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InfoQ Homepage News Amazon’s SimpleDB Enters Public Beta

Amazon’s SimpleDB Enters Public Beta

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Amazon finished private beta testing and has entered into public unlimited beta of its cloud database service named SimpleDB. SimpleDB is meant to be a simple to be accessed database in the cloud, and Amazon is offering limited access to it for free.

Amazon connects its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) with Simple Storage Service (S3) plus the newly available for public SimpleDB service to offer anyone interested a database in the cloud.  SimpleDB allows an application running on EC2 to retrieve data stored on S3 via an API without the need of creating a schema, according to Jeff Barr, an Amazon Web Services Evangelist:

The conceptual model is very straightforward, as are the APIs. You can jump in and start coding, refining your data model as you go. There's no brittle, fixed schema. You store only the attributes you need to for each item. We've also got some new client libraries to make coding even easier

SimpleDB makes it easy to grow. You can have up to 100 domains and 10 GB of data in each domain during the beta. You don't have to worry about splitting your data up across multiple disks as your database grows. That's all taken care of for you, behind the scenes.

Jeff has also announced the limited free offer to use SimpleDB:

We've made the business decision to go with SimpleDB even simpler than it was before. You can now get started for free. For at least the next six months, you can consume up to 500 MB of storage, and you can use up to 25 machine hours each month. You can transfer 1 GB of data in, and another 1 GB out. You can move as much data to and from Amazon EC2 as you would like, for free.

We've also reduced (dramatically, I must say) the charged for storage and for processing, effective immediately. SimpleDB storage is now priced at $0.25 per GB per month, down from the former price of $1.50 per GB per month. Of course, existing data stored in SimpleDB will be charged at the new rate.

At the time when SimpleDB was offered as private beta, Charles Ying said about it as being built on Erlang, and made the following considerations:

  • Eventual Consistency - Data is not immediately propagated across all nodes… the latency is usually around a second, but for high data sets or loads, you may experience more latency. On the plus side, your data isn’t lost!
  • Queries are lexigraphical - You’ll need to store data in lexicographical ordered form (zero-pad your integers, add positive offsets to negative integer sets, and convert dates into something like ISO 8601)
  • Search Indexes - You’ll need to construct your own indexes for text search - The SimpleDB query expressions don’t support text search, so you’ll have to construct inverted indexes to properly do “text search”. This is actually a really great lightweight way to do this and I’m sure many interesting indexing schemes will be possible.

At the same time, Nitin Borwankar, a GigaOM editor, compared SimpleDB with Google’s BigTable, and concluded that Amazon’s offering was superior:

  • Google’s offerings – not only BigTable but GoogleBase, Gdisk, etc. — all have an ad hoc, grab-bag-of-tools feeling to them, devoid of any integrated strategy. Or if there is one, it is well-hidden.
  • Amazon WS clearly involves a well-designed master plan aimed at changing the face of software as a service, each new offering akin to a chess piece in a game focused on creating strategic long-term value. And with SimpleDB, the queen has moved to the center.
  • Amazon WS is based on the YOYODA principle — You Own Your Own Data, Always. Along with Amazon S3, SimpleDB is a sharp arrow in the quiver of open data proponents.
  • Amazon WS includes a built-in, flexible payment system so users are neither forced to offer their app for free nor have an “ad-supported” model forced upon them. Now you can build a data-based web app on SimpleDB and seamlessly charge for it.

Tersely put, SimpleDB is hugely disruptive.

SimpleDB Explorer is an interface useful to upload MySQL data through SimpleDB. Other tools for Ruby, Python and Java developers and various resources are available on SimpleDB Resource Center.

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Community comments

  • The comparison with BigTable is old

    by Colin Hawkett,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    The linked article saying Amazon's offer is superior was written at the end of last year - well before google app engine was announced. There are a number of features of the google implementation that are not present in SimpleDB (As far as I can tell)

    - Transactions
    - A Modeing API
    - built-in XML serialisation
    - > 1K field size
    - Primary Keys
    - Foreign Keys

    And it doesn't appear to lack any of the features of the SimpleDB offering.

    Don't get me wrong - AWS has some pretty cool stuff (REST API, S3 & asynchronous services are the biggest differentiators from GAE at the moment), but SimpleDB is definately not better than BigTable.

  • Re: The comparison with BigTable is old

    by Andrew Osipenko,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    AWS has possibility to update single item property (to update single property in GAE you have to load the whole entity, update this property and then save entity). So you can avoid some cases which will require transactions in GAE typically.
    AWS supports more operators in queries also (for example 'like' operator).

    I'd like to point out that there is a new player in this area: Mircrosoft SDS (It supports simple join operators).

    Unfortunately according to my experience none of this three services (GAE, AWS, SDS) provide possibility to construct really useful queries.

    As for me I will wait for following SQL operators: join and distinct.

  • Our fault?

    by Rob Tweed,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    So just days after we announce M/DB, our "plug compatible" alternative to SimpleDB (, Amazon open up their SimpleDB Beta programme and reduce their prices.... :-)

  • eXo JCR provides an Amazon Simple DB Storage

    by Tugdual Grall,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    If you want to test a cool usage of SimpleDB, take a look to the new eXo JCR 1.10.x that provides Simple DB storage:

    eXo has implemented that not only to use on its intranet and web site but also to facilitate hosting and deployment of eXo Platform on Amazon infrastructure


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