10 years on, Amazon CTO reflects on DynamoDB launch

Vogels recounts how Dynamo paper became AWS NoSQL giant

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels this week marked the 10th anniversary of his Project Dynamo whitepaper, the blueprint for what would become the DynamoDB platform.

The paper [PDF], presented in October 2007 at the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, describes an Amazon-designed backend system to overcome the weaknesses of its Oracle database.

"We prioritized focusing on requirements that would support high-scale, mission-critical services like Amazon's shopping cart, and questioned assumptions traditionally held by relational databases such as the requirement for strong consistency," Vogels explained.

"Our goal was to build a database that would have the unbounded scalability, consistent performance and the high availability to support the needs of our rapidly growing business."

To achieve those ends, Vogels said, Amazon developed the Dynamo database to be a more scalable system that could also provide greater reliability than a relational database. It would later be commercialized by Amazon as the NoSQL AWS DynamoDB.

"Of course, no technology change happens in isolation, and at the same time NoSQL was evolving, so was cloud computing," said Vogels.

"As we began growing the AWS business, we realized that external customers might find our Dynamo database just as useful as we found it within Amazon.com. So, we set out to build a fully hosted AWS database service based upon the original Dynamo design."

These days, Vogel says, DynamoDB claims more than 100,000 customers on its books and has become one of the key services on AWS. It is also part of a larger market of NoSQL platforms that are crucial to the operation of web applications.

"Ten years ago, we never would have imagined the lasting impact our efforts on Dynamo would have," Vogels mused.

"What started out as an exercise in solving our own needs in a customer obsessed way, turned into a catalyst for a broader industry movement towards non-relational databases, and ultimately, an enabler for a new class of internet-scale applications." ®

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