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Best Blog Software for Both Beginners & Developers to Use

To select the best blog software for our readers, we have reviewed dozens of blog applications mainly from feature and support. As a result, we found that the ones introduced below are the best, coming with a large number of highlights to enable bloggers to get started easily and manage their blogs effortlessly.

The most common and efficient way to set up a blog is to utilize blogging software. Doing this way, normal bloggers, especially beginners, can either save the time and energy of working on building a blog manually or save the budget spent in hiring a web developer to handle the code-related process. There are dozens of choices, and we only select the best ones to introduce here. All of them are backed by a large community of developers and contributors, and come with great ease of use.

In below, we have worked out a comprehensive review to list the main information of them to explain why they are the best. Move on to the details.

WordPress

Website: http://wordpress.org/

WordPress, which is both free and priceless at the same time, is PHP open source software that can be used to create a beautiful blog. It is easy to install and upgrade this software. If you want to use an FTP program, you are able to create a database, upload WordPress using FTP and run the installer. If you are not familiar with FTP, you need to choose a web host offering 1-click script installer to help you install this application with a few clicks.

WordPress is the most widely-used blogging platform as well as CMS around the world that has over 60 million loyal fans including some large and well brands like eBay, Metro UK, Variety and BBC America. Starting as simply a personal blogging tool, now WordPress is adopted for all kinds of mainstream purposes, such as education, technology, e-commerce, etc.

WordPress is backed by a huge community consisting of millions of users in all levels of knowledge on this software – from beginners with nearly no technical skills to web developers having been devoted to the online development for years. With the contributions of so many people, WordPress comes with excellent customizability, with which users can make any changes they like to give a new look or add new functionality to their blogs.

Reliability is the most important factor to evaluate software. According to our experience, most software complaints come from mass of bugs and problems, and meanwhile, most happy experience come from reliability. In this case, WordPress has been proven to be a reliable software for many years so far.

More highlights of this blog software are listed in below.

  • Simplicity & flexibility.
  • Available in more than 70 languages.
  • Built-in comments & search engine optimization.
  • Thousands of free elegant-designed themes & plugins.
  • Textpattern

    Website: http://textpattern.com/

    As a reputed blogging tool, Textpattern has great flexibility and extensibility which are loved much by web designers, developers, publisher, and bloggers (the largest part of its customer base). The powerful and sophisticated engine makes this CMS a suitable choice for whatever types of blog and other website that you can imagine.

    Textpattern is a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use, with numerous built-in tags and reusable code partials that enable you to fully control the presentations of the content of your blog. With a browser-based interface in more than 40 languages, excellent support and full range of features, this software is suitable for publishers, designers and developers to establish a blog.

    The admin interface of Textpattern is minimalist, efficient and clearly labeled, with which bloggers can easily get on with publishing and managing content. Built-in tags and textile are also coming with the software, which enables users to have complete control over the content and presentation, as well as get the ability to transform plain text into fully-formatted web content in seconds.

    What’s more, if you want to go beyond the software’ default capabilities, you are allowed to quickly install any of hundreds of available plugins or create your own in PHP. Moreover, In the Textpattern’s wiki, technicians and engineers have worked out a pile of in-depth articles with a lot of information about software installation, administration, themes and plugins. If you can’t find the answers you need in the wiki, you can check the official forum or contact the company’s community.

    b2evolution

    Website: http://www.b2evolution.net/

    b2evolution is a popular CCMS (Content + Community Management System) that is mostly used to set up and manage multiple blogs. Being free and open source under GNU GPL, you can freely download and install this software to fully power your own blogs.

    b2evolution can run on any web hosting platforms supporting the recent versions of PHP and MySQL, and it is another state-of-the-art publishing system besides WordPress, with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and ease of use. Besides, b2evolution comes with many features including an extensive plugin and skin system.

    Nucleus CMS

    Website: http://www.nucleuscms.org/

    Nucleus CMS is a self-hosted fully featured content management system that comes with the largest advantages in blog management. Now in version 3.65, it is one of the lightest, most flexible and secure options for maintaining one or multiple weblogs with a team of authors.

