Q: What is Amazon SimpleDB?

Amazon SimpleDB is a highly available, flexible, and scalable non-relational data store that offloads the work of database administration. It provides the core database functions of data indexing and querying in the cloud.

Q: What can I do with Amazon SimpleDB?

Amazon SimpleDB provides a simple web services interface to create and store multiple data sets, query your data easily, and return the results. The service manages infrastructure provisioning, hardware and software maintenance, replication and indexing of data items, and performance tuning. This enables you to focus on application development and simply pay for the resources you actually consume storing your data and issuing requests. Amazon SimpleDB also enables scalability by allowing you to partition your workload across multiple domains. If your workload exceeds the storage and request throughput provided by a single domain, you can obtain higher throughput by creating additional domains and spreading your data and requests across them. By spreading your data and requests across multiple domains (and thus, machine resources), you benefit from a greater “surface area” of compute resources to perform requests and queries against. For example, if you spread your data across 10 domains and execute 10 queries in parallel, you will get much higher throughput than performing 10 queries sequentially against a single domain that contains all of your data.

The flexibility of Amazon SimpleDB allows you to change your data model on the fly, adding or removing attributes without breaking a rigid schema. As a result, you can reflect changes to your application and business quickly without costly refactoring or painful schema updates. You can also choose between consistent or eventually consistent read requests, gaining the flexibility to match read performance (latency and throughput) and consistency requirements to the demands of your application, or even disparate parts within your application.

With Amazon SimpleDB, what the service doesn’t require you to do is equally important. Amazon SimpleDB automatically manages infrastructure provisioning, hardware and software maintenance, replication and indexing of data items, and performance tuning.

Q: What are the technical benefits of Amazon SimpleDB?

A key technical benefit of Amazon SimpleDB is automatic, geo-redundant replication. Every time you store a data item, multiple replicas are created in different data centers within the Region you select. This enables high availability and data durability in the unlikely event of a data center outage. Amazon SimpleDB also automatically indexes your data to enable efficient queries, and provides a simple API for storage and access. Finally, developers gain access to the security and reliability of Amazon’s proven computing environment.

Q: What can developers do now that they could not before?

Traditionally, the availability and durability characteristics of Amazon SimpleDB have been accomplished with a clustered relational database that requires a sizable upfront investment, brings more complexity than is typically needed, and often requires a DBA to maintain and administer. The non-relational nature of Amazon SimpleDB also enables low-administration scale-out (via creating additional domains) and on-the-fly data model changes.

Q: How does Amazon DynamoDB differ from Amazon SimpleDB? Which should I use?

Both services are non-relational databases that remove the work of database administration. Amazon DynamoDB focuses on providing seamless scalability and fast, predictable performance. It runs on solid state disks (SSDs) for low-latency response times, and there are no limits on the request capacity or storage size for a given table. This is because Amazon DynamoDB automatically partitions your data and workload over a sufficient number of servers to meet the scale requirements you provide. In contrast, a domain in Amazon SimpleDB has a strict storage limitation of 10 GB and is limited in the request capacity it can achieve (typically under 25 writes/second); it is up to you to manage the partitioning and re-partitioning of your data over additional SimpleDB tables if you need additional scale.

Please see Running Databases on AWS for additional guidance on which solution is best for you.

Q: When would I use Amazon SimpleDB vs. Amazon RDS vs. Amazon EC2 Relational Database AMIs?

AWS provides a number of database alternatives for developers. Amazon SimpleDB provides simple index and query capabilities. Amazon RDS enables you to run a fully featured relational database while offloading database administration. And, using one of our many relational database AMIs on Amazon EC2 and Amazon EBS allows you to operate your own relational database in the cloud. There are important differences between these alternatives that may make one more appropriate for your use case.

Please see Running Databases on AWS for additional guidance on which solution is best for you.

Q: When should I use Amazon S3 vs. Amazon SimpleDB?

Amazon S3 stores raw data. Amazon SimpleDB takes your data as input and indexes all the attributes, enabling you to quickly query that data. Additionally, Amazon S3 and Amazon SimpleDB use different types of physical storage. Amazon S3 uses dense storage drives that are optimized for storing larger objects inexpensively. Amazon SimpleDB stores smaller bits of data and uses less dense drives that are optimized for data access speed.

