Posted by:Ranjani Rao March 1st, 2012

Amazon’s NoSQL DynamoDB database aims to reduce operational, maintenance, performance and scalability overheads associated with large scale internet enterprises that churn out Big Data every day. Amazon describes DynamoDB as a ‘fully managed NoSQL database service that provides fast and predictable performance with seamless scalability.’

DynamoDB combines the goodness of Amazon’s SimpleDB and Dynamo database services – it’s simple to use via the Amazon Web Service (AWS) management console, allows immediate scaling up and down of tables with a click, supports limitless data storage, ensures low latencies, is secure and reliable, and supports analytics.

Highlights of Amazon DynamoDB


DynamoDB frees data administrators from the responsibility of predicting storage capacities for tables. Here, tables can store and retrieve any amount of data. Data and requests are spread across Amazon’s servers (tens of hundreds or thousands based on requirement) to handle load and traffic. Data items are stored on Solid State Drives (SSDs) versus spinning hard drives and replicated across multiple Availability Zones in a Region for high availability and data safety.

DynamoDB tables scale horizontally across servers and their capacity can be changed anytime via APIs or the management console. Table creation is also done from the console with the service managing the rest. Tables support flexible schemas that include all native types as well as multi-value attributes. You don’t need database administrators to provision data, set up and configure servers, patch software, manage distributed data clusters or partition data. It’s all managed on the cloud.

Analyze operational metrics for tables via the AWS management console. DynamoDB integrates with Amazon CloudWatch to monitor request throughput and latency for each table and its resource consumption.

For security, DynamoDB uses proven cryptographic methods to authenticate users and prevent unauthorized data access. It also integrates with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) for fine-grained access control for enterprise users. Developers can use strong consistency on reads to access latest values – a big plus for real-time internet based applications.

Data analysis is critical for businesses and DynamoDB supports it by integrating with Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR). You can perform complex analytics on Big Data using a hosted Hadoop framework on Amazon Web Services, and archive the results in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

The other side of Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is ideal for low latency, web-based applications that generate large amounts of data and do not rely heavily on relational features. Amazon’s beta customers include Elsevier, $3 billion scientific publisher; SmugMug, photo and video sharing site; andFormspring, a social networking site. SmugMug co-founder Don MacAskill is happy about not having to maintain their own transactional database so they can focus on product and customer experience.

A significant roadblock for DynamoDB adoption could be the price. With data retrieval costs starting from $0.12/GB through 40TB and then lower rates up to 350TB after free 10TB per month, and data storage costs starting from $1/GB per month, the ongoing cost of maintaining your database account would overrun the cost of on-premise storage facilities. As it is, the market for managed cloud-based databases is very low (as in 2%, according to the State of Database Technology report).

It’s a wait and watch game for Amazon DynamoDB right now. DynamoDB must prove itself before high scale internet businesses are willing to rely on it for critical data services.

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