Persistent Counters in SimpleDB

I’ve already discussed the new consistency features of Amazon SimpleDB. One of the things people have wished for in SimpleDB was a way to manage a universal counter, something similar to an auto-incrementing primary key in MySQL. The consistency features allow clients to implement such a thing very easily. The following is an algorithm;

Read value
Write value+1, but only if the previous value is what we just read
If write failed, increment value and try again
else return new value

To make it easy for Java programmers to do this with typica, I’ve added a Counter class. Usage is very simple as you can see by this example;

SimpleDB sdb = new SimpleDB("AccessId", "SecretKey");
Domain dom = sdb.createDomain("MyDomain");
Counter c = new Counter(dom, "counter1");
for (int i=0; i<20; i++) {
	System.err.println("next val = "+c.nextValue());

This code creates a counter and initializes it if there isn’t a current value. It uses a Iterator-like interface, but there is no test for next value because there always is one. The Counter object is stateless, so it relies totally on SimpleDB for its value. This will work very well on multiple app servers, all relying on the same counter for unique values.

To avoid this blog getting out of date, I won’t include the counter code here, rather you can browse it in SVN.

Code has been checked into SVN r311. I’ll update this post once the new version of typica is released which includes this.

For those seeking a more pythonic version, have a look here.


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