AWS DynamoDB – Certification

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AWS DynamoDB

  • Amazon DynamoDB is a fully managed NoSQL database service that
    • makes it simple and cost-effective to store and retrieve any amount of data and serve any level of request traffic.
    • provides fast and predictable performance with seamless scalability
  • DynamoDB enables customers to offload the administrative burdens of operating and scaling distributed databases to AWS, without having to worry about hardware provisioning, setup and configuration, replication, software patching, or cluster scaling.
  • DynamoDB tables do not have fixed schemas, and table consists of items and each item may have a different number of attributes.
  • DynamoDB synchronously replicates data across three facilities in an AWS Region, giving high availability and data durability.
  • DynamoDB supports fast in-place updates. A numeric attribute can be incremented or decremented in a row using a single API call
  • DynamoDB uses proven cryptographic methods to securely authenticate users and prevent unauthorized data access
  • Durability, performance, reliability, and security are built in, with SSD (solid state drive) storage and automatic 3-way replication.
  • DynamoDB supports two different kinds of primary keys:
    • Partition Key (previously called the Hash key)
      • A simple primary key, composed of one attribute
      • DynamoDB uses the partition key’s value as input to an internal hash function; the output from the hash function determine the partition where the item will be stored.
      • No two items in a table can have the same partition key value.
    • Partition Key and Sort Key (previously called the Hash and Range key)
      • A composite primary key composed of two attributes. The first attribute is the partition key, and the second attribute is the sort key.
      • DynamoDB uses the partition key value as input to an internal hash function; the output from the hash function determines the partition where the item will be stored.
      • All items with the same partition key are stored together, in sorted order by sort key value.
      • It is possible for two items to have the same partition key value, but those two items must have different sort key values.
  • DynamoDB Secondary indexes
    • add flexibility to the queries, without impacting performance.
    • are automatically maintained as sparse objects, items will only appear in an index if they exist in the table on which the index is defined making queries against an index very efficient
  • DynamoDB throughput and single-digit millisecond latency makes it a great fit for gaming, ad tech, mobile, and many other applications
  • ElastiCache can be used in front of DynamoDB in order to offload high amount of reads for non frequently changed data

DynamoDB Performance

  • Automatically scales horizontally
  • runs exclusively on Solid State Drives (SSDs).
    • SSDs help achieve the design goals of predictable low-latency response times for storing and accessing data at any scale.
    • SSDs High I/O performance enables it to serve high-scale request workloads cost efficiently, and to pass this efficiency along in low request pricing
  • allows provisioned table reads and writes
    • Scale up throughput when needed
    • Scale down throughput four times per UTC calendar day
  • automatically partitions, reallocates and re-partitions the data and provisions additional server capacity as the
    • table size grows or
    • provisioned throughput is increased
  • Global Secondary indexes (GSI)
    • can be created upfront or added later

DynamoDB Consistency

  • Each DynamoDB table is automatically stored in the three geographically distributed locations for durability
  • Read consistency represents the manner and timing in which the successful write or update of a data item is reflected in a subsequent read operation of that same item
  • DynamoDB allows user to specify whether the read should be eventually consistent or strongly consistent at the time of the request
    • Eventually Consistent Reads (Default)
      • Eventual consistency option maximizes the read throughput.
      • Consistency across all copies is usually reached within a second
      • However, an eventually consistent read might not reflect the results of a recently completed write.
      • Repeating a read after a short time should return the updated data.
    • Strongly Consistent Reads
      • Strongly consistent read returns a result that reflects all writes that received a successful response prior to the read
  • Query, GetItem, and BatchGetItem operations perform eventually consistent reads by default
    • Query and GetItem operations can be forced to be strongly consistent
    • Query operations cannot perform strongly consistent reads on Global Secondary Indexes
    • BatchGetItem operations can be forced to be strongly consistent on a per-table basis

DynamoDB Secondary Indexes

DynamoDB supports Local and Global Secondary Indexes. Refer to My Blog Post about AWS DynamoDB Secondary Indexes

