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Amazon Launches DynamoDB

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On January 18th, Amazon Web Services launched DynamoDB, which as explained by Werner Vogels, AWS’ Chief Technical Officer in his blog, is an NoSQL database designed for Internet scale web applications. The announcement is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, AWS’ database services provide reasonably priced, highly-available database services delivered on fast storage architecture based on Solid State Drives (SSD). Second, it introduces a new actor in the expanding universe of managed NoSQL cloud competitors, which includes the likes of Cloudantand MongoHQ, but are still very early to the party.

At $1 per month for a gigabyte of SSD managed, durable and highly-available storage, AWS is clearly going for the jugular early on other managed NoSQL solutions. Moreover, AWS has the added advantage of offering multiple other services in tandem with DynamoDB that are attractive when compared to using multiple hosted services. However, the bigger question is what is the business potential for this service? A simple Google search on “Managed NoSQL Databases” results in numerous hits about DynamoDB, but forces one to dig to find the competitors in this space.

Then there’s the very detailed response on DataStax by Jonathan Ellis comparing Cassandra—another leading NoSQL alternative—with DynamoDB. Without further context, this analysis would be meaningless, except that the results are supported by NetFlix, which is a big user of Cassandra on AWS and very happy with the performance and have no plans to switch to DynamoDB. According to Adrian Cockroft, Netflix’s CTO, they view as a subset of the Cassandra functionality:

“Now that DynamoDB has been released, the obvious question is whether Netflix has any plans to use it. The short answer is no, because it's a subset of the Cassandra functionality that we depend on. However that doesn't detract from the major step forward from SimpleDB in performance, scalability and latency. For new customers, or people who have outgrown the scalability of MySQL or MongoDB, DynamoDB is an excellent starting point for data sources on AWS. The advantages of zero administration combined with the performance and scalability of a solid state disk backend are compelling.” – Adrian Cockroft

DynamoDB is early to the game. It seems based on Werner Vogel’s blog entry that it’s more than an empty service, they are eating their own dog food, which means the effort has already provided a return in helping AWS deliver its services. If they can find a market of developers that will develop applications against DynamoDB, it could mean that they will have an early advantage against other managed NoSQL providers. However, since DynamoDB is not an open source and downloadable database engine may mean that DynamoDB is a non-starter for today’s web developers.

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