Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of AWS DynamoDB and Prometheus so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how AWS DynamoDB and Prometheus perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
AWS DynamoDB vs Prometheus Breakdown
Key-value and document store
Time series database
DynamoDB is a fully managed, serverless NoSQL database provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). It uses a single-digit millisecond latency for high-performance use cases and supports both key-value and document data models. Data is partitioned and replicated across multiple availability zones within an AWS region, and DynamoDB supports eventual or strong consistency for read operations
Prometheus uses a pull-based model where it scrapes metrics from configured targets at given intervals. It stores time series data in a custom, efficient, local storage format, and supports multi-dimensional data collection, querying, and alerting. It can be deployed as a single binary on a server or on a container platform like Kubernetes.
Serverless web applications, real-time bidding platforms, gaming leaderboards, IoT data management, high-velocity data processing
Monitoring, alerting, observability, system metrics, application metrics
Automatically scales to handle large amounts of read and write throughput, supports on-demand capacity and auto-scaling, global tables for multi-region replication
Prometheus is designed for reliability and can scale vertically (single node with increased resources) or through federation (hierarchical setup where Prometheus servers scrape metrics from other Prometheus servers)
AWS DynamoDB Overview
Amazon DynamoDB is a managed NoSQL database service provided by AWS. It was first introduced in 2012, and it was designed to provide low-latency, high-throughput performance. DynamoDB is built on the principles of the Dynamo paper, which was published by Amazon engineers in 2007, and it aims to offer a highly available, scalable, and distributed key-value store.
Prometheus is an open-source monitoring and alerting toolkit initially developed at SoundCloud in 2012. It has since become a widely adopted monitoring solution and a part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project. Prometheus focuses on providing real-time insights and alerts for containerized and microservices-based environments. Its primary use case is monitoring infrastructure and applications, with an emphasis on reliability and scalability.
AWS DynamoDB for Time Series Data
DynamoDB can be used with time series data, although it may not be the most optimized solution compared to specialized time series databases. To store time series data in DynamoDB, you can use a composite primary key with a partition key for the entity identifier and a sort key for the timestamp. This allows you to efficiently query data for a specific entity and time range. However, DynamoDB’s main weakness when dealing with time series data is its lack of built-in support for data aggregation and downsampling, which are common requirements for time series analysis. You may need to perform these operations in your application or use additional services like AWS Lambda to process the data.
Prometheus for Time Series Data
Prometheus is specifically designed for time series data, as its primary focus is on monitoring and alerting based on the state of infrastructure and applications. It uses a pull-based model, where the Prometheus server scrapes metrics from the target systems at regular intervals. This model is suitable for monitoring dynamic environments, as it allows for automatic discovery and monitoring of new instances. However, Prometheus is not intended as a general-purpose time series database and might not be the best choice for high cardinality or long-term data storage.
AWS DynamoDB Key Concepts
Some of the key terms and concepts specific to DynamoDB include:
- Tables: In DynamoDB, data is stored in tables, which are containers for items. Each table has a primary key that uniquely identifies each item in the table.
- Items: Items are individual records in a DynamoDB table, and they consist of one or more attributes.
- Attributes: Attributes are key-value pairs that make up an item in a table. DynamoDB supports scalar, document, and set data types for attributes.
- Primary Key: The primary key uniquely identifies each item in a table, and it can be either a single-attribute partition key or a composite partition-sort key.
Prometheus Key Concepts
- Metric: A numeric representation of a particular aspect of a system, such as CPU usage or memory consumption.
- Time Series: A collection of data points for a metric, indexed by timestamp.
- Label: A key-value pair that provides metadata and context for a metric, enabling more granular querying and aggregation.
- PromQL: Prometheus uses its own query language called PromQL (Prometheus Query Language) for querying time series data and generating alerts.
AWS DynamoDB Architecture
DynamoDB is a NoSQL database that uses a key-value store and document data model. It is designed to provide high availability, durability, and scalability by automatically partitioning data across multiple servers and using replication to ensure fault tolerance. Some of the main components of DynamoDB include:
- Partitioning: DynamoDB automatically partitions data based on the partition key, which ensures that data is evenly distributed across multiple storage nodes.
- Replication: DynamoDB replicates data across multiple availability zones within an AWS region, providing high availability and durability.
- Consistency: DynamoDB offers two consistency models: eventual consistency and strong consistency, allowing you to choose the appropriate level of consistency for your application.
Prometheus is a single-server, standalone monitoring system that uses a pull-based approach to collect metrics from target systems. It stores time series data in a custom, highly compressed, on-disk format, optimized for fast querying and low resource usage. The architecture of Prometheus is modular and extensible, with components like exporters, service discovery mechanisms, and integrations with other monitoring systems. As a non-distributed system, it lacks built-in clustering or horizontal scalability, but it supports federation, allowing multiple Prometheus servers to share and aggregate data.
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AWS DynamoDB Features
DynamoDB can automatically scale its read and write capacity based on the workload, allowing you to maintain consistent performance without over-provisioning resources.
Backup and restore
DynamoDB provides built-in support for point-in-time recovery, enabling you to restore your table to a previous state within the last 35 days.
DynamoDB global tables enable you to replicate your table across multiple AWS regions, providing low-latency access and data redundancy for global applications.
DynamoDB Streams capture item-level modifications in your table and can be used to trigger AWS Lambda functions for real-time processing or to synchronize data with other AWS services.
Prometheus collects metrics by actively scraping targets, enabling automatic discovery and monitoring of dynamic environments.
The powerful Prometheus Query Language allows for expressive and flexible querying of time series data.
Prometheus supports alerting based on user-defined rules and integrates with various alert management and notification systems.
AWS DynamoDB Use Cases
DynamoDB can be used to store session data for web applications, providing fast and scalable access to session information.
DynamoDB can be used to store player data, game state, and other game-related information for online games, providing low-latency and high-throughput performance.
Internet of Things
DynamoDB can be used to store and process sensor data from IoT devices, enabling real-time monitoring and analysis of device data.
Prometheus Use Cases
Prometheus is widely used for monitoring the health and performance of containerized and microservices-based infrastructure, including Kubernetes and Docker environments.
Application Performance Monitoring (APM)
Prometheus can collect custom application metrics using client libraries and monitor application performance in real-time.
Alerting and Anomaly Detection
Prometheus enables organizations to set up alerts based on specific thresholds or conditions, helping them identify and respond to potential issues or anomalies quickly.
AWS DynamoDB Pricing Model
DynamoDB offers two pricing options: provisioned capacity and on-demand capacity. With provisioned capacity, you specify the number of reads and writes per second that you expect your application to require, and you are charged based on the amount of provisioned capacity. This pricing model is suitable for applications with predictable traffic or gradually ramping traffic. You can use auto scaling to adjust your table’s capacity automatically based on the specified utilization rate, ensuring application performance while reducing costs.
On the other hand, with on-demand capacity, you pay per request for the data reads and writes your application performs on your tables. You do not need to specify how much read and write throughput you expect your application to perform, as DynamoDB instantly accommodates your workloads as they ramp up or down. This pricing model is suitable for applications with fluctuating or unpredictable traffic patterns.
Prometheus Pricing Model
Prometheus is an open-source project, and there are no licensing fees associated with its use. However, costs can arise from hardware, hosting, and operational expenses when deploying a self-managed Prometheus server. Additionally, several cloud-based managed Prometheus services, such as Grafana Cloud and Weave Cloud, offer different pricing models based on factors like data retention, query rate, and support.
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