Sorry, Amazon DynamoDB is not column-based, and it is not OLAP

7 min readMay 1, 2024

Another interview story.

The story

It was an architect position.

Me: “Okay let’s start the interview Here you mentioned that redesigned the database and improved System performance by 50%, could you elaborate more ?”

A: “Sure, our existing database was MySQL and it was very slow when generating reports, we needed to move into a column-based database, so we looked into OLAP.”

Me: “I see, could you explain more why OLAP makes sense for your use case ?”

A: ”Yup of course. Because OLAP is a column-based database, so if we query certain columns for the entire table and do aggregation is faster, compared to traditional OLTP, like MySQL”

Me: “Which makes sense to me, and may I know which OLAP database you switched to? what else databases have you tested?”

A: “It was dynamoDB.”

This answer shocked me. As Amazon dynamoDB is a pure NoSQL and has nothing to do with OLAP at all, I think I was being cheated! but to know more about the candidate, I continued the interview process.

Me: “Are you sure DynamoDB is column-based? And what could be the downside of a column-based database?”

A: “Yes it is. and I’m not sure about the downside yet because we just started using it, we will see.”




A channel which focusing on developer growth and self improvement