In order to optimize your costs across AWS services, large objects or files should be stored in Amazon S3, while smaller data elements or file pointers (possibly to Amazon S3 objects) are best saved in Amazon SimpleDB. Because of the close integration between services and the free data transfer within the AWS environment, developers can easily take advantage of both the speed and querying capabilities of Amazon SimpleDB as well as the low cost of storing data in Amazon S3, by integrating both services into their applications. To learn more about the benefits of using Amazon SimpleDB in conjunction with Amazon S3, follow this link.

Q: How can I get started with Amazon SimpleDB?

If you already have an Amazon Web Services account, you can sign in and begin working with Amazon SimpleDB immediately. If you do not already have an account, click the “Create an AWS Account” button on this page. Next, review the Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide. After that, you can create domains and begin storing and querying your data using the AWS SDKs.

Q: What kind of data can I store?

You can store any UTF-8 string data in Amazon SimpleDB. Please refer to the Amazon Web Services Customer Agreement for details.

Q: What is a Domain? What is the Amazon SimpleDB data model?

The Amazon SimpleDB data model is comprised of domains, items, attributes and values. Domains are collections of items that are described by attribute-value pairs.

Think of these terms as analogous to concepts in a traditional spreadsheet table. For example, take the details of a customer management database shown in the table below and consider how they would be represented in Amazon SimpleDB. The whole table would be your domain named “customers.” Individual customers would be rows in the table or items in your domain. The contact information would be described by column headers (attributes). Values are in individual cells.

CustomerID First name Last name Street address City State Zip Telephone
123 Bob Smith 123 Main St Springfield MO 65801 222-333-4444
456 James Johnson 456 Front St Seattle WA 98104 333-444-5555

Q: How much data can I store?

Amazon SimpleDB currently enables individual domains to grow up to 10 GB each. If your data set is larger than 10 GB, simply take advantage of Amazon SimpleDB’s scale-out architecture and spread your data over multiple domains. Since Amazon SimpleDB is designed with parallelism in mind, spreading your data over more domains will also increase your write and read throughput potential. You are initially allocated a maximum of 250 domains; please complete this form if you require additional domains.

Q: Where is my data stored?

Amazon SimpleDB stores your data redundantly within multiple data centers in the Geographic Region you have specified. When you create a domain with Amazon SimpleDB, you can specify a Region for your domain that will optimize for latency, minimize costs, or address regulatory requirements. Amazon SimpleDB is currently available in the US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and South America (Sao Paulo) Regions.

Q: How do I decide which Region to store my data in?

There are several factors to consider based on your specific application. You may want to store your data in a Region that…

  • ...is near to your customers, your data centers, or your other AWS resources (e.g. EC2 instances) in order to reduce data access latencies.
  • ...is remote from your other operations for geographic redundancy and disaster recovery purposes.
  • ...enables you to address specific legal and regulatory requirements.
  • ...allows you to reduce machine hour and storage costs. You can choose a lower priced Region to save money. Please see the pricing section on the Amazon SimpleDB detail page.

Q: What does Amazon do with my data in Amazon SimpleDB?

Amazon will store your data and track its associated usage for billing purposes. Amazon will not otherwise access your data for any purpose, except when required to do so by law. Please refer to the Amazon Web Services Customer Agreement for details.

Q: Does Amazon store its own data in Amazon SimpleDB?

Yes. Developers within Amazon use Amazon SimpleDB for a wide variety of projects. Many of these projects use Amazon SimpleDB as their authoritative data and query store and rely on it for business-critical operations.

Q: What does read consistency mean? Why should I care?

Amazon SimpleDB stores multiple geographically distributed replicas of each domain to enable high availability and data durability. A successful write (using PutAttributes, BatchPutAttributes, DeleteAttributes, CreateDomain or DeleteDomain) means all copies of each domain will durably persist. Read consistency represents the manner and timing in which the successful write or update of a data item write is reflected in a subsequent read operation (using Select or GetAttributes) of that same item. Amazon SimpleDB exposes logic that enables you to specify the consistency characteristics you desire for each read request within your application.

Q: What read consistency options does Amazon SimpleDB provide? What are the tradeoffs between the options?

Amazon SimpleDB supports two read consistency options: eventually consistent reads and consistent reads.

