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Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide: Book Review

Amazon Web Services is undoubtedly one of the mature Cloud Computing offerings. They offer a comprehensive infrastructure that can be leveraged by all developers irrespective of their preferred platform. While the developers can find ample number of books covering .NET, Java or even some of the new technologies like Windows Azure and Google App Engine, AWS has not many books available in the market to help developers learn the implementation and best practices. Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide is one of the few books that attempts at providing the required guidance for consuming the AWS SimpleDB service. This book is authored by Prabhakar Chaganti, founder and CTO of Ylastic and Rich Helms, an experienced software architect. This book is targeted towards developers who are experienced in developing distributed applications and web applications.

Amazon SimpleDB Developers Guide

Chapter one introduces the terminology and the key concepts of SimpleDB like Domain, Item, Attributes and Values. It also covers the pricing model and the benefits of using this service. Chapter two dives deep into the sign-up process, the essential tools and libraries to write your first program that talks to SimpleDB. Chapter three takes a look at the NOSQL paradigm by comparing it with RDBMS. This chapter also introduces the eventual consistency of SimpleDB and touches upon the pros and cons of switching to this model. The next chapter covers the programming model in detail. This has code samples that cover the key scenarios of consuming the SimpleDB service. Chapter five deals with the data types and shows how to handle them through the programming languages. The sixth chapter covers the critical concepts of querying the database and introduces the SQL predicates. This chapter shows how to optimize and efficiently use the queries to minimize the ‘Box Usage’. Since SimpleDB is used in conjunction with S3 which is the blob storage service, seventh chapter introduces S3 and using it along with SimpleDB through a real world scenario. Chapter eight drills into the billing model and suggest advanced techniques of optimizing for the ‘Box Usage’ billing model. The next chapter deals with caching and introduces memcache in conjunction with SimpleDB. It also covers the code that shows the pattern of fetching from cache without hitting SimpleDB all the time. Tenth chapter, the last chapter covers the parallel processing through multithreading and concurrent access.

What I liked in the book:

  • Comprehensive approach that covers the entire spectrum of SimpleDB
  • Right balance between concepts and code
  • Real world scenarios that are simple to visualize and understand
  • Goes beyond the basics by expanding the scope to S3 and caching

What could have made it better –

  • Microsoft developers are completely left out. No coverage of AWS .NET SDK and Tools
  • Few chapters have more code than the concepts
  • Same code in three languages makes it repetitive and brings fatigue to the reader

I recommend this book to any Cloud Developer who wants a hands-on introduction to a NoSQL database and Amazon SimpleDB.

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Janakiram MSV heads the Cloud Infrastructure Services at Aditi Technologies. He was the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. In his current role, he leads a highly talented engineering team that focuses on migrating and managing applications deployed on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.
Janakiram is an industry analyst with deep understanding of Cloud services. Through his speaking, writing and analysis, he helps businesses take advantage of the emerging technologies. He leverages his experience of engaging with the industry in developing informative and practical research, analysis and authoritative content to inform, influence and guide decision makers. He analyzes market trends, new products / features, announcements, industry happenings and the impact of executive transitions.
Janakiram is one of the first few Microsoft Certified Professionals on Windows Azure in India. Demystifying The Cloud, an eBook authored by Janakiram is downloaded more than 100,000 times within the first few months. He is the Chief Editor of a popular portal on Cloud called www.CloudStory.in that covers the latest trends in Cloud Computing. Janakiram is an analyst with the GigaOM Pro analyst network where he analyzes the Cloud Services landscape. He is a guest faculty at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) where he teaches Big Data and Cloud Computing to students enrolled for the Masters course. As a passionate speaker, he has chaired the Cloud Computing track at premier events in India.
He has been the keynote speaker at many premier conferences, and his seminars are attended by thousands of architects, developers and IT professionals. His sessions are rated among the best in every conference he participates.
Janakiram has worked at the world-class product companies including Microsoft Corporation, Amazon Web Services and Alcatel-Lucent. Joining as the first employee of Amazon Web Services in India, he was the AWS Technology Evangelist. Prior to that, Janakiram spent 10 years at Microsoft Corporation where he was involved in selling, marketing and evangelizing the Microsoft Application Platform and Tools.