    Nucleus CMS has a large number of helpful blogging-related features which can be used to schedule works, boost search engine rankings, managing comments and categories, and so on. Also, there is a built-in backup system which allows users to create a backup version of the database contents with a simple one click to significantly reduce the risk of unexpected data loss.

    Weebly

    Website: http://www.weebly.com/

    Starting a blog with Weebly is very simple, because you have the ability to use flexible drag and drop interface to build your blog content quickly and easily. Moreover, the powerful design and publishing elements enables you to focus on your content while the Weebly services pull all the weight in the background. In addition, there are a plethora of widgets and media options in your blog dashboard, so that you can make it all work with ease, no matter you blog is about photo journal, video diary or literary review.

    More highlights of this software are :

    • Full control over layout and post structure allows you to create exceptional blog sites.
    • Complete category, tag and sidebar customization provide the key navigation and interaction elements modern blog visitors crave.
    • Free blog templates are able to work as standalone sites or pieces of a larger website.
    • RSS and social sharing feature are built into every blog to help amplify your message across the channels that matter.

    Typepad

    Website: http://www.typepad.com/

    Typepad is one of the most famous blog software, with which you are able to publish quickly and easily from your computer, mobile or even via email. In addition, this application allows you to tweak a theme with custom CSS. You just need to use the Theme Builder to easily build your own design or design your own template from the ground up. Moreover, you are able to use your blog built with Typepad to sell your products or services, run ads and join their effective affiliate program.

    In addition, you have the ability to see what is going on with your blog since the smart stats of audience integrated with Google analytics is on your blog. Furthermore, you are capable of using the beautiful templates and user-friendly design tools to handcraft you own special blog. If you had any problem about blogging, you are allowed to contact the professional Typepad team for help anytime.

    Drupal

    Website: http://drupal.org/

    Some people might be surprised at the selection of Drupal for blogging, as it is not commonly used for this purpose. But in fact, according to our review and experience, Drupal is a quite good CMS for building and maintaining fully featured blogs due to its user-friendly user interface and built-in blogging features.

    The functionality and customization possibilities are unlimited with Drupal because there are over 24,000 modules and themes available at Drupal.org, let alone the numerous ones at other marketplaces. The active community is still working on the development and extension of Drupal core.

    Wix

    Website: http://www.wix.com/

    Being a beginner, if you have sufficient ideas about PowerPoint presentation, then Wix is an appropriate tool for you. It is ranked as one of the best website building software available presently because of its versatility in the operations and simplification of tasks.

    Wix appreciates the fact that you are a beginner in the field of website building and provides you with a simple user interface. The drag and drop feature is one of the most attractive features of Wix because it allows you to upload content or images within minutes.

    One of the highlights of this website building tool is a series of templates facilitating the design and appearance of the website. However, the templates once applied cannot be changed after the project has initialized. To make it possible, the user has to start all over again.

    Wix offers a manageable storage and bandwidth limit of 500MB each.

    SquareSpace

    Website: https://www.squarespace.com/

    It is one of the most versatile website building software with some premium features for the prospective website makers. It offers a sleek design to the website that is full of attractive features and functions. Being premium website building software, it has several plans for its clients that help the clients choose the most appropriate one for their websites.

    When it comes to the technical specification, SquareSpace provides its remarkable service in various packages starting at $8 per month. Under the cheapest offering, SquareSpace allows 500GB of bandwidth, a mobile-compatible website with up to 20 pages and 2 GB storage. Adding to it, the client gets a custom domain and an all-time support. In its best plan, SquareSpace allows you to enjoy unlimited bandwidth in addition to other premium features.

    The best part of SquareSpace is that it allows the website to transform into WordPress in the long run to enjoy its highly customizable features.

    uCoz

    Website: https://www.ucoz.com/

    uCoz is a website building software having the simplest user interface. It is the software that builds websites for free. It offers many features to the users who choose to make a website using this software.

    Being a template-based website building tool for beginners, uCoz consists of about 250 default templates and 22 modules. Adding to it, it is compatible with tons of widgets and gadgets that can be customized into the website. It supports data backup and allows unlimited disk space to all its clients.

