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Amazon SimpleDB for Beginners

Let’s know what is Amazon simpleDB for beginners, and how it was made available to facilitate the beginners to store their data on a more stable and secure server. Amazon started offering its customers with their own computing infrastructure with the launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006. The main aim of AWS is to make use of its own infrastructure for providing the basics building blocks for other organizations to use.

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In AWS, the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is an offering that enables other organizations to spin up virtual servers as per their needs by using the computing power and shut them off when they are done. With Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), users are provided with fast and unlimited file storage for the web.

In AWS, Amazon SimpleDB is a service designed to complement EC2 and Amazon S3, however, the concept is not as easy to grasp as “extra servers” and “extra storage.” For this reason, we decided to understand, and then explain the topic to our readers in-depth. This article will help you understand what exactly is the Amazon SimpleDB, its features, benefits, limitations and a lot more. It will clear up any doubts that you might be having regarding this service provided by Amazon Web Services Inc.

So wait for no further and keep reading the article to better understand Amazon SimpleDB. The first topic that we have covered is What is SimpleDB in AWS? The answer is as following

What is SimpleDB in AWS?

SimpleDB is a web service that is a part of the Amazon Web Services. It provides data storage in the cloud and has backing from clusters of Amazon-managed database servers. The data does not require any schema and you can store it securely in the cloud. Like Amazon’s other web services, there are no minimum charges for SimpleDB and users have to pay only for their actual usage.

Unarguably, this had to be the first topic to cover in our article since we want you to understand what exactly is Amazon SimpleDB before we go any further. However, now let us dive a little deeper into the technicalities of this so that you can guide your developer for the same without any issues if they need any help using the software.

For the next topic, we have taken up the features of Amazon SimpleDB to help you understand what it is about and how exactly it works.

Features In The SimpleDB

Features In The SimpleDB

The SimpleDB API has a limited set of features as it aims to make it easier and simpler for any developer using the web services provided by Amazon. Here is a list of all of them below:


  • Up to 250 domains: You can create domains in your account. It allows you to create up to 250 active domains at the beginning, with the option to request for a larger allocation directly from the AWS website.
  • Delete domains: It lets you delete an existing domain at any time while still storing the data you store in it.
  • Update easily: You can store a data item for the first time or update it later with the use of a call to PutAttributes. When a user issues an update, they only need to pass the attributes that are changing instead of passing the full item.
  • Batch call: By using a batch call, users can put up 25 items or less in one go.
  • Retrieve data: If you dismiss data by mistake and want to retrieve it, you can do so with a call to GetAttributes.
  • Query items: For items based on criteria, you can query them on the basis of multiple attributes of the said items.
  • Easy formatting: SimpleDB treats all data as string data, hence it allows the users to store any type of data and format it however they choose to.
  • Store different items in one domain: Users are able to store different types of items in one domain. Moreover, items of the same type may vary depending on which attributes have values and which ones don’t.

Now that you know what type of features are included in Amazon SimpleDB, it is time to understand how a developer can save the data in this database. Look below to understand.

Data Without Schema

In relational databases, a user needs to compulsorily define a schema for each database table before using it. However, SimpleDB is different from those databases and SimpleDB differs from relational databases because there is no schema requirement. Of course, users still need to consider the format of the data but this approach has the benefit of saving time that they would spend managing schema modifications.

Since there is no schema, it means that there are no data types either. The SimpleDB treats all the various data values as variable-length character data. Consequently, users don’t need to do anything extra if they want to add a new field in an existing database and just need to add the new field for whichever items require it.

Along with the benefits, there are also drawbacks to a database without schema. There is a lack of automatic integrity checking in the database and this increases the burden on the application for handling formatting and other processes.

One of the biggest concerns for organizations is the security of their data. Let’s see how secure are the web services offered in Amazon SimpleDB’s cloud storage.

Secure in the Cloud

You can avail of the data that you store in Amazon’s SimpleDB through 2 different methods: online and from EC2. Amazon understands that the security of this data is crucial and to protect it, access to AWS SimpleDB is under protection with your account credentials. Every request for access or query has to have the correct digital signature that has been authorized or it will be rejected with an error code.

Now that you understand about the security of your data in the Amazon SimpleDB, let us take a look at other benefits of using the same for your organization:

Benefits of Using Amazon SimpleDB

Benefits of using amazon simpledb

When you use the AWS SimpleDB, you gain the following important benefits:


  • Availability – It creates copies of the data that you store in the database on its own and automatically, without having to give an extra command for the same. When you store your data in AWS SimpleDB, it automatically makes replicas of it across multiple storage nodes and across multiple data centers.
  • Simple – The layout is neat and simple and SimpleDB doesn’t have any configuration parameter. This makes it easy to understand the functioning of the web service and also to avoid mistakes or problems. Moreover, although the database uses streamlined access to the store and query functions from the traditional relational database, it omits other unused functions that are not relevant for most users. This helps make the platform even more simple and easy to use for the users.
  • Scalable – Amazon’s SimpleDB web services are scalable and have concurrent access.
  • Flexible – Businesses often tend to change with the changing times. This requires a change in the process of the business functions and Amazon SimpleDB supports the same at all points possible. AWS SimpleDB allows the users to store data in the way they want at first and then store it differently in case the requirements change later. You can do this without any hassles and it will continue to work without any issues.
  • Low Latency – The latency of a typical LAN is similar to the access to AWS SimpleDB from an EC2 instance in the same region.
  • Low maintenance – As a user, you won’t need to take care of a lot of the administrative burden. Amazon takes care of and maintains more of the hardware and database software.
  • Lower costs – With Amazon web services, you can expect to save a lot more than any other regular database products. Amazon SimpleDB lets you pay only for the resources that you and your organization make use of. What happens is that the database keeps a track of what resources you use and only adds those variables to the billing amount. So if you only use the software for storing data and don’t make any requests then you won’t need to pay anything for the requests. It isn’t an all-inclusive package but actually something like an à la carte.

