Posts Tagged DynamoDB

What DynamoDB tells us about the future of cloud computing

Beyond the real world behaviour of DynamoDB and its technical comparison to Riak/Cassandra/others, there is something below the technical documentation that gives a clue to the future of cloud computing. AWS is the market leader and their actions indicate what customers are asking for, what is technically possible, and what is a good model for cloud computing. So, here are some of my thoughts on what DynamoDB means in the broader cloud computing market.

Scalability is a service

The most interesting part of DynamoDB has to be the pricing which allows you to pay for the capacity you need (not what you consume). If you want things to run faster (higher throughput), you buy extra units of capacity. This means that the scalability is wrapped up in the service, rather than the infrastructure i.e. it is not as fast/slow for everyone, it is faster for those who pay more.

High performance is commodity

One of the fundamental principles of cloud computing is that the base compute units are commodity devices. In cloud computing there is no option for custom high performance infrastructure that solves particular problems, as we often see with on premise SQL databases. But it is inevitable that these simple commodity units will become higher performing over time and the SSD basis of DynamoDB illustrates this trend. A service with single digit millisecond response times reframes ‘commodity’.

IaaS is dead

I have pointed out before that AWS is not IaaS and every service that they add seems to push them further up the abstraction stack (towards PaaS). If you want low latency in your stack, pay for a (platform) service, not infrastructure. Which leads to mentioning the EBS infrastructure…

Virtualised storage is too generic and slow

It is interesting that the SSD requirement for the barrel-of-laughs that is EBS has been skipped and those SSDs have been allocated to a less infrastructure-oriented storage mechanism. A lot of the ‘AWS sucks’ rhetoric has been because people have a database of sorts on EBS backed storage, suffering the inevitable performance knock – DynamoDB starts pointing clearly towards the architecturally meaningful and technically viable alternative.

Pricing is complex

While consumption based cost generally works out better in the long run, it makes working out and optimising costs really difficult. Unfortunately this makes the cloud computing benefit difficult to understand and articulate as risk averse buyers stick with the ‘cost of hosted machine’ model that they are familiar with. There are now so many dimensions to optimising costs (including the problem presented in DynamoDB of having to change your capacity requirements based on demand) and stable, complete cost models don’t exist – so working out how much things are going to cost over the lifecycle of an application is really hard.

Competitors are stuck

AWS continues to beat the drum on cloud computing innovation and competitors are left languishing. At some point you almost have to stop counting the persistence options available on AWS (EBS, S3, RDS, SimpleDB, DynamoDB, etc.) where competitors have less to offer. Windows Azure Table storage, the Microsoft equivalent key-value store, has barely changed in two years despite desperate pleas for product advancement (secondary indexes, order by).

Vendor lock-in is compelling

As much as there may be a fear of being locked in to the AWS platform, in many cases using DynamoDB is a lot easier than the alternatives. Trying to get Riak setup on AWS (or on premise) to offer the same functionality, performance and ease of use may be so much hassle, and require such specialised skills, that you may be happy to be locked in.

NoSQL gains ground

DynamoDB seems to offer a credible shared state solution that allows for high write throughput, something that SQL is traditionally good at. The option to set a parameter for strongly or eventually consistent reads is a cheeky acknowledgement that CAP theorem bias is your runtime choice. I don’t see DynamoDB replacing RDS, but does add more credibility to, and acceptance of, NoSQL/SQL hybrid models within applications.

Simon Munro

@simonmunro

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