Eventually Consistent Reads (Default). The eventually consistent read option maximizes your read performance (in terms of low latency and high throughput). However, an eventually consistent read (using Select or GetAttributes) might not reflect the results of a recently completed write (using PutAttributes, BatchPutAttributes, DeleteAttributes). Consistency across all copies of data is usually reached within a second; repeating a read after a short time should return the updated data.

Consistent Reads. In addition to eventually consistent reads, Amazon SimpleDB also gives you the flexibility and control to request a consistent read if your application, or an element of your application, requires it. A consistent read (using Select or GetAttributes with ConsistentRead=true) returns a result that reflects all writes that received a successful response prior to the read.

By default, GetAttributes and Select perform an eventually consistent read. Since a consistent read can potentially incur higher latency and lower read throughput it is best to use it only when an application scenario mandates that a read operation absolutely needs to read all writes that received a successful response prior to that read. For all other scenarios the default eventually consistent read will yield the best performance. To learn more about consistency options with Amazon SimpleDB, please see our Developer Guide.

Q: What types of use cases and applications are best suited to each read consistency model?

As previously mentioned, the flexibility Amazon SimpleDB provides in specifying your read consistency requirements is important because different types of applications and use cases may have different requirements in terms of performance and consistency. Note also that Amazon SimpleDB allows you to specify consistency settings for each individual read request, so the same application could have disparate parts following different consistency settings. Here is some guidance on times when each read consistency option may be most appropriate:

Eventually Consistent Reads:

Any application (or part of an application) that values read performance (latency and throughput) higher than strong consistency will be well suited to the eventually consistent read. Data that has a high read to write ratio often fits this description. For example, friend/follower lists, photo tags, and personal details within a social network. In general, use cases where performance (providing an answer) is more important than providing the most up-to-date answer. An example might be an ad network, where showing users an ad from inventory as fast as possible is more important than showing the ad (based on logic updated within the past second). Another guideline for whether eventually consistent reads are appropriate for your application is whether it can deal with the notion of user-perceived consistency. Imagine an application that involves direct user interaction rather than programmatic access. For example, imagine a user updating a blog post and hitting refresh, or another user posting a comment to the blog. This wait time is what we refer to as user-perceived consistency – as long as the data is consistent in time for the end user to see it, the application can utilize eventual consistency. In these scenarios, the amount of time required for a write to reach all copies of the data is smaller than the time lag before the customer expects the new data to be visible (e.g., refreshes the page). As mentioned previously, Amazon SimpleDB usually reaches consistency within a second. If end users of your application will not notice or care if updates are reflected within a second, eventual consistency makes sense for the general read performance benefits.

When an item is updated an eventually consistent read may return the current value or the old value. When an item is inserted an eventually consistent read may not return the item.

Consistent Reads:

Depending on your application, you may need users who read a data item to view the most recently updated version from amongst many concurrent write updates. For example, you may be running a statistics or reporting application where you can’t accept the risk that a recent write operation is not be reflected in the results of a GetAttributes call or Select query. In such a case, passing the ConsistentRead = True parameter will provide consistent results.

Storing application in-memory state in SimpleDB is another example. As the value of the application state changes, the application can update SimpleDB. If the application goes down and needs to be restarted then the application can issue a consistent GetAttributes or Select call to SimpleDB to obtain the last updated application state.

To learn more about consistency with Amazon SimpleDB, please refer to the Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide.

Q: Does Amazon SimpleDB support transactions?

Amazon SimpleDB is not a relational database and sacrifices complex transactions and relations (i.e., joins) in order to provide unique functionality and performance characteristics. However, Amazon SimpleDB does offer transactional semantics such as:

Conditional Puts/Deletes — enable you to insert, replace, or delete values for one or more attributes of an item if the existing value of an attribute matches the value you specify. If the value does not match or is not present, the update is rejected. Conditional Puts/Deletes are useful for preventing lost updates when different sources write concurrently to the same item.

Conditional puts and deletes are exposed via the PutAttributes and DeleteAttributes APIs by specifying an optional condition with an expected value. For example, if your application was reserving seats or selling tickets to an event, you might allow a purchase (i.e., write update) only if the specified seat was still available (the optional condition). These semantics can also be used to implement functionality such as counters, inserting an item only if it does not already exist, and optimistic concurrency control (OCC). An application can implement OCC by maintaining a version number (or a timestamp) attribute as part of an item and by performing a conditional put/delete based on the value of this version number.

