Simplifying Mobile App Data Management with DynamoDB's Fine-Grained Access Control

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Speed of development, scalability, and simplicity of management are among the critical needs of mobile developers. With the proliferation of mobile devices and users, and small agile teams that are tasked with building successful mobile apps that can grow from 100 users to 1 million users in a few days, scalability of the underlying infrastructure and simplicity of management are more important than ever. We created DynamoDB to make it easy to set up and scale databases so that developers can focus on building great apps without worrying about the muck of managing the database infrastructure. As I have mentioned previously, companies like Crittercism and Dropcam have already built exciting mobile businesses leveraging DynamoDB. Today, we are further simplifying mobile app development with our newest DynamoDB feature, Fine-Grained Access Control, which gives you the ability to directly and securely access mobile application data in DynamoDB.

One of the pieces of a mobile infrastructure that developers have to build and maintain is the fleet of proxy servers that authorize requests coming from millions of mobile devices. This proxy tier allows vetted requests to continue to DynamoDB and then filters responses so the user only receives permitted items and attributes. So, if I am building a mobile gaming app, I must run a proxy fleet that ensures “” only retrieves his game state and nothing else. While Web Identity Federation, which we introduced a few months back, allowed using public identity providers such as Login with Amazon, Facebook, or Google for authentication, it still required a developer to build and deploy a proxy layer in front of DynamoDB for this type of authorization

With Fine-Grained Access Control, we solve this problem by enabling you to author access policies that include conditions that describe additional levels of filtering and control. This eliminates the need for the proxy layer, simplifies the application stack, and results in cost savings. Using access control this way involves a setup phase of authenticating the user (step 1) and obtaining IAM credentials (step 2). After these steps, the mobile app may directly perform permitted operations on DynamoDB (step 3).

With today’s launch, apps running on mobile devices can send workloads to a DynamoDB table, row, or even a column without going through an intervening proxy layer. For instance, the developer of a mobile app will use Fine-Grained Access Control to restrict the synchronization of user data (e.g. Game history) across the many devices the user has the app installed on. This capability allows apps running on mobile devices to modify only rows belonging to a specific user. Also, by consolidating users’ data in a DynamoDB table, you can obtain real-time insights over the user base, at large scale, without going through expensive joins and batch approaches such as scatter / gather.

To get started, please see the Fine-Grained Access Control documentation and Jeff Barr’s blog.