Amazon's web-targeted database aims for speed and simplicity


Amazon has launched DynamoDB, a fully-managed distributed non-relational database designed to satisfy a growing need for massive yet simply-structured data stores.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is betting that there are lots of data-intensive tasks now that require massive scalability, but not relational capabilities. It says that tasks suitable for DynamoDB include storing e-commerce shopping carts, session data for websites, and user records for online games or social networking sites.

The service is priced according to how much data you need to store, and the number of database reads and writes you require per second. It is also available free via AWS's free usage tier, this gives 100MB of free storage, plus five writes/second and 10 reads/second of ongoing capacity.

DynamoDB is a NoSQL database, meaning that it does not use SQL, the structured query language that is now pretty much standard for relational databases. Being non-relational. it cannot handle complex queries such as joins; instead it uses simpler key-value storage technology developed at Amazon five years ago.

DynamoDB takes that existing technology and turns it into a fully managed service which can scale extremely quickly by pulling in more resource from the AWS platform and automatically spreading data over multiple servers to meet throughput needs. It runs on solid-state storage for better performance, and data is replicated synchronously across at least three Amazon data centres for high availability.

The big wins from leaving SQL and the relational model behind include scalability and predictable performance, said Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. He said that Amazon's engineers have done "groundbreaking work" to make DynamoDB both distributed and scalable with "low, predictable latencies, typically in the single-digit milliseconds".

Vogels added that "DynamoDB is already in use by many teams and products within Amazon, including the advertising platform, Amazon Cloud Drive, IMDB, and Kindle." It has also been beta-tested by a number of AWS customers.

"I love how DynamoDB enables us to provision our desired throughput, and achieve low latency and seamless scale, even with our constantly growing workloads," said beta-tester Don MacAskill, CEO of photo-sharing site SmugMug. "Even though we have years of experience with large, complex architectures, we are happy to be finally out of the business of managing it ourselves, and to be using DynamoDB to get even higher performance and stability than we can achieve on our own."

"DynamoDB solves our problem of distributing and storing high-volume writes in a straightforward and cost-effective way," added Rob Storrs, head of engineering at social network Formspring, and another beta-tester. "Our rapid growth meant that we were spending significant resources managing our own large-scale database systems. DynamoDB gives us low latency and easy scalability, which allows us to keep our costs low and our engineers focused on building what our customers want."