    Jimdo

    Website: https://www.jimdo.com/

    If you are looking forward to having a remarkable user interface on your website, there is no better solution than Jimdo. It is a website building software that consists of Dropbox integration and many attractive features. The Dropbox integration allows you to share or use the photos easily, thanks to the Dropbox account!

    Being a paid website building software, Jimdo has some very attractive features to offer. It has the ability of produce coupon codes which are required in multiple fields. Apart from it, Jimdo has an automated system of email where purchase confirmation emails are generated automatically.

    When it comes to the specification, you get about 20 custom email addresses which you can use for different legal purposes. Adding to it, Jimdo allows you to get unlimited storage.

    Conclusion

    Based on our review on the blogging tools’ features and users’ votes, WordPress is the deserved winner of the best blogging software that can be used to build a rich-featured, easy-to-use, and search engine friendly blog. However, as WordPress needs a server to reside on, we recommend the following 3 best web hosts for WordPress companies for their ability to well serve WordPress blogs with excellent reliability and high performance.

Is OpenStack Ready for Enterprises?

Currently there is a lot of talk justifiably about OpenStack because Enterprises, Telco Providers and SaaS vendors are all looking for an open source based Cloud OS stack alternative for their clouds. The early adopters in the hype cycle have already started deploying it, but the real question is whether OpenStack is ready for Enterprises to run their business critical applications on it. Before I answer this question, I will briefly describe what OpenStack is and will then give my opinion about OpenStack readiness.

OpenStack is a conglomeration of a number of distributed services like Compute (Nova), Network (Neutron), Storage (Cinder, Manila, Swift), GUI (Horizon), Monitoring (Ceilometer), Database (Trove) etc that together represent a Cloud OS. Companies such as HP, RedHat, Cisco, EMC, Mirantis are packaging these various services into distributions (similar to what RedHat does for Linux) and are providing support services.  In some cases these companies are also providing their own public clouds that are based on OpenStack.  For many of the current OpenStack services, the publically available code is not enterprise ready, and in these cases, vendors are augmenting the open source code with their own proprietary plugins. In essence, these companies are trying to become the private data center infra-structure provider of choice and are projecting themselves as the single neck to choke.

OpenStack definitely has momentum because of the amount of money big companies like Cisco, HP, EMC, Huawei and the Telco providers are ploughing into it. The attendance at the OpenStack conferences is steadily increasing every 6 months and a lot of new functionality is being delivered in each new OpenStack release (every 6 months).  It is safe to say that currently OpenStack seems to be having more momentum than other open source based cloud stacks like CloudStack.

However, here are my thoughts on what needs to be done in order for OpenStack to really become main-stream:

  • Too many Networking Initiatives: Currently, there are way too many networking initiatives like Neutron, OpenDaylight, ETSI-NFV, OP-NFV, ONF, and ONOS that at the end of the day are trying to provide a framework for SDN, NFV and Cloud OS networking. Some of these initiatives are being driven by networking vendors and others are being driven by Telco providers. Dust still has to settle with respect to which ones will gain traction. OpenStack networking community cannot do everything on its own, and they need to strategically adopt code bases/designs from these other standards groups.
  • Too many disparate services: Linux was successful because Linus Torvalds ensured that there was a single cohesive vision for the Linux Kernel. Currently, in OpenStack, there are many developer cliques that are driving the different OpenStack components. Hence, currently there is a lack of a cohesive vision with respect to the development of the features for these various OpenStack services. At Google, Microsoft and Amazon, there is a single individual whose neck is on the line for providing a set of cohesive cloud services. Thus, there is a need for a benevolent dictator in the OpenStack community.
  • AWS APIs Rule:  Many graduating students are getting their training in building applications using the Amazon AWS APIs because many universities have started letting their undergraduate students do their projects on AWS due to agility and cost reasons. Since OpenStack is playing catchup with AWS, it is critical for OpenStack to mimic AWS APIs in order to make it easier for new graduating students to code to OpenStack APIs.  So far Amazon has not started any litigation against OpenStack, and thus, copying AWS APIs is a positive strategy to pursue.
  • Difficult to Deploy and maintain:  Most of the enterprises that have successfully deployed OpenStack have either employed an army of consultants or are large government agencies with an army of internal hackers/developers. Furthermore, since the APIs/content is changing with every release of OpenStack, it requires expensive full-time technically savvy people to constantly maintain OpenStack deployments.

