Managing Global Secondary Indexes - Amazon DynamoDB

Managing Global Secondary Indexes

This section describes how to create, modify, and delete global secondary indexes in Amazon DynamoDB.

Creating a Table with Global Secondary Indexes

To create a table with one or more global secondary indexes, use the CreateTable operation with the GlobalSecondaryIndexes parameter. For maximum query flexibility, you can create up to 20 global secondary indexes (default quota) per table.

You must specify one attribute to act as the index partition key. You can optionally specify another attribute for the index sort key. It is not necessary for either of these key attributes to be the same as a key attribute in the table. For example, in the GameScores table (see Using Global Secondary Indexes in DynamoDB), neither TopScore nor TopScoreDateTime are key attributes. You could create a global secondary index with a partition key of TopScore and a sort key of TopScoreDateTime. You might use such an index to determine whether there is a correlation between high scores and the time of day a game is played.

Each index key attribute must be a scalar of type String, Number, or Binary. (It cannot be a document or a set.) You can project attributes of any data type into a global secondary index. This includes scalars, documents, and sets. For a complete list of data types, see Data Types.

If using provisioned mode, you must provide ProvisionedThroughput settings for the index, consisting of ReadCapacityUnits and WriteCapacityUnits. These provisioned throughput settings are separate from those of the table, but behave in similar ways. For more information, see Provisioned Throughput Considerations for Global Secondary Indexes.

Global secondary indexes inherit the read/write capacity mode from the base table. For more information, see Considerations When Changing Read/Write Capacity Mode.

Describing the Global Secondary Indexes on a Table

To view the status of all the global secondary indexes on a table, use the DescribeTable operation. The GlobalSecondaryIndexes portion of the response shows all of the indexes on the table, along with the current status of each ( IndexStatus).

The IndexStatus for a global secondary index will be one of the following:

  • CREATING — The index is currently being created, and is not yet available for use.

  • ACTIVE — The index is ready for use, and applications can perform Query operations on the index.

  • UPDATING — The provisioned throughput settings of the index are being changed.

  • DELETING — The index is currently being deleted, and can no longer be used.

When DynamoDB has finished building a global secondary index, the index status changes from CREATING to ACTIVE.

Adding a Global Secondary Index to an Existing Table

To add a global secondary index to an existing table, use the UpdateTable operation with the GlobalSecondaryIndexUpdates parameter. You must provide the following:

  • An index name. The name must be unique among all the indexes on the table.

  • The key schema of the index. You must specify one attribute for the index partition key; you can optionally specify another attribute for the index sort key. It is not necessary for either of these key attributes to be the same as a key attribute in the table. The data types for each schema attribute must be scalar: String, Number, or Binary.

  • The attributes to be projected from the table into the index:

    • KEYS_ONLY — Each item in the index consists only of the table partition key and sort key values, plus the index key values.

    • INCLUDE — In addition to the attributes described in KEYS_ONLY, the secondary index includes other non-key attributes that you specify.

    • ALL — The index includes all of the attributes from the source table.

  • The provisioned throughput settings for the index, consisting of ReadCapacityUnits and WriteCapacityUnits. These provisioned throughput settings are separate from those of the table.

You can only create one global secondary index per UpdateTable operation.

Phases of Index Creation

When you add a new global secondary index to an existing table, the table continues to be available while the index is being built. However, the new index is not available for Query operations until its status changes from CREATING to ACTIVE.

Behind the scenes, DynamoDB builds the index in two phases:

Resource Allocation

DynamoDB allocates the compute and storage resources that are needed for building the index.

During the resource allocation phase, the IndexStatus attribute is CREATING and the Backfilling attribute is false. Use the DescribeTable operation to retrieve the status of a table and all of its secondary indexes.

While the index is in the resource allocation phase, you can't delete the index or delete its parent table. You also can't modify the provisioned throughput of the index or the table. You cannot add or delete other indexes on the table. However, you can modify the provisioned throughput of these other indexes.

Backfilling

For each item in the table, DynamoDB determines which set of attributes to write to the index based on its projection (KEYS_ONLY, INCLUDE, or ALL). It then writes these attributes to the index. During the backfill phase, DynamoDB tracks the items that are being added, deleted, or updated in the table. The attributes from these items are also added, deleted, or updated in the index as appropriate.

During the backfilling phase, the IndexStatus attribute is set to CREATING, and the Backfilling attribute is true. Use the DescribeTable operation to retrieve the status of a table and all of its secondary indexes.

