Home Big Data A Information to DynamoDB Secondary Indexes: GSI, LSI, Elasticsearch and Rockset – how to decide on the precise indexing technique

A Information to DynamoDB Secondary Indexes: GSI, LSI, Elasticsearch and Rockset – how to decide on the precise indexing technique

A Information to DynamoDB Secondary Indexes: GSI, LSI, Elasticsearch and Rockset – how to decide on the precise indexing technique


Many growth groups flip to DynamoDB for constructing event-driven architectures and user-friendly, performant functions at scale. As an operational database, DynamoDB is optimized for real-time transactions even when deployed throughout a number of geographic places. Nevertheless, it doesn’t present robust efficiency for search and analytics entry patterns.

Search and Analytics on DynamoDB

Whereas NoSQL databases like DynamoDB typically have wonderful scaling traits, they help solely a restricted set of operations which might be targeted on on-line transaction processing. This makes it tough to look, filter, combination and be part of knowledge with out leaning closely on environment friendly indexing methods.

DynamoDB shops knowledge beneath the hood by partitioning it over a lot of nodes based mostly on a user-specified partition key area current in every merchandise. This user-specified partition key may be optionally mixed with a form key to signify a major key. The first key acts as an index, making question operations cheap. A question operation can do equality comparisons (=)
on the partition key and comparative operations (>, <, =, BETWEEN) on the type key if specified.

Performing analytical queries not coated by the above scheme requires using a scan operation, which is usually executed by scanning over the complete DynamoDB desk in parallel. These scans may be gradual and costly when it comes to learn throughput as a result of they require a full learn of the complete desk. Scans additionally are inclined to decelerate when the desk dimension grows, as there may be
extra knowledge to scan to provide outcomes. If we wish to help analytical queries with out encountering prohibitive scan prices, we will leverage secondary indexes, which we are going to focus on subsequent.

Indexing in DynamoDB

In DynamoDB, secondary indexes are sometimes used to enhance software efficiency by indexing fields which might be queried continuously. Question operations on secondary indexes will also be used to energy particular options by way of analytic queries which have clearly outlined necessities.

Secondary indexes consist of making partition keys and non-obligatory type keys over fields that we wish to question. There are two kinds of secondary indexes:

  • Native secondary indexes (LSIs): LSIs lengthen the hash and vary key attributes for a single partition.
  • International secondary indexes (GSIs): GSIs are indexes which might be utilized to a complete desk as a substitute of a single partition.

Nevertheless, as Nike found, overusing GSIs in DynamoDB may be costly. Analytics in DynamoDB, except they’re used just for quite simple level lookups or small vary scans, may end up in overuse of secondary indexes and excessive prices.

The prices for provisioned capability when utilizing indexes can add up rapidly as a result of all updates to the bottom desk need to be made within the corresponding GSIs as properly. Actually, AWS advises that the provisioned write capability for a worldwide secondary index needs to be equal to or higher than the write capability of the bottom desk to keep away from throttling writes to the bottom desk and crippling the appliance. The price of provisioned write capability grows linearly with the variety of GSIs configured, making it price prohibitive to make use of many GSIs to help many entry patterns.

DynamoDB can also be not well-designed to index knowledge in nested buildings, together with arrays and objects. Earlier than indexing the information, customers might want to denormalize the information, flattening the nested objects and arrays. This might enormously improve the variety of writes and related prices.

For a extra detailed examination of utilizing DynamoDB secondary indexes for analytics, see our weblog Secondary Indexes For Analytics On DynamoDB.

The underside line is that for analytical use instances, you may achieve important efficiency and price benefits by syncing the DynamoDB desk with a unique software or service that acts as an exterior secondary index for working complicated analytics effectively.

DynamoDB + Elasticsearch


One method to constructing a secondary index over our knowledge is to make use of DynamoDB with Elasticsearch. Cloud-based Elasticsearch, equivalent to Elastic Cloud or Amazon OpenSearch Service, can be utilized to provision and configure nodes in accordance with the dimensions of the indexes, replication, and different necessities. A managed cluster requires some operations to improve, safe, and maintain performant, however much less so than working it totally by your self on EC2 cases.


Because the method utilizing the Logstash Plugin for Amazon DynamoDB is unsupported and moderately tough to arrange, we will as a substitute stream writes from DynamoDB into Elasticsearch utilizing DynamoDB Streams and an AWS Lambda operate. This method requires us to carry out two separate steps:

  • We first create a lambda operate that’s invoked on the DynamoDB stream to put up every replace because it happens in DynamoDB into Elasticsearch.
  • We then create a lambda operate (or EC2 occasion working a script if it is going to take longer than the lambda execution timeout) to put up all the present contents of DynamoDB into Elasticsearch.

We should write and wire up each of those lambda capabilities with the right permissions in an effort to be certain that we don’t miss any writes into our tables. When they’re arrange together with required monitoring, we will obtain paperwork in Elasticsearch from DynamoDB and might use Elasticsearch to run analytical queries on the information.

The benefit of this method is that Elasticsearch helps full-text indexing and several other kinds of analytical queries. Elasticsearch helps purchasers in varied languages and instruments like Kibana for visualization that may assist rapidly construct dashboards. When a cluster is configured appropriately, question latencies may be tuned for quick analytical queries over knowledge flowing into Elasticsearch.