In conclusion, I want people to have an open source alternative in the Cloud OS space in order for people to have choice and also a vehicle to innovate. I want to see the OpenStack initiative succeed, and that is why I am highlighting the issues that I want to see get addressed.

Equinix Programmable Network (EPN): A Dynamic Foundation for Multi-cloud

Cloud computing is here to stay. Most enterprise CIOs I speak with are turning to the cloud to increase business agility and enable elasticity for both their application portfolios and business processes. And, in almost all cases, they are adopting more than one cloud platform to support their business applications – applications that require multiple services that run on multiple clouds. This practice of multi-cloud, multi-platform deployments addresses the unique requirements of these business applications, while also providing better value via higher availability and scale than single cloud deployments.

Yet, the move to this multi-cloud architecture can be hindered by the time and effort it takes to provision individual ports and connections to each cloud platform – often measured in weeks, not the seconds that are required to be truly agile. We designed the Equinix Cloud Exchange specifically to meet these provisioning needs and enable customers to connect to multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) either via colocating in an Equinix data center, or through their choice of network services providers (NSPs) through a single port connection.

At the heart of Equinix Cloud Exchange is the Equinix Programmable Network (EPN), the foundational layer that enables this.  EPN takes a software-defined networking (SDN) approach and allows customers to self-provision these connections instantaneously. It’s highly scalable, provides ease of management via automation and ensures customers can maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

As we continue to develop the EPN platform, we are ensuring that the core of the EPN software adheres to the following principles:

  • Agility and Management at Scale: Manually provisioning, monitoring and trouble-shooting network connections isn’t practical in an agile, multi-cloud era, in which CSPs, NSPs and cloud integrators deal with thousands of enterprises. EPN allows users to control network service management via a proven set of APIs that allow customers to self-provision multiple new connections instantaneously. Equinix Cloud Exchange is able to manage at scale because EPN has been architected to leverage an SDN-based approach, where users specify their requirements in high-level service-based terms and EPN automates the underlying low-level network management operations.
  • Modular Architecture: EPN employs a modular, service-based architecture through which new services are described via high-level YANG language models. Today, EPN provides Layer 2 connection management, virtual local area network (VLAN) management and link aggregation services. However, its modular architecture makes it easy for EPN to roll out new services in future releases at higher Open System Interconnection (OSI) networking layers and also to orchestrate third-party network management services.
  • Multi-Cloud Awareness: From the very beginning, EPN has been designed to operate in a multi-cloud environment. Thus, it uses the notion of “transactions” to configure distributed resources (e.g. switches) across multiple clouds as a single atomic operation.
  • Vendor Neutrality: EPN is a logically centralized SDN subsystem that is hardware vendor-agnostic. The SDN subsystem abstracts the underlying network topology. This allows both cloud providers and enterprises using EPN to seamlessly deploy switches from multiple vendors and maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

In sum, just as Equinix has grown to become a leader in providing interconnectivity solutions to Enterprises and NSPs, we are also leading the cloud interconnectivity industry through the capabilities of Equinix Cloud Exchange.  Equinix Cloud Exchange is a multi-cloud interconnectivity solution that satisfies the high performance, availability and security requirements of today’s CIOs.  With Equinix Programmable Network (EPN) at its core, it provides us with a software-defined, next-generation network management platform. EPN and Cloud Exchange put Equinix, its customers and its partners squarely at the forefront of the cloud industry.

Everyone is Talking about Docker Containers

Recently at the Google Cloud Platform Live, Amazon re:Invent, VMWare VWorld and at the OpenStack conference, everyone was talking about Docker containers. Even Microsoft has recently announced that it will provide support in the Windows operating system for Docker containers.  In this blog I will briefly talk about what is Docker, why is there so much excitement about it, and my take on how this development offers more choices to the end customers.

