DynamoDB: What it is and why you should care

Understanding the advantages, disadvantages, best practices and vital benefits of using dynamoDB as your primary database

DynamoDB: What it is and why you should care

DynamoDB is a fully managed NoSQL database service offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) which provides fast and predictable performance with seamless scalability. It is designed to store and retrieve any amount of data with consistent low latency while being cost-effective and reliable solution for web, mobile, gaming, and IoT applications that need low-latency data access and it is ideal for applications that require real-time updates.

DynamoDB was developed to provide single-digit millisecond performance at any scale. It was designed to handle massive amounts of data and to provide a consistent, high-performance experience for users.

Dynamodb is a serverless database. What exactly does this mean?, we will find out shortly. Let's keep reading 👇🏾

DynamoDB Use Cases

DynamoDB is suitable for a wide range of use cases, including web, mobile, gaming, and IoT applications. It is well-suited for applications such as real-time bidding, gaming leaderboards, content management systems, and user profiles.

Zoom, Snap Inc, Dropbox, The Pokémon Company International, A+E Networks, Netflix, Capital One, Samsung amongst others are some of the companies using dynamoDB in their application stacks and services.

We recently used dynamoDB on one of our backend service @kidsclub.com, not for the performance gains, but primarily for it's serverless nature. Since our backend application API is completely serverless it was easy to integrate dynamoDB to our workflows with triggers known as DynamoDB Streams.

In our use case, we could easily call other network requests such as sending Email or SMS notifications through our notification lambda function based on successful database writes.

Simple dynamodb, lambda & s3 static hosting architecture 

Wait... Serverless? What exactly is Serverless?

Yeah!, many buzzwords right? Let me explain;

Serverless applications are gaining popularity as a result of their numerous advantages, including scalability, cost savings, and a quicker time to market.

When adopting serverless, developers are free to concentrate on creating and deploying their apps fast and efficiently with low overhead since server infrastructure and maintenance are not required. Furthermore, because serverless apps are highly scalable, they can expand and contract as necessary without the need for new infrastructure or programming changes. Last but not least, they are economical because they simply charge for the precise amount of resources used rather than for unused time.

You see where we are going with this right? right???

DynamoDB is a serverless service that automatically scales up and down to adjust for capacity and maintain performance.

How does dynamoDB provide fast access to data?

DynamoDB allows developers to store and retrieve any amount of data with consistent low latency. It uses primary and secondary indexes to provide fast access to data. It is optimised for applications that require real-time updates and offers a cost-effective and reliable solution for web, mobile, gaming, and IoT applications.

Breakdown on some terminologies:

  • Primary indexes: When a table is created in DynamoDB, the primary index that is automatically created at that time is the default index. It is used to store the data in an organised manner so that it may be accessed more quickly. A hash index or a range index can be used as the primary index.
  • Secondary indexes: An index that is not automatically produced when a table is established is referred to as a secondary index. To enable quicker access to data, it is used to store data in a different order than the primary index. Local secondary indexes and global secondary indexes are both examples of secondary indexes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of dynamoDB

The main advantages of using DynamoDB are its cost-effectiveness, scalability, reliability, and low latency. On the other hand, the main disadvantages of using DynamoDB are its limited query abilities and limited flexibility in terms of data types and indexing options.

Are we going to see a widespread adoption of serverless databases in 2023?

Yes, it is likely that serverless APIs will soon experience widespread usage. The advantages of serverless APIs include scalability, cost savings, and a quicker time to market. You want lower operating expenses don't you? of course I bet you do.

Serverless APIs are also gaining popularity as they allow developers to create, deploy, and maintain APIs fast and effectively without the need for complicated infrastructure. (Now write this on some sticky notes)

DynamoDB Best Practices

When using DynamoDB, it's important to ensure that:

  • Data is organised into appropriate tables and indexes to maximise performance and minimize latency.
  • Appropriate data types for the data being stored.
  • Ensure that read and write requests are properly balanced to avoid overloading the service.

Tools and Resources

Amazon provides a number of tools and resources to help developers get started with DynamoDB, including the AWS console, the AWS CLI and the DynamoDB API. Additionally, there are a number of third-party tools and libraries that can be used to manage and interact with DynamoDB such as NoSQL Workbench, boto3  dynamodb client for python developers and dynamoose for node.js developers.

One primary tool that i use is the NoSQL Workbench from AWS.

AWS NoSQL Workbench

Some benefits of using dynamodDB

In a glance, here are some of the benefits of working with DynamoDB:

  • Low Latency: Amazon DynamoDB is designed to provide consistently fast performance with single-digit millisecond latency for reads and writes.
  • Flexible Scaling: DynamoDB can be scaled up or down on demand and supports both automatic and manual scaling.
  • High Availability: DynamoDB is designed to replicate data across multiple Availability Zones to ensure high availability and durability.
  • Cost-Effective: DynamoDB has a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which allows customers to pay only for the resources they actually use.
  • Easy to Use: DynamoDB provides an easy-to-use API and is accessible through the AWS Management Console.
  • High Security: DynamoDB provides built-in security features such as user authentication, encryption, and access control.

Conclusion & Recap

DynamoDB is ideal for applications that require real-time updates and can handle large amounts of data, but also ideal for startups who wants to focus on the core business logic rather than database infrastructure, configuration & security. When using DynamoDB, it is important to ensure that the data is organised into appropriate tables and indexes, and that requests are properly balanced to avoid overloading the service (I can't stress this enough).

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References and Further Reading