To learn more about transactional semantics with Amazon SimpleDB, please refer to the Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide.

Q: How much does Amazon SimpleDB cost?

You can get started with SimpleDB for free and without risk. Under the free tier program, you pay no charges on the first 25 Machine Hours, and 1 GB of Storage that you consume every month. Amazon SimpleDB lets developers pay only for what they consume and there is no minimum fee.

For full Amazon SimpleDB pricing, please click here.

Q: What are some pricing examples?

The following examples refer to charges for usage beyond the free usage levels described above. As previously described, usage below the monthly free tier is provided at no charge.

Machine Utilization:
Amazon SimpleDB measures the machine utilization of each request and charges based on the amount of machine capacity used to complete the particular request (QUERY, GET, PUT, etc.), normalized to the hourly capacity of a circa 2007 1.7 GHz Xeon processor. Machine utilization is driven by the amount of data (# of attributes, length of attributes) processed by each request. A GET operation that retrieves 256 attributes will use more resources than a GET that retrieves only 1 attribute. A multi-predicate QUERY that examines 100,000 attributes will cost more than a single predicate query that examines 250.

In the response message for each request, Amazon SimpleDB returns a field called Box Usage. Box Usage is the measure of machine resources consumed by each request. It does not include bandwidth or storage. Box usage is reported as the portion of a machine hour used to complete a particular request. For the US East (Northern Virginia) Region and US West (Oregon) Region, the cost of an individual request is Box Usage (expressed in hours) * $0.14 per Amazon SimpleDB Machine hour. The cost of all your requests is the sum of Box Usage (expressed in hours) * $0.14.

For example, if over the course of a month, the sum of the Box Usage for your requests uses the equivalent of one 1.7 GHz Xeon processor for 9 hours, your charge will be:

9 hours * $0.14 per Amazon SimpleDB Machine hour = $1.26.

If your query domains are located in the EU (Ireland) Region, Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region, Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region, or US West (Northern California) Region, Amazon SimpleDB Machine hours are priced at $.154 per Machine Hour. If your query domains are located in the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region, Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours are priced at $0.162 per Machine Hour. If your query domains are located in the South America (Sao Paulo) Region, Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours are priced at $0.19 per Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hour. All cost calculations should be adjusted to reflect pricing in the relevant region.

Data Transfer Example:

You transfer 500 MB of data out of Amazon SimpleDB each day during the month of March in the US (Northern Virginia) Region.

Total Data Transfer Out for the month = 500 MB x (1 GB / 1,024 MB) x 31 days = 15.14 GB

Total charge = 15.14 GB x ($0.12 / GB) = $1.82

The best way to predict the size of your structured data storage is as follows:

Raw byte size (GB) of all item IDs + 45 bytes per item + Raw byte size (GB) of all attribute names + 45 bytes per attribute name + Raw byte size (GB) of all attribute-value pairs + 45 bytes per attribute-value pair

To calculate your estimated monthly storage cost for the US East (Northern Virginia) Region or US West (Oregon) Region, take the resulting size in GB and multiply by $0.25. For the EU (Ireland) Region, Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region, Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region, or the US West (Northern California) Region, take the resulting size in GB and multiply by $.275. For the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region, take the resulting size in GB and multiply by $0.29. For the South America (Sao Paulo) Region, take the resulting size in GB and multiply by $0.34.

Q: Why do prices vary depending on which Amazon SimpleDB Region I choose?

We charge less where our costs are less. For example, our costs are lower in the Northern Virginia Region than in the Northern California Region. Similarly, our bandwidth costs are higher in the Singapore Region than in the Northern California Region.

Q: How will I be charged and billed for my use of Amazon SimpleDB?

There are no set-up fees or commitments to begin using the service. Following the end of the month, your credit card will automatically be charged for that month’s usage. You can view your charges for the current billing period at any time on the AWS web site, by logging into your Amazon Web Services account, and clicking “Account Activity” under “Your Web Services Account”.

 Q: How is Amazon SimpleDB data organized?

