DynamoDB vs. Cassandra: Which Database Is a Great Fit for Your Business?

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If you need a new database for your business, Amazon Web Services DynamoDB and Apache Cassandra are two of the most prominent options. Choosing between them isn’t easy, but this breakdown will help you feel more informed and confident.

Open-Source vs. Managed

One of the biggest differences between DynamoDB and Cassandra is that the former is a fee-based, Amazon-managed product, while Cassandra is open source and free to download. The open-source nature of Cassandra gives you more flexibility and prevents getting locked into the Amazon product ecosystem.

Conversely, you may want the additional support that comes with using a managed product such as DynamoDB. Amazon’s professionals handle provisioning and scaling details, which some decision-makers prefer.

Before finalizing your decision, familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of the open-source versus managed model. Making a confident choice requires carefully considering specific business needs to determine which product will operate the most cohesively with your operations.

Data Security

Both databases have excellent built-in data security features, but they differ slightly in functionality. For example, in Cassandra, users can specify access privileges to people based on roles. Someone with the tightest security and lowest privilege level could access a single row.

An administrator using DynamoDB would instead assign specific privileges and access keys per user. The lowest access level is to one attribute. That approach provides more customization, which could be advantageous if you have a large organization or people who need varying access based on how they’ll use the database.

Data Types

Thinking about the data your company has is also worthwhile. DynamoDB is a centralized database best for storing structured data. Cassandra is a distributed product people typically use to store unstructured data.

Go beyond the data your enterprise has now and think about its plans. Do you anticipate any changes in the short to medium-term future that would cause the business to start having more or less of one of those data types? If so, consider basing your decision on what will be different to be proactive.

Intended Uses

Various things encourage people to advocate for using databases at their businesses. Perhaps you’re involved with a charitable organization that frequently applies for and receives grant funds. If so, grant reports show the success in meeting proposed objectives. They also usually have strict timeline submission requirements, meaning people at your company must know how to access the required data well before it’s time to provide the report.

Even if your business does not regularly use databases now, that could change before long. Numerous people familiar with the matter believe database adoption rates will only grow in the future, making these tools necessary.

Since Cassandra is a free product, you can start with it if your enterprise is in the early stages of database usage or has a minimal budget. On the other hand, you may feel money is well spent on a managed product because it doesn’t require extensive on-site setup or expertise.


When people think about which databases to use, scalability will almost always be under consideration. Even if they don’t need to scale up immediately, most company leaders aim to grow their organizations.

Cassandra allows people to scale up on demand. It provides the computing power and storage capacity to support an organization’s changing needs.

DynamoDB facilitates scalability, too, but everything happens in the background on a serverless platform. Since it’s a managed service, customers don’t have to handle resource increases themselves, but the associated costs to use the tool may rise.

User Support

Whether your company is new to using databases or has been doing so for years, instances may arise where you need support to overcome challenges. Cassandra has extensive documentation to explore and a community you can rely on for more help.

Something to keep in mind is the database’s open-source nature may mean it takes longer to resolve bugs. However, that’s not always the case because problems often get found and fixed faster when an open-source product has an active and committed user base.

You’ll also find plenty of resources associated with DynamoDB, whether you want to read a blog post or attend a webinar. Something to consider is DynamoDB offers expert help for a fee, so think about whether your budget and use cases justify an extra expense.

Getting the Best Outcomes

Time and dedication are essential to determine the most appropriate database for your business. Whether you end up going with DynamoDB, Cassandra or another option, allow plenty of time to weigh the options, and think of each in the context of your company’s current situation and future needs.

Then, after selecting the database, provide all users ample time to learn it and get answers to any questions that arise. That learning period is vital for helping people get the most out of the tool.

About the Author

April Miller is a senior IT and cybersecurity writer for ReHack Magazine who specializes in AI, big data, and machine learning while writing on topics across the technology realm. You can find her work on ReHack.com and by following ReHack’s Twitter page.

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