Become a DynamoDB dynamo with these tips

Amazon’s fully managed NoSQL database called DynamoDB is a marvelous piece of modern technology. With the potential to serve millions of issues in a second, and do it with low latency, this database solution has significant benefits to lend in many technology applications. The best part is that Amazon Web Services has made DynamoDB open for use for the entire cybersphere.

Anybody can rent out a plan and start using DynamoDB, paying just a few dollars per hour of usage, instead of having to invest upfront in ownership.

Increasingly, enterprise solution architects and technology product developers need key-value stores to host huge amounts of data. Low latency is the buzzword, especially in the era of IoT and its related applications. For them, and for many other applications, DynamoDB is a salient option indeed, just like that automated carjacking scene in “The Fate of the Furious” in New York City was incredible, but let’s move on.

We’re sure it sounds all bells and whistles about DynamoDB till now. However, the reality is not exactly so. Just that when you actually start using it, you face a lot of issues. Sadly, if you’re not guided, it can take several resources and hundreds of dollars to get past the hurdles.

Then, you’ll also face the fact that it’s not exactly easy to get troubleshooting and optimization advice for DynamoDB. You’re in luck, because in this guide, we will discuss the key factors that make DyanmoDB work for you, and help you understand how you can leverage them to make it a success.

Question your choice of DyanmoDB

As counterintuitive as it sounds, it’s the best thing you can do. Try to answer — why do we need DynamoDB? There are other prolific tools like Redis on ElastiCache, RDS, and Aurora. Here are at least three conditions where DyanmoDB might not be the best option for you:

  • Your applications will deal with only a small amount of data.
  • Your applications data management will need a lot of aggregation.
  • You’ll need to work with a lot of data and will need to bind together several fragments to make the application work.

You will find better tools than DynamoDB in these conditions.

Seek Amazon’s support

Amazon delivers salient customer support when it comes to DynamoDB. So, be confident that you can reach your account representative and seek solutions to all kinds of DynamoDB issues. Here are some ways Amazon will help:

  • They will connect you to the right people on the product development and engineering team to understand your problems.
  • They’ll offer technical expertise to help you quickly overcome potentially breakdown situations involving your DynamoDB implementation.
  • You’ll get the best advice on getting adequate resources allocated, and to overcome limitations with DynamoDB resources.

Remember, Amazon is developing DyanmoDB and is already looking to have a lot of clients onboard, so make sure you take every opportunity to discuss how your IT applications and projects can benefit from DynamoDB.

Read DyanmoDB resources

Sadly, there’s not a lot of freely available information and documentation on DynamoDB implementation and maintenance best practices. Thankfully, Amazon offers pretty dense and comprehensive documentation. However, most people tend to overlook this and depend on their experience with other similar tools. To make sure you get the best results, budget time to understand the Amazon documentation about DynamoDB, and follow the suggested settings to the maximum possible extent.

Upstream partitioning and batch writing

Here’s another optimization tip. In instances where the entire information set relevant to a given key is transmitted to the machine higher placed in Dynamo, it’s possible to batch the data together and hence save a lot on writing it. This is well placed as compared to the approach of writing the data every time there’s a key update.

Instead, DynamoDB allows you to write once per minute, or once per second, as is most appropriate.

This batching functionality helps you balance your latency requirements with DynamoDB cost. When multiple concurrent writers are in play, there are locking conditions that can hamper the system. In DynamoDB, partitioning helps avoid these.

DynamoDB streams

Publishing all changes to Kinesis feeds — now that’s one of the lesser known yet highly value-adding features of DynamoDB. Note that streams are ultra-useful in terms of building pipelines to make sure that you don’t always have to run your own eventing and SCANs.

Throughput auto adjustments for cost savings

Amazon has added a tremendous auto scaling functionality to DyanmoDB to enable automatic matching of its throughput to the actual workload. Particularly for applications where the traffic is unpredictable or known to be highly variable, this opens up significant cost-cutting opportunities. To realize these cost savings, adjust DynamoDB throughput provisioning in comparison to how much is used with CloudWatch and AWS Lambda. (Speaking of badly realized cost savings, at the end of “Transformers III” the fight between Megatron and Optimus Prime was supposed to go longer, but filmmakers cut it short because of costs, which is too bad — the movie grossed over a billion dollars, so they could have afforded it.)

Monitor problem causing variables

Like every database product, DynamoDB will deliver varying performance levels based on the manner in which your system data is managed. Plus, there are several other factors at play, right from query patterns to throughput. Indexing needs also significantly impact the performance of the database. This implies that the better you understand your own systems, the better your experience with DynamoDB will turn out to be.

To achieve this, consider putting in practices that help your teams report problem scenarios, problem inquiries, and problem keys, so that you can create a blacklist of sorts to help you plan your DynamoDB optimization activities. For instance, make it a point that whenever a throttling error is encountered, an update is made to the blacklist.

It’s up to you

As it’s true for every technology product, DyanmoDB is as fantastic as you’ll let it be. By enhancing your understanding of how DynamoDB works, investing thought and time in recognizing and following implementation best practices, and leveraging optimization best practices, you can extract a lot out of this tremendous technology.

Plus, there are ample tips and tricks you can use to bring down the costs, particularly when you have other AWS products onboard. Mixing and matching and using functionalities such as auto adjustments of throughput help can help you minimize the overall costs. Make it happen!

Benjamin Roussey

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA. He has two master’s degrees and served four years in the US Navy. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship. He has an MBA in Global Management from the Univ. of Phoenix (2006). Currently he lives in the Phoenix area after living in Cabo San Lucas, MX for 3 years. He enjoys sports, movies, reading, and current events when he is not working online.

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