While the index is backfilling, you cannot delete its parent table. However, you can still delete the index or modify the provisioned throughput of the table and any of its global secondary indexes.

Note

During the backfilling phase, some writes of violating items might succeed while others are rejected. After backfilling, all writes to items that violate the new index's key schema are rejected. We recommend that you run the Violation Detector tool after the backfill phase finishes to detect and resolve any key violations that might have occurred. For more information, see Detecting and Correcting Index Key Violations.

While the resource allocation and backfilling phases are in progress, the index is in the CREATING state. During this time, DynamoDB performs read operations on the table. You are not charged for read operations from the base table to populate the global secondary index. However, you are charged for write operations to populate the newly created global secondary index.

When the index build is complete, its status changes to ACTIVE. You can't Query or Scan the index until it is ACTIVE.

Note

In some cases, DynamoDB can't write data from the table to the index because of index key violations. This can occur if:

  • The data type of an attribute value does not match the data type of an index key schema data type.

  • The size of an attribute exceeds the maximum length for an index key attribute.

  • An index key attribute has an empty String or empty Binary attribute value.

Index key violations do not interfere with global secondary index creation. However, when the index becomes ACTIVE, the violating keys are not present in the index.

DynamoDB provides a standalone tool for finding and resolving these issues. For more information, see Detecting and Correcting Index Key Violations.

Adding a Global Secondary Index to a Large Table

The time required for building a global secondary index depends on several factors, such as the following:

  • The size of the table

  • The number of items in the table that qualify for inclusion in the index

  • The number of attributes projected into the index

  • The provisioned write capacity of the index

  • Write activity on the main table during index builds

If you are adding a global secondary index to a very large table, it might take a long time for the creation process to complete. To monitor progress and determine whether the index has sufficient write capacity, consult the following Amazon CloudWatch metrics:

  • OnlineIndexPercentageProgress

  • OnlineIndexConsumedWriteCapacity

  • OnlineIndexThrottleEvents

Note

For more information about CloudWatch metrics related to DynamoDB, see DynamoDB Metrics.

If the provisioned write throughput setting on the index is too low, the index build will take longer to complete. To shorten the time it takes to build a new global secondary index, you can increase its provisioned write capacity temporarily.

Note

As a general rule, we recommend setting the provisioned write capacity of the index to 1.5 times the write capacity of the table. This is a good setting for many use cases. However, your actual requirements might be higher or lower.

While an index is being backfilled, DynamoDB uses internal system capacity to read from the table. This is to minimize the impact of the index creation and to assure that your table does not run out of read capacity.

However, it is possible that the volume of incoming write activity might exceed the provisioned write capacity of the index. This is a bottleneck scenario, in which the index creation takes more time because the write activity to the index is throttled. During the index build, we recommend that you monitor the Amazon CloudWatch metrics for the index to determine whether its consumed write capacity is exceeding its provisioned capacity. In a bottleneck scenario, you should increase the provisioned write capacity on the index to avoid write throttling during the backfill phase.

After the index has been created, you should set its provisioned write capacity to reflect the normal usage of your application.

Deleting a Global Secondary Index

If you no longer need a global secondary index, you can delete it using the UpdateTable operation.

You can delete only one global secondary index per UpdateTable operation.

While the global secondary index is being deleted, there is no effect on any read or write activity in the parent table. While the deletion is in progress, you can still modify the provisioned throughput on other indexes.

Note

When you delete a table using the DeleteTable action, all of the global secondary indexes on that table are also deleted.

Modifying a Global Secondary Index during Creation

While an index is being built, you can use the DescribeTable operation to determine what phase it is in. The description for the index includes a Boolean attribute, Backfilling, to indicate whether DynamoDB is currently loading the index with items from the table. If Backfilling is true, the resource allocation phase is complete and the index is now backfilling.

While the backfill is proceeding, you can update the provisioned throughput parameters for the index. You might decide to do this in order to speed up the index build: You can increase the write capacity of the index while it is being built, and then decrease it afterward. To modify the provisioned throughput settings of the index, use the UpdateTable operation. The index status changes to UPDATING, and Backfilling is true until the index is ready for use.

During the backfilling phase, you can delete the index that is being created. During this phase, you can't add or delete other indexes on the table.

Note

For indexes that were created as part of a CreateTable operation, the Backfilling attribute does not appear in the DescribeTable output. For more information, see Phases of Index Creation.