DynamoDB Cross-region Replication

  • DynamoDB cross-region replication allows identical copies (called replicas) of a DynamoDB table (called master table) to be maintained in one or more AWS regions
  • Writes to the table will be automatically propagated to all replicas
  • Cross-region replication currently supports single master mode. A single master has one master table and one or more replica tables
  • Read replicas are updated asynchronously as DynamoDB acknowledges a write operation as successful once it has been accepted by the master table. The write will then be propagated to each replica with a slight delay.
  • Cross-region replication can be helpful in scenarios
    • Efficient disaster recovery, in case a data center failure occurs.
    • Faster reads, for customers in multiple regions by delivering data faster by reading a DynamoDB table from the closest AWS data center.
    • Easier traffic management, to distribute the read workload across tables and thereby consume less read capacity in the master table.
    • Easy regional migration, by promoting a read replica to master
    • Live data migration, to replicate data and when the tables are in sync, switch the application to write to the destination region
  • Cross-region replication costing depends on
    • Provisioned throughput (Writes and Reads)
    • Storage for the replica tables.
    • Data Transfer across regions
    • Reading data from DynamoDB Streams to keep the tables in sync.
    • Cost of EC2 instances provisioned, depending upon the instance types and region, to host the replication process.
  • NOTE : Cross Region replication on DynamoDB was performed defining AWS Data Pipeline job which used EMR internally to transfer data before the DynamoDB streams and out of box cross region replication support

DynamoDB Streams

  • DynamoDB Streams provides a time-ordered sequence of item-level changes made to data in a table in the last 24 hours, after which they are erased i.e. ordered sequence of the events per item are maintained however across item are not maintained
  • DynamoDB Streams have to be enabled on a per-table basis
  • DynamoDB streams can be used for multi-region replication to keep other data stores up-to-date with the latest changes to DynamoDB or to take actions based on the changes made to the table
  • DynamoDB Streams APIs helps developers consume updates and receive the item-level data before and after items are changed
  • DynamoDB Streams allows read at up to twice the rate of the provisioned write capacity of the DynamoDB table
  • DynamoDB Streams is designed so that every update made to the table will be represented exactly once in the stream

DynamoDB Triggers

  • DynamoDB Triggers is a feature which allows execution of custom actions based on item-level updates on a DynamoDB table
  • DynamoDB triggers can be used in scenarios like sending notifications, updating an aggregate table, and connecting DynamoDB tables to other data sources

DynamoDB Costs

  • Index Storage
    • DynamoDB is an indexed data store
      • Billable Data = Raw byte data size + 100 byte per-item storage indexing overhead
  • Provisioned throughput
    • Pay flat, hourly rate based on the capacity reserved as the throughput provisioned for the table
    • one Write Capacity Unit provides one write per second for items < 1KB in size.
    • one Read Capacity Unit provides one strongly consistent read (or two eventually consistent reads) per second for items < 4KB in size.
    • Provisioned throughput charges for every 10 units of Write Capacity and every 50 units of Read Capacity.
  • Reserved capacity
    • Significant savings over the normal price
    • Pay a one-time upfront fee

DynamoDB Best Practices

  • Keep item size small
  • Store metadata in DynamoDB and large BLOBs in Amazon S3
  • Use table per day, week, month etc for storing time series data
  • Use conditional or Optimistic Concurrency Control (OCC) updates
    • Optimistic Concurrency Control is like Optimistic locking in the RDMS
    • OCC is generally used in environments with low data contention, conflicts are rare and transactions can be completed without the expense of managing locks and transactions
    • OCC assumes that multiple transactions can frequently be completed without interfering with each other.
    • Transactions are executed using data resources without acquiring locks on those resources and waiting for other transaction locks to be cleared
    • Before a transaction is committed, it is verified if the data was modified by any other transaction. If so, it would be rollbacked and needs to be restarted with the updated data
    • OCC leads to higher throughput as compared to other concurrency control methods like pessimistic locking, as locking can drastically limit effective concurrency even when deadlocks are avoided
  • Avoid hot keys and hot partitions

