintenance to remain up and running. Amazon RDS enables startups to instead take advantage of flexible cloud offerings to deploy their database. 

Administrators have a few ways to deploy and control Amazon RDS:

  • AWS Management Console
  • Amazon RDS API calls
  • AWS Command Line Interface

Amazon RDS is also tightly integrated with AWS Identity and Access Management, which lets administrators define and set permissions for who can access an RDS database. This is an essential step towards securing your Amazon RDS setup. 

Should my Startup Use Amazon RDS?

In some niche cases, it might be preferable to set up your own internally managed database infrastructure, but this approach necessitates significant investments in both time and money. It will also require your startup to dedicate long term development resources to manage, scale, and protect your database setup. 

This ultimately increases your startup’s burn rate, and can be a significant blocker towards scalability, particularly if you achieve a sudden period of growth. 

Amazon RDS provides a way for startups to avoid these risks by using cloud infrastructure. This reduces the amount of resources needed to get started, and makes it far easier to scale up and down depending on your startups unique requirements.

Additionally, the Amazon Shared Responsibility model allows startups to off-load some of their compliance requirements to AWS, particularly those related to infrastructure. AWS also provides a number of compliance tools that will make it easier to ensure that your database is not in breach of any applicable local or international regulations. 

For the majority of business use-cases, using a cloud database solution like Amazon RDS is the most cost-effective solution. 

Which Amazon RDS Engine Should I Use?

Amazon RDS offers seven different database engines, each with their own unique features: 

  • Amazon Aurora with MySQL compatibility
  • Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL compatibility
  • MySQL
  • MariaDB
  • PostgreSQL
  • Oracle
  • SQL Server

In general, you want to select an engine that is either compatible with your existing database type, or in-house expertise.

The difference between these engines is a complicated choice that merits its own article (that is coming soon!), but in general, Amazon Aurora is the strongest choice for cloud-only startups who want to use MySQL or postgreSQL databases. Aurora is designed to integrate with other AWS services, and is purpose-built for AWS. 

If your startup needs to take advantage of MariaDB features, is already using Oracle (and its licensing), or isn’t ready to go 100% AWS yet, then the other engine options may make more sense for you. 

What Amazon RDS Instances Should I Use?

There are many different instances for users to pick from, each representing different hardware configurations for different purposes. Amazon has broken these instance types into “general purpose” and “memory intensive”. 

General purpose instances will work for most use-cases, and memory intensive instances will be for large databases that are regularly accessed. This necessitates a large amount of RAM in order to ensure that the database runs efficiently. 

You can find a full list of instances here

How Do I Set Up Amazon RDS? 

The foundation of Amazon RDS is the DB instance, which enables you to create your databases. When you create a DB instance you are able to define the engine, storage capacity, CPU, memory and more. 

Step 1 – Define Your Requirements

Before you even touch the AWS Management Console, you need to make some decisions about how to structure your database. Understanding your requirements will help you optimize your RDS implementation, select the correct configuration, and prevent you from overspending on resources you don’t necessarily need. 

The most important questions you need to answer are:

  • What kind of workload am I running? – Some workloads might require more computational power than others, determining this will help you decide what type and size instance you will need
  • How much data am I expecting to store? – Not every dataset needs to be huge, so you should try to determine how much storage you need to start, however, storage is easily expanded afterward
  • How often will the database need to be accessed? – Not every database needs to be accessed all the time, but if you expect to be making regular queries, then you may need to take advantage of RDS Read Replicas or using the ElastiCache service. 

Step 2 – Configure Your Network For The DB Instance

In order to create an Amazon RDS DB instance, you need to use Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Whatever DB subnet group you select should cover at least two Availability Zones. This ensures that you can configure a Multi-AZ deployment when creating a DB instance, or easily migrate to one in the future. 

It’s important that your database only resides in private subnets, and gets requests through load balancers, or other Amazon EC2 instances. If you use the AWS management console to do so, RDS configures your VPC and network sections automatically. You can change these settings after creation if you feel like you need to do so. 

There is an option to connect your DB instance to resources other than EC2 instances, but in this case you’ll need to configure the network connections manually. 

Step 3 – Create your DB Instance 

You can set up your Amazon RDS DB instance using the AWS Management Console, the AWS CLI, or the RDS API, but most users will probably want to use the AWS Management Console, which offers Easy Create and advanced configuration options. 

  1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the Amazon RDS Console
  2. Select your AWS region in which you wish to create the DB Instance
  3. Select Databases in the navigation pane
  4. Choose Create Database
  5. Select your creation methods
  6. In Engine options, select your preferred engine type (*If you’re using Oracle or SQL Server you’ll need to select the DB engine edition you want to use)
  7. Select the template that matches your use-case, this will help define a configuration that will work best for your startup
  8. Create a master password and username
  9. Configure connectivity with your EC2 instance if applicable
  10. Select your DB instance settings
  11. Create database!

With that, your first DB instance is created, and you’re ready to start organizing data in the cloud. 

Let The Experts Help You Understand Amazon RDS

Feeling a little overwhelmed? You don’t need to do all this work by yourself. Cloudvisor specializes in helping startups like yours overcome the challenges of adopting AWS, and building a truly efficient Amazon RDS implementation that is tailored to your unique use case. 

Already using another database solution? Then we can help your team take advantage of the AWS Database Plug & Play Program. This program provides a packaged bundle that enables customers to accelerate the migration of self-managed databases to Amazon’s fully managed relational and non-relational database engines. 

We can even help you determine whether your startup is eligible for the AWS Activate program, which can unlock up to $100,000 in AWS credits that you can use to pay for AWS services, like Amazon RDS. This helps to reduce risk and burn rate on your side while allowing you to adopt industry-leading AWS solutions. 

Do you want to learn more? Schedule some time with the Cloudvisor team today!

Other Blog Posts