Design Considerations for Indexes in Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is a powerful NoSQL database service that offers remarkable scalability and flexibility. As you dive into DynamoDB's capabilities, one aspect that requires careful consideration is the design of indexes. Indexes play a pivotal role in optimizing data access patterns and improving query performance. In this blog post, we'll explore essential design considerations for creating effective indexes in DynamoDB, ensuring your applications can retrieve data efficiently and with minimal latency.

  1. Identify Access Patterns:
    Before creating indexes, it's crucial to identify the primary access patterns your application requires. Understand the types of queries users will perform frequently and the attributes they will use as filters or sorting criteria. This initial step lays the foundation for designing indexes that cater to specific use cases.
  2. Primary Keys:
    DynamoDB tables have primary keys, and understanding their structure is fundamental to creating effective indexes. The primary key consists of the partition key (required) and an optional sort key. When designing indexes, consider whether to include these attributes or opt for alternative keys that align with specific query patterns.
  3. Local Secondary Indexes (LSIs):
    LSIs are powerful for expanding query capabilities within a single partition. When designing LSIs, remember that they share the same partition key as the base table. Choose attributes that complement your access patterns and enable sorting or filtering within a partition. LSIs can be particularly useful for scenarios where you need to retrieve specific data subsets quickly.
  4. Global Secondary Indexes (GSIs):
    GSIs provide the ability to query across different partitions, making them valuable for diverse access patterns. Design GSIs with careful attention to partition key selection, as it determines data distribution across partitions. Also, consider including attributes in the GSI that are frequently used in queries to avoid fetching data from the base table.
  5. Projected Attributes:
    When designing indexes, you can choose which attributes to include in the index. This decision impacts the size of the index and the data you can retrieve without accessing the base table. Carefully select projected attributes to strike a balance between query efficiency and storage costs.
  6. Composite Keys:
    Composite keys, consisting of both partition and sort keys, offer flexibility in query operations. However, ensure that the key attributes have high cardinality to distribute data evenly across partitions. Choosing appropriate composite keys can significantly impact query performance and data distribution.
  7. Write Amplification:
    Indexes influence write performance as well. With every write operation, DynamoDB updates all relevant indexes. Be mindful of the write capacity units (WCUs) required for maintaining indexes. Over-indexing or creating unnecessary indexes can lead to write amplification and increased costs.
  8. Sparse Indexes:
    Sparse indexes are GSIs that include only a subset of the table's data. They are useful for specific query patterns but may lead to gaps in data retrieval. Consider sparse indexes when the use case demands it, but also be aware of potential limitations.


Designing effective indexes in Amazon DynamoDB requires a deep understanding of your application's access patterns and query requirements. By carefully choosing primary keys, leveraging LSIs and GSIs, and projecting the right attributes, you can create indexes that optimize data retrieval, improve query performance, and enhance overall application responsiveness. Remember that index design is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it requires continuous evaluation and optimization as your application evolves.

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