AWS Certification Exam Practice Questions

  • Questions are collected from Internet and the answers are marked as per my knowledge and understanding (which might differ with yours).
  • AWS services are updated everyday and both the answers and questions might be outdated soon, so research accordingly.
  • AWS exam questions are not updated to keep up the pace with AWS updates, so even if the underlying feature has changed the question might not be updated
  • Open to further feedback, discussion and correction.
  1. Which of the following are use cases for Amazon DynamoDB? Choose 3 answers
    1. Storing BLOB data.
    2. Managing web sessions
    3. Storing JSON documents
    4. Storing metadata for Amazon S3 objects
    5. Running relational joins and complex updates.
    6. Storing large amounts of infrequently accessed data.
  2. You are configuring your company’s application to use Auto Scaling and need to move user state information. Which of the following AWS services provides a shared data store with durability and low latency?
    1. AWS ElastiCache Memcached (does not allow writes)
    2. Amazon Simple Storage Service (does not provide low latency)
    3. Amazon EC2 instance storage (not durable)
    4. Amazon DynamoDB
  3. Does Dynamo DB support in-place atomic updates?
    1. It is not defined
    2. No
    3. Yes
    4. It does support in-place non-atomic updates
  4. What is the maximum write throughput I can provision for a single Dynamic DB table?
    1. 1,000 write capacity units
    2. 100,000 write capacity units
    3. Dynamic DB is designed to scale without limits, but if you go beyond 10,000 you have to contact AWS first
    4. 10,000 write capacity units
  5. For a DynamoDB table, what happens if the application performs more reads or writes than your provisioned capacity?
    1. Nothing
    2. requests above the provisioned capacity will be performed but you will receive 400 error codes.
    3. requests above the provisioned capacity will be performed but you will receive 200 error codes.
    4. requests above the provisioned capacity will be throttled and you will receive 400 error codes.
  6. In which of the following situations might you benefit from using DynamoDB? (Choose 2 answers)
    1. You need fully managed database to handle highly complex queries
    2. You need to deal with massive amount of “hot” data and require very low latency
    3. You need a rapid ingestion of clickstream in order to collect data about user behavior
    4. Your on-premises data center runs Oracle database, and you need to host a backup in AWS cloud
  7. You are designing a file-sharing service. This service will have millions of files in it. Revenue for the service will come from fees based on how much storage a user is using. You also want to store metadata on each file, such as title, description and whether the object is public or private. How do you achieve all of these goals in a way that is economical and can scale to millions of users? [PROFESSIONAL]
    1. Store all files in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Create a bucket for each user. Store metadata in the filename of each object, and access it with LIST commands against the S3 API. (expensive and slow as it returns only 1000 items at a time)
    2. Store all files in Amazon S3. Create Amazon DynamoDB tables for the corresponding key-value pairs on the associated metadata, when objects are uploaded.
    3. Create a striped set of 4000 IOPS Elastic Load Balancing volumes to store the data. Use a database running in Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) to store the metadata.(not economical with volumes)
    4. Create a striped set of 4000 IOPS Elastic Load Balancing volumes to store the data. Create Amazon DynamoDB tables for the corresponding key-value pairs on the associated metadata, when objects are uploaded. (not economical with volumes)
  8. A utility company is building an application that stores data coming from more than 10,000 sensors. Each sensor has a unique ID and will send a datapoint (approximately 1KB) every 10 minutes throughout the day. Each datapoint contains the information coming from the sensor as well as a timestamp. This company would like to query information coming from a particular sensor for the past week very rapidly and want to delete all the data that is older than 4 weeks. Using Amazon DynamoDB for its scalability and rapidity, how do you implement this in the most cost effective way? [PROFESSIONAL]
    1. One table, with a primary key that is the sensor ID and a hash key that is the timestamp (Single table impacts performance)
    2. One table, with a primary key that is the concatenation of the sensor ID and timestamp (Single table and concatenation impacts performance)
    3. One table for each week, with a primary key that is the concatenation of the sensor ID and timestamp (Concatenation will cause queries would be slower, if at all)
    4. One table for each week, with a primary key that is the sensor ID and a hash key that is the timestamp (Composite key with Sensor ID and timestamp would help for faster queries)
  9. You have recently joined a startup company building sensors to measure street noise and air quality in urban areas. The company has been running a pilot deployment of around 100 sensors for 3 months. Each sensor uploads 1KB of sensor data every minute to a backend hosted on AWS. During the pilot, you measured a peak of 10 IOPS on the database, and you stored an average of 3GB of sensor data per month in the database. The current deployment consists of a load-balanced auto scaled Ingestion layer using EC2 instances and a PostgreSQL RDS database with 500GB standard storage. The pilot is considered a success and your CEO has managed to get the attention or some potential investors. The business plan requires a deployment of at least 100K sensors, which needs to be supported by the backend. You also need to store sensor data for at least two years to be able to compare year over year Improvements. To secure funding, you have to make sure that the platform meets these requirements and leaves room for further scaling. Which setup will meet the requirements? [PROFESSIONAL]
    1. Add an SQS queue to the ingestion layer to buffer writes to the RDS instance (RDS instance will not support data for 2 years)
    2. Ingest data into a DynamoDB table and move old data to a Redshift cluster (Handle 10K IOPS ingestion and store data into Redshift for analysis)
    3. Replace the RDS instance with a 6 node Redshift cluster with 96TB of storage (Does not handle the ingestion issue)
    4. Keep the current architecture but upgrade RDS storage to 3TB and 10K provisioned IOPS (RDS instance will not support data for 2 years)
  10. Does Amazon DynamoDB support both increment and decrement atomic operations?
    1. No, neither increment nor decrement operations.
    2. Only increment, since decrement are inherently impossible with DynamoDB’s data model.
    3. Only decrement, since increment are inherently impossible with DynamoDB’s data model.
    4. Yes, both increment and decrement operations.
  11. What is the data model of DynamoDB?
    1. “Items”, with Keys and one or more Attribute; and “Attribute”, with Name and Value.
    2. “Database”, which is a set of “Tables”, which is a set of “Items”, which is a set of “Attributes”.
    3. “Table”, a collection of Items; “Items”, with Keys and one or more Attribute; and “Attribute”, with Name and Value.
