Amazon opens up SimpleDB to the public

The database component for Amazon's cloud-computing range of services is now out of its private-beta stage, with the company offering limited free usage for the next six months

Amazon on Monday opened up its SimpleDB cloud-based database service to an unlimited beta audience, after a year's private testing.

SimpleDB is just one of many components that make up the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-computing initiative — the others being the Simple Storage Service (S3) hosted storage facility, the CloudFront content-delivery service and the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cloud-computing service. The opening up of SimpleDB to the public means anybody can use the service for real-time querying of the structured data hosted in AWS.

On the AWS blog on Monday, Amazon wrote that it had "learned a lot during the beta and [has] fine-tuned the feature set in order to make sure that we are meeting the needs of current and future users".

As Amazon writes on the SimpleDB web page, the service "provides a simple web-services interface to create and store multiple data sets, query your data easily and return the results". The company said that SimpleDB has similar properties to a spreadsheet, except for the ability to associate multiple values with each attribute of an item. Another feature that Amazon is touting is the ability to add new attributes to a SimpleDB set when this is necessary, rather than having to predefine every attribute.

SimpleDB is being presented as an alternative to complex databases. "Amazon SimpleDB removes the need to maintain a schema, while your attributes are automatically indexed to provide fast, real-time look-up and querying capabilities," the web page states. "This flexibility minimises the performance tuning required as the demands for your data increase." However, complex databases can be hosted in EC2 if they are needed.

A "simple set" of application programming interfaces (APIs) is provided for the purposes of storing, processing and querying data.

As with other AWS services, the pricing of SimpleDB corresponds with usage, with no up-front costs being involved. Data transfer costs from $0.10 (7 pence) per gigabyte in and out, although that only refers to data coming into and leaving SimpleDB from outside other AWS services — data transferred between SimpleDB and other AWS services is free.

Amazon recommends that large files and objects be stored in S3, with pointers and metadata associated with those files being stores in SimpleDB — the charge for this is $1.50 per gigabyte per month.

As an extra incentive, those wishing to try out SimpleDB will be able to use it on a limited basis for free over the next six months at least. This will include the consumption of up to 500MB of storage and up to 25 machine hours of usage each month, plus 1GB of data in and 1GB out.


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