You organize your structured data into domains and can run queries across all of the data stored in a particular domain. Domains are comprised of items, and items are described by attribute-value pairs. To understand these elements, consider the metaphor of data stored in a spreadsheet table. An Amazon SimpleDB domain is like a worksheet, items are like rows of data, attributes are like column headers, and values are the data entered in each of the cells.

However unlike a spreadsheet, Amazon SimpleDB allows for multiple values to be associated with each “cell” (e.g., for item “123,” the attribute “color” can have both value “blue” and value “red”). Additionally, in Amazon SimpleDB, each item can have its own unique set of associated attributes (e.g., item “123” might have attributes “description” and “color” whereas item “789” has attributes “description,” “color” and “material”). Amazon SimpleDB automatically indexes your data, making it easy to quickly find the information that you need. There is no need to pre-define a schema or change a schema if new data is added later.

Q: How do I interface with Amazon SimpleDB?

Amazon SimpleDB provides simple, standards-based REST web services interfaces that are designed to work with any Internet-development toolkit. The operations are intentionally made simple to make it easy to add new service interfaces and for you to add custom functional layers over time. More details can be found here.

Q: How secure is my data?

Amazon SimpleDB uses proven cryptographic methods to authenticate users. Your data is only available to you. If you would like extra security, you can encrypt your data before storing it in Amazon SimpleDB. If you choose to encrypt your data, you should remember that SimpleDB will query directly against the strings you store and will not do decoding for you.

Q: Is Amazon SimpleDB integrated with AWS Identity and Access Management?

Yes, through integration with AWS Identity and Access Management an AWS Account signed up to use SimpleDB can create multiple Users and assign SimpleDB API level permissions to individual Users to access various SimpleDB domains owned by the parent account.

Q: What customer scenarios does integration with AWS Identity and Access Management solve?

Through integration with AWS Identity and Access Management, Amazon SimpleDB users may now address the following common scenarios: Securely share domains within or outside an organization with the appropriate permissions

  • Read-only domain, read/write domains, write-only domains
  • SimpleDB API level permissions
  • Restrict access to SimpleDB from only a range of IP addresses
  • Restrict access to SimpleDB between dates/times.

Q: How do I use AWS Identity and Access Management for Amazon SimpleDB?

SimpleDB permissions can be enabled using AWS Identity and Access Management Service APIs. There are no APIs in SimpleDB to use this feature. For example, you can use AWS Identity and Access Management API CreateUser to create a User with necessary access keys. Then you can author an AWS policy with the required permissions and conditions and associate this policy with the User using the AWS Identity and Access Management PutPolicy API. This policy will ensure that the User has the right level of privileges. The User can now make calls to SimpleDB using his own keys to access the AWS Accounts resources. When SimpleDB receives this call, it will obtain the policy associated with AWS Identity and Access Management services and either authorize or deny the User depending on the permission.

Q: Can I use AWS Identity and Access Management to share my SimpleDB domain with a user outside of my organization?

Not directly. A SimpleDB domain can be only shared within a single AWS Account. However, you can create a User with access keys and share this with an external partner or organization.

Q: Where can I learn more about AWS Identity and Access Management?

Visit the AWS Identity and Access Management product page for full details.

Q: How reliable is Amazon SimpleDB?

The service runs within Amazon’s high-availability data centers to provide strong and consistent performance. To prevent data from being lost or becoming unavailable, your fully indexed data is stored redundantly across multiple servers and data centers. This reliability is consistent across all Amazon SimpleDB Regions.

Q: What happens if traffic from my application suddenly spikes?

Amazon SimpleDB was designed from the ground up to handle traffic for any Internet application. Pay-as-you-go pricing and unlimited capacity ensures that your incremental costs don’t change and that your service is not interrupted. Amazon SimpleDB’s scale enables us to spread load evenly, so that no individual application is affected by traffic spikes.

 Q: I’m not in the US; can I use Amazon SimpleDB?

Anyone can use Amazon SimpleDB. You just have to decide which Region you want Amazon SimpleDB to store your data in.

Q: Do your prices include taxes?

Except as otherwise noted, our prices are exclusive of applicable taxes and duties, including VAT and applicable sales tax. For customers with a Japanese billing address, use of the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region is subject to Japanese Consumption Tax. Learn more.