    4. “Database”, a collection of Tables; “Tables”, with Keys and one or more Attribute; and “Attribute”, with Name and Value.
  12. In regard to DynamoDB, for which one of the following parameters does Amazon not charge you?
    1. Cost per provisioned write units
    2. Cost per provisioned read units
    3. Storage cost
    4. I/O usage within the same Region
  13. Which statements about DynamoDB are true? Choose 2 answers.
    1. DynamoDB uses a pessimistic locking model
    2. DynamoDB uses optimistic concurrency control
    3. DynamoDB uses conditional writes for consistency
    4. DynamoDB restricts item access during reads
    5. DynamoDB restricts item access during writes
  14. Which of the following is an example of a good DynamoDB hash key schema for provisioned throughput efficiency?
    1. User ID, where the application has many different users.
    2. Status Code where most status codes is the same.
    3. Device ID, where one is by far more popular than all the others.
    4. Game Type, where there are three possible game types.
  15. You are inserting 1000 new items every second in a DynamoDB table. Once an hour these items are analyzed and then are no longer needed. You need to minimize provisioned throughput, storage, and API calls. Given these requirements, what is the most efficient way to manage these Items after the analysis?
    1. Retain the items in a single table
    2. Delete items individually over a 24 hour period
    3. Delete the table and create a new table per hour
    4. Create a new table per hour
  16. When using a large Scan operation in DynamoDB, what technique can be used to minimize the impact of a scan on a table’s provisioned throughput?
    1. Set a smaller page size for the scan (Refer link)
    2. Use parallel scans
    3. Define a range index on the table
    4. Prewarm the table by updating all items
  17. In regard to DynamoDB, which of the following statements is correct?
    1. An Item should have at least two value sets, a primary key and another attribute.
    2. An Item can have more than one attributes
    3. A primary key should be single-valued.
    4. An attribute can have one or several other attributes.
  18. Which one of the following statements is NOT an advantage of DynamoDB being built on Solid State Drives?
    1. serve high-scale request workloads
    2. low request pricing
    3. high I/O performance of WebApp on EC2 instance (Not related to DynamoDB)
    4. low-latency response times
  19. Which one of the following operations is NOT a DynamoDB operation?
    1. BatchWriteItem
    2. DescribeTable
    3. BatchGetItem
    4. BatchDeleteItem (DeleteItem deletes a single item in a table by primary key, but BatchDeleteItem doesn’t exist)
  20. What item operation allows the retrieval of multiple items from a DynamoDB table in a single API call?
    1. GetItem
    2. BatchGetItem
    3. GetMultipleItems
    4. GetItemRange
  21. An application stores payroll information nightly in DynamoDB for a large number of employees across hundreds of offices. Item attributes consist of individual name, office identifier, and cumulative daily hours. Managers run reports for ranges of names working in their office. One query is. “Return all Items in this office for names starting with A through E”. Which table configuration will result in the lowest impact on provisioned throughput for this query? [PROFESSIONAL]
    1. Configure the table to have a hash index on the name attribute, and a range index on the office identifier
    2. Configure the table to have a range index on the name attribute, and a hash index on the office identifier
    3. Configure a hash index on the name attribute and no range index
    4. Configure a hash index on the office Identifier attribute and no range index
  22. You need to migrate 10 million records in one hour into DynamoDB. All records are 1.5KB in size. The data is evenly distributed across the partition key. How many write capacity units should you provision during this batch load?
    1. 6667
    2. 4166
    3. 5556 ( 2 write units (1 for each 1KB) * 10 million/3600 secs, refer link)
    4. 2778
  23. A meteorological system monitors 600 temperature gauges, obtaining temperature samples every minute and saving each sample to a DynamoDB table. Each sample involves writing 1K of data and the writes are evenly distributed over time. How much write throughput is required for the target table?
    1. 1 write capacity unit
    2. 10 write capacity units ( 1 write unit for 1K * 600 gauges/60 secs)
    3. 60 write capacity units
    4. 600 write capacity units
    5. 3600 write capacity units
  24. You are building a game high score table in DynamoDB. You will store each user’s highest score for each game, with many games, all of which have relatively similar usage levels and numbers of players. You need to be able to look up the highest score for any game. What’s the best DynamoDB key structure?
    1. HighestScore as the hash / only key.
    2. GameID as the hash key, HighestScore as the range key. (hash (partition) key should be the GameID, and there should be a range key for ordering HighestScore. Refer link)
    3. GameID as the hash / only key.
    4. GameID as the range / only key.
  25. You are experiencing performance issues writing to a DynamoDB table. Your system tracks high scores for video games on a marketplace. Your most popular game experiences all of the performance issues. What is the most likely problem?
    1. DynamoDB’s vector clock is out of sync, because of the rapid growth in request for the most popular game.
    2. You selected the Game ID or equivalent identifier as the primary partition key for the table. (Refer link)
    3. Users of the most popular video game each perform more read and write requests than average.
    4. You did not provision enough read or write throughput to the table.
  26. You are writing to a DynamoDB table and receive the following exception:” ProvisionedThroughputExceededException”. Though according to your Cloudwatch metrics for the table, you are not exceeding your provisioned throughput. What could be an explanation for this?
    1. You haven’t provisioned enough DynamoDB storage instances
    2. You’re exceeding your capacity on a particular Range Key
    3. You’re exceeding your capacity on a particular Hash Key (Hash key determines the partition and hence the performance)
    4. You’re exceeding your capacity on a particular Sort Key
    5. You haven’t configured DynamoDB Auto Scaling triggers
  27. Your company sells consumer devices and needs to record the first activation of all sold devices. Devices are not activated until the information is written on a persistent database. Activation data is very important for your company and must be analyzed daily with a MapReduce job. The execution time of the data analysis process must be less than three hours per day. Devices are usually sold evenly during the year, but when a new device model is out, there is a predictable peak in activation’s, that is, for a few days there are 10 times or even 100 times more activation’s than in average day. Which of the following databases and analysis framework would you implement to better optimize costs and performance for this workload? [PROFESSIONAL]
    1. Amazon RDS and Amazon Elastic MapReduce with Spot instances.
    2. Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Elastic MapReduce with Spot instances.
    3. Amazon RDS and Amazon Elastic MapReduce with Reserved instances.
    4. Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Elastic MapReduce with Reserved instances


