15 years of NoSQL learning brings forth Dynamo

AWS has another shot at NoSQL with cloud-based DynamoDB

It was the paper that started it all. Amazon's Dynamo paper was the kickstart that the industry needed in addressing the problem of reliability at massive scale, and spurred many on to creating their own incrementally scalable and highly available key-value storage system.

Now after mulling over the concept and refining it, Amazon has launched its own effort - Amazon DynamoDB, 'a fully managed NoSQL database service that provides fast performance at any scale' according to the man behind the project, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels.

Discussing the genesis of DynamoDB in-depth in a blogpost, Vogels explained how DynamoDB came into its current form following 15 years of 'learning in the areas of large scale non-relational databases and cloud services' and how it expands upon the principles set out in the five year-old SimpleDB and Amazon S3.

If anyone is well equipped to talk about scalability then it's Amazon. After all, it deals with monumental amounts of traffic expertly, with the lights going out fairly rarely. This experience over the near last two decades has helped them understand how to perfect NoSQL and advise enterprises on how to deal with the challenges such as growth in users, traffic, and data when going truly global.

Vogels says that DynamoDB aims to address the limitations of SimpleDB like the 10GB limit for datasets, pricing complexity and unpredictable performance when indexing. Following in-depth discussions with users, Amazon came to the conclusion that  'while Dynamo gave them a system that met their reliability, performance, and scalability needs, it did nothing to reduce the operational complexity of running large database systems' and that many were opting for SimpleDB and S3 for their cloud needs despite Dynamo perhapse being the one for them.

Thus a new Dynamo was born, as Vogels puts it best:

DynamoDB is based on the principles of Dynamo, a progenitor of NoSQL, and brings the power of the cloud to the NoSQL database world. It offers customers high-availability, reliability, and incremental scalability, with no limits on dataset size or request throughput for a given table. And it is fast – it runs on the latest in solid-state drive (SSD) technology and incorporates numerous other optimizations to deliver low latency at any scale.

The release has huge potential to tackle the pitfalls of latency for those who deal with large datasets and the issues of the past for Amazon WebServices look to have been addressed with this release. There's still a complex pricing system though, causing a headache for some -

  • Data storage is $1.00 per GB-month.
  • Data transfer is free for incoming data, and free up to 10TB per month and between AWS services. After that pricing is $0.12 per GB up through 40TB and pricing continues to drop through 350TB. If you need to transfer more than 524TB, contact Amazon for pricing.
  • Throughput capacity is charged at $0.01 per hour for every 10 units of write capacity, $0.01 per hour for every 50 units of read capacity.

DynamoDB is still in beta and only available to those in the US East version currently before an expansion is made. But you can get your hands on several SDKs for it. For more information on Dynamo, the following video gives you a brief introduction into the changes.

Chris Mayer

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