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I read through the DynamoDB pricing page and I'm a little confused about their free usage tier. Let's say a developer want's to get started on DynamoDB and he gets 100MB of free storage + 5 writes and 10 reads per second.

Since a table cannot be created below 5w/r5 capacity that would mean a developer trying DynamoDB can only create 2 tables at max.

That would also mean that if someone had to create several tables during development, they would have to pay about $7.50 (resp half if only 5w is used) a month for a table that sits there and more or less does nothing.

Is that correct?

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I think this is something that only the DynamoDB folks could actually answer. – EBGreen Jan 25 '12 at 16:41
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Update

The smallest provisioned throughput one can request has meanwhile been reduced to 1w/1r capacity units, see Amazon DynamoDB - Reduced Minimum Throughput for details, which specifically addresses the problem at hand:

The AWS Free Usage Tier allows you to consume up to 100 MB of DynamoDB storage, 5 read capacity units, and 5 write capacity units per month. As a very beneficial side effect of today's announcement, you can now create up to 5 tables within the Free Usage Tier. [emphasis mine]


Original Answer

Since a table cannot be created below 5w/r5 capacity that would mean a developer trying DynamoDB can only create 2 tables at max.

You are correct, as more clearly outlined in the respective FAQ entry What is the minimum throughput I can provision for a single DynamoDB table?:

The smallest provisioned throughput you can request is 5 write capacity units and 5 read capacity units.

This falls within the free tier, which allows for 5 units of write capacity and 10 units of read capacity. The free tier applies to the account level, not the table level. A given account may create a single table with 5 units of write capacity and 10 units of read capacity.

The resulting one table limitation might be considered a rather significant restriction concerning the other AWS Free Usage Tier elements indeed, but on the other hand you can't handle serious real world scenarios with a single EC2 micro instance either (though technically there are two available as of recently).

The Amazon DynamoDB use cases are clearly targeting respectively advanced scenarios, thus a free tier is probably not considered a necessity outside of testing scenarios.

That would also mean that if someone had to create several tables during development, they would have to pay about $7.50 (resp half if only 5w is used) a month for a table that sits there and more or less does nothing.

That's correct as well - by satisfying the advanced customer need for provisioned throughput, Amazon introduces a new pricing model, as summarized in section Throughput Reservation within the elaborate technical and business analysis Amazon DynamoDB: First Look:

This type of atomic service level provisioning is both differentiating and compelling for certain customer types. Promising single digit latency at a selected throughput level with zero customer effort required is likely to be attractive for customers that require – or think they require – a particular service level. And by requiring customers to manually determine their required provisioning level, Amazon stands to benefit from customer overprovisioning; customers will feel pain if they’re under-provisioned and react, but conversely may fail to observe that they’re over. Much like mobile carriers, Amazon wins in both scenarios.

Again, this highlights the target market: customers with significant requirements and respectively guaranteed service level. Once you actually fall into that category, paying a small premium for an idling table eventually isn't going to be of any concern compared to the benefits of the service ;)

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Amazon has since changed the minimum, it's now 1r/1w for table. – Alan Nov 24 '12 at 6:52
    
@Alan - thanks for pointing this out, I've updated the answer accordingly. – Steffen Opel Nov 24 '12 at 13:26

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