Framework Functionality Of A High Level


Although there is a simplicity in SimpleDB’s basic offering on the server-side, there are also some more advanced features that users build on top of the basic framework.

Users have the option of writing some features into AWS SimpleDB for automatic handling. These features are often a part of the database server and help improve the third-party client software on a continuous basis. Here are some of these features that are either already present in the database or that you might need to write by yourself:

  • Data formatting – At times, in SimpleDB, data such as integers, floats, and dates require special formatting. It is important to note that they don’t always require this special treatment but only in a few.
  • Object mapping – It is more convenient to map programming language objects with AWS SimpleDB attributes. This helps in easily finding the data objects when needed and also track the path of each object.
  • Sharding – For scaling, the domain is the basic unit in Amazon SimpleDB. But there is no external or explicit support for allowing automatic distribution of data across various domains.
  • Cache integration – For optimization, it is important to cache data. It helps many applications run more smoothly and without any glitches. By configuring caching and integrating it well with the AWS SimpleDB, you enhance the productivity and speed of the work, while ensuring optimal security and stability of your database.

Limitations of Amazon SimpleDB

From the name, many people often tend to think that Amazon SimpleDB is just another relational database management system, only simpler to use. Although this is true in some aspects, it is still not the complete definition. It is also not just about making it simpler to use a database. AWS SimpleDB aims for more and hopes to simplify the more difficult tasks of creating a database cluster and managing it in such a way that it is fault-tolerant even if there are multiple failures. It also works for the replication of data centers and higher levels of availability.

One of the most common misconceptions amongst people regarding Amazon’s web services is that if you migrate from a Relational Database Management System to SimpleDB, then your performance problems will automatically be solved. The unfortunate truth is that for some people, speed is the main and core focus of their thought process. Although it is tempting to view a new hosted database services in the form of a silver bullet when they get offers by mega-conglomerate companies like Microsoft, Amazon, or Google. But the truth of the matter is that AWS SimpleDB is not going to solve any of your existing speed issues. The web service by Amazon aims to solve an entirely different set of problems.

The reads and writes for query or data storage are not at their highest speed. They are only meant to be “fast enough.” It is also possible that the Amazon web services might even result in an increased performance of the service over time, on the basis of user feedback. But if you are thinking of using Amazon SimpleDB, you need to come to terms with the fact that it is never going to be as speedy as a standalone database running on fast hardware. AWS SimpleDB was launched with a different purpose.

When robust database clusters replicate data across multiple data centers, you do not get a data storage solution that is easy to throw together. In all honesty, it is a rather time consuming and very costly undertaking. Even if your organization has the database administrator (DBA) expert developer and you make use of multiple data centers, it is still time-consuming. An organization would not do it unless there is a quantifiable business need for it. Yes, it is that costly. Amazon SimpleDB is offering data storage with a number of features and speediness on a pay-as-you-go basis.

FAQs for Knowledge Management System

01. What type of database is SimpleDB?

Answer: Amazon’s SimpleDB is a non-relational type of database that is highly available and flexible. It is also known as a key value data store and helps the developers to request and store various types of data in different formats. A good thing about this database is that it requires minimal database management and administration responsibilities.

02. What is the difference between SimpleDB and DynamoDB?

Answer: Although both the services are non-relational databases, their main focus is different from one another. DynamoDB focuses more on providing seamless scalability and speed whereas SimpleDB is the more basic version of the same since it has a limited number of features, speed that is enough for usage but not too fast and works on a pay-as-you-go basis. Hence, SimpleDB is more optimal for organizations that are just starting out with database management.

03. How do I get started on Amazon SimpleDB?

Answer: To get started with Amazon’s SimpleDB, all you need to do is is make an account on Amazon’s web services. If you already have an account on the AWS, then you just need to log in and start directly.

04. How much does it cost to use SimpleDB?

Answer: It depends on your requirements and data needs. The pricing starts from $0.09 per GB for up to 9.999 TB/month. It also has a free tier for lesser data requirements and it goes up to $0.05 per GB for greater than 150 TB/month.



To conclude our article on AWS SimpleDB, we want to tell you that your company is free to make use of or take advantage of these features without any hesitation. It is a slightly restrictive environment and a developer might not think that it is suitable for many various types of applications. There are various restrictions and limitations on how much data can be stored and transferred and how much network bandwidth you can consume.

However, the AWS SimpleDB is moderately restrictive and not completely. As you read in the beginning, there are many various benefits of using AWS, and you can benefit from the pay-as-you-go model if your business needs to demand that. It will enable you to cost-cutting and also serve the purpose that you need. Before shifting from some other database to this, we recommend that you take suggestions from an expert developer to ensure that you are doing the right thing.

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