Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

AWS DynamoDB Adds JSON Support, Flex Scaling 

Amazon Web Services is expanding its DynamoDB database service with document support along with flexible scaling of larger items. It is also expanding the amount of database capacity available as part of AWS Free Tier.

Specifically, AWS said it the enhancements will allow the storage of documents formatted with JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) as single DynamoDB items. The size limit for storing JSON documents has been increased to 400 KB.

In a blog post, AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr said the document support leverages new DynamoDB data types and is intended to make it easier to map JSON data or a native language objects to DynamoDB's native data types. The expansion makes the AWS database a "full-fledged document store," Barr claimed.

The launch also includes AWS support of four data types: "list" (an ordered collection of values); "map" (an un-ordered collection of name-value pairs); a true or false Boolean value; and an unknown or undefined "null" value.

AWS is also expanding the amount of DynamoDB capacity available as part of its free tier. Storage has been increased to 25 GB of data and throughput up to 200 million requests per month. The expansion also includes up to 25 read/write capacity units. Barr said that translates to enough free capacity "to run a meaningful production app" for free.

Amazon launched DynamoDB in 2012 as a high-availability database service with flexible scaling and predictable performance. The NoSQL database essentially trades a complex querying capability for scale and availability. The goal was to allow customers to "focus on their application rather than being distracted by undifferentiated heavy lifting like dealing with hardware and software maintenance," Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels explained in a separate post.

AWS said the addition of JSON support is part of a trend in NoSQL and relational databases as the format emerges as a de facto standard for exchanging documents among different Internet services. Vogels claimed the DynamoDB expansion means "developers do not have to choose between datastores that are optimized for scalability and those that are optimized for flexibility."

Meanwhile, new scaling options include the ability to adjust the amount of provisioned throughput capacity to a desired amount. Previously, the AWS database only allowed either the doubling or halving of the amount of provisioned throughput for each modification operation.

Database items can now occupy 400 KB, up from the previous limit of 64 KB, AWS said.

Barr disclosed that the cloud provider is also planning to launch the ability to add or remove indexes for existing DynamoDB tables. That feature would allow users to update indexes to reflect evolving query patterns. Barr said the new online indexing feature would be available "soon."

AWS also released a demonstration application that indexes metadata from images captured by NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover. The metadata is represented as JSON documents and stored as well as indexed on the AWS database.

JSON support in a database "helps NASA developers write apps faster and makes it easier to share more data with global citizen scientists," Vogels said.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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