Disadvantages embody that the setup and upkeep price of the answer may be excessive. Even managed Elasticsearch requires coping with replication, resharding, index development, and efficiency tuning of the underlying cases.

Elasticsearch has a tightly coupled structure that doesn’t separate compute and storage. This implies sources are sometimes overprovisioned as a result of they can’t be independently scaled. As well as, a number of workloads, equivalent to reads and writes, will contend for a similar compute sources.

Elasticsearch additionally can’t deal with updates effectively. Updating any area will set off a reindexing of the complete doc. Elasticsearch paperwork are immutable, so any replace requires a brand new doc to be listed and the outdated model marked deleted. This ends in extra compute and I/O expended to reindex even the unchanged fields and to write down whole paperwork upon replace.

As a result of lambdas fireplace once they see an replace within the DynamoDB stream, they will have have latency spikes as a consequence of chilly begins. The setup requires metrics and monitoring to make sure that it’s appropriately processing occasions from the DynamoDB stream and in a position to write into Elasticsearch.

Functionally, when it comes to analytical queries, Elasticsearch lacks help for joins, that are helpful for complicated analytical queries that contain a couple of index. Elasticsearch customers usually need to denormalize knowledge, carry out application-side joins, or use nested objects or parent-child relationships to get round this limitation.


  • Full-text search help
  • Help for a number of kinds of analytical queries
  • Can work over the most recent knowledge in DynamoDB


  • Requires administration and monitoring of infrastructure for ingesting, indexing, replication, and sharding
  • Tightly coupled structure ends in useful resource overprovisioning and compute competition
  • Inefficient updates
  • Requires separate system to make sure knowledge integrity and consistency between DynamoDB and Elasticsearch
  • No help for joins between totally different indexes

This method can work properly when implementing full-text search over the information in DynamoDB and dashboards utilizing Kibana. Nevertheless, the operations required to tune and preserve an Elasticsearch cluster in manufacturing, its inefficient use of sources and lack of be part of capabilities may be difficult.

DynamoDB + Rockset


Rockset is a totally managed search and analytics database constructed primarily to help real-time functions with excessive QPS necessities. It’s usually used as an exterior secondary index for knowledge from OLTP databases.

Rockset has a built-in connector with DynamoDB that can be utilized to maintain knowledge in sync between DynamoDB and Rockset. We are able to specify the DynamoDB desk we wish to sync contents from and a Rockset assortment that indexes the desk. Rockset indexes the contents of the DynamoDB desk in a full snapshot after which syncs new adjustments as they happen. The contents of the Rockset assortment are all the time in sync with the DynamoDB supply; no quite a lot of seconds aside in regular state.


Rockset manages the information integrity and consistency between the DynamoDB desk and the Rockset assortment mechanically by monitoring the state of the stream and offering visibility into the streaming adjustments from DynamoDB.


And not using a schema definition, a Rockset assortment can mechanically adapt when fields are added/eliminated, or when the construction/sort of the information itself adjustments in DynamoDB. That is made doable by robust dynamic typing and sensible schemas that obviate the necessity for any extra ETL.

The Rockset assortment we sourced from DynamoDB helps SQL for querying and may be simply utilized by builders with out having to be taught a domain-specific language. It will also be used to serve queries to functions over a REST API or utilizing shopper libraries in a number of programming languages. The superset of ANSI SQL that Rockset helps can work natively on deeply nested JSON arrays and objects, and leverage indexes which might be mechanically constructed over all fields, to get millisecond latencies on even complicated analytical queries.

Rockset has pioneered compute-compute separation, which permits isolation of workloads in separate compute models whereas sharing the identical underlying real-time knowledge. This gives customers higher useful resource effectivity when supporting simultaneous ingestion and queries or a number of functions on the identical knowledge set.

As well as, Rockset takes care of safety, encryption of knowledge, and role-based entry management for managing entry to it. Rockset customers can keep away from the necessity for ETL by leveraging ingest transformations we will arrange in Rockset to change the information because it arrives into a group. Customers may also optionally handle the lifecycle of the information by organising retention insurance policies to mechanically purge older knowledge. Each knowledge ingestion and question serving are mechanically managed, which lets us concentrate on constructing and deploying stay dashboards and functions whereas eradicating the necessity for infrastructure administration and operations.

Particularly related in relation to syncing with DynamoDB, Rockset helps in-place field-level updates, in order to keep away from pricey reindexing. Examine Rockset and Elasticsearch when it comes to ingestion, querying and effectivity to decide on the precise software for the job.


  • Constructed to ship excessive QPS and serve real-time functions
  • Fully serverless. No operations or provisioning of infrastructure or database required
  • Compute-compute separation for predictable efficiency and environment friendly useful resource utilization
  • Reside sync between DynamoDB and the Rockset assortment, in order that they’re by no means quite a lot of seconds aside
  • Monitoring to make sure consistency between DynamoDB and Rockset
  • Automated indexes constructed over the information enabling low-latency queries
  • In-place updates that avoids costly reindexing and lowers knowledge latency
  • Joins with knowledge from different sources equivalent to Amazon Kinesis, Apache Kafka, Amazon S3, and so forth.

We are able to use Rockset for implementing real-time analytics over the information in DynamoDB with none operational, scaling, or upkeep considerations. This could considerably velocity up the event of real-time functions. If you would like to construct your software on DynamoDB knowledge utilizing Rockset, you will get began without cost on right here.


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