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How Amazon's DynamoDB helped reinvent databases

Brandon Butler | June 11, 2015
In the earliest days of SQL databases weren’t cutting it, so the company created DynamoDB and in doing so helped usher in the NoSQL market.

AdRoll uses DynamoDB and Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) to sock away data about customers and help its algorithm decide which ads to buy for customers. In 2013, AdRoll had 125 billion items in DynamoDB; it's now up to half a trillion. It makes 1 million requests to the system each second, and the data is returned in less than 5 milliseconds -- every time. AdRoll has another 17 million files uploaded into Amazon S3, taking up more than 1.5 petabytes of space.

AdRoll didn't have to build a global network of data centers to power its product, thanks in large part to using DynamoDB.

"We haven't spent a single engineer to operate this system," Volonghi says. "It's actually technically fun to operate a database at this massive scale."

Not every company is going to have the needs of's ecommerce site or AdRoll's real-time bidding platform. But many are struggling to achieve greater scale without major capital investments. The cloud makes that possible, and DynamoDB is a prime example.


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