10 thoughts on “AWS DynamoDB – Certification

  1. Re: Q8.

    C, should be the right answer. A Hash Key is the old name for the Partition Key. Therefore, the answer suggests the primary key is made up of two Partition keys which isn’t possible. If it had said ‘Range’ Key (old name for Sort key), that would have worked.

    1. Key point is data from unqiue sensor id every 10 mins i.e. having a timestamp. Querying needs to happen on sensor id over the past week and maintaining the data only for 4 weeks.
      Correct answer is D.
      Option C & D are valid as they are keeping tables for each week.
      Table shoud be designed with a composite primary key consisting of Customer ID as the partition key and date/time as the sort key
      Refer AWS documentation for DynamoDB handling Timeseries data
      Option A & B are wrong as One table would not make sense as we need to query only on past week and want data only for 4 weeks. This would impact performance.

      1. Agree with Paul. Paul is talking about semantics. The wording is confusing – PRIMARY AND HASH mean the same, so essentially D is stating that you can create a dynamo db with two distinct Partition Keys ( without concatenation )
        If we ignore the semantics and just assume we are talking about LSI – using a Primary/Hash and Sort/Range key then agree D would be right choice.

        I am tired of AWS trying to test your interpretation by posing convoluted or unclear scenarios.

  2. Answer for 27 ….should be D

    1. predictable peak—–should book schedule RI
    2. run daily —RI
    3. Performance –Spot dont give performance garuantee..

    1. The question is targeting only the additional workload and not the original workload which is already handled. For the additional unpredictable workload Spot instances are the best.

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