Simply put, Docker is an application level container mechanism. The main difference between a Docker container and a Virtual Machine container is that a Docker container is a lighter weight container that does not package the guest OS inside it, whereas, a Virtual Machine container is a heavier container that packages a guest OS. Thus, multiple Docker containers share the same underlying OS, whereas, each VM container has its own guest OS.  The Docker container paradigm allows one to have stateless application level compute containers, and it also allows for the storing of the persistent state of an application in a separate Docker storage container that can be shared across multiple Docker application containers.

In addition to a Docker container, one also needs a container orchestrator to move a Docker container between the nodes in a cluster, and eventually, across clouds. Google and Amazon are both supporting competing Docker container orchestrator initiatives. Google is putting its weight behind the Kubernetes open source initiative, and Amazon has recently announced the EC2 Container Service.  Cisco and VMWare are also planning to provide support for Docker containers in their multi-cloud initiatives such as InterCloud and vCloud Air.

The reason why there is so much excitement about Docker containers is because of the light-weight nature of these containers one can pack more Docker containers on to a physical server than VM containers.  Thus, this leads to higher resource utilization. Docker containers also allow for the seamless movement of applications across physical machines regardless of the hypervisors running on those physical machines. Eventually, the goal of the Docker paradigm is to allow developers to specify the infra-structure level policies with respect to performance, disaster recovery, security etc. at the Docker container level, and for the orchestrator to interpret these policies and take the necessary actions. This key development gives more control to the application developer with respect to the underlying infra-structure.

In addition to the above mentioned benefits, I am particularly excited about the following additional benefit which I think has not been talked about much in the community. Currently, it is not easy for a customer to easily move the entire state of their application across the different IaaS vendors because each of the IaaS vendors uses a different hypervisor or container mechanism. Thus, in future, if applications are architected into a combination of stateless application compute Docker containers, and stateful Docker storage containers, then this gives an application the freedom to move the stateless compute containers across the different IaaS providers, while keeping the stateful storage containers in a common location such as an Equinix datacenter that can be efficiently accessed from all of the IaaS vendors’ infra-structure.

Furthermore, this also allows various storage and database vendors (both SQL and NoSQL) to host their storage/database as a service in the Equinix datacenter. The net winner out of this entire paradigm shift will be the customers because they will be able to build their distributed multi-cloud applications by leveraging the services across multiple IaaS vendors while maintaining the stateful components of their applications in a common location like the Equinix datacenter. I am a strong believer in giving more choices to the customers, and whenever, there is a paradigm like the Docker containers, that allows customers to separately shop for compute and storage services, I am all in favor of it.

The Best Twitter Plugins For WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems or CMS that is widely used by various organizations, businesses as well as individuals. A range of online applications are made frequently using this CMS. A lot of users make use of Twitter plugins for WordPress in order to popularize their site and attract more potential customers towards the business or brand. Following are some of the most popular twitter Plugins for WordPress.

WPtouch

This plugin is undoubtedly one of the best Twitter plugins that you will use for WordPress. It offers some excellent features and usability to users. It works as a powerful mobile theme and helps to transform the blog into an iPhone application. Not only does it gives you a lot of style and theme for the articles, but works brilliantly with AJAX driven-loading of articles. You can transform your site in a stylish version for the mobile phone users with the help of WPtouch.

BuddyPress

This is another popular Twitter plugin for WordPress which is a hit among the social community. It allows the user to register for a site after which you can create the profiles and post messages etc. With this plugin, you will be easily able to create connections and interact with the other members of the group existing within the network. In simpler words, it will help you to achieve your personal and professional goals through these social networking sites.

AddThis

This popular Twitter plugin is widely known for its usability features. It is basically a Social Bookmarking Widget that is mainly used for sharing and bookmarking, thereby allowing the user to share and bookmark a site for the specific content that it has.

Wordbooker

With the help of Wordbooker Twitter plugin for WP, you can do cross posting to the Facebook Group, Fan Page or even Wall. You can use it as a Note, Status update or extract. A major reason behind the popularity of this twitter plugin is its ease of use and high visibility.

Network Publisher

It is one of the best Twitter Plugins for WordPress to keep your fans updated about the blog posts. With the help of this Twitter plugin you can publish the blog post automatically to various social networks including Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn etc. Also, it allows your follower to re-tweet blogs to the follower. Thus, if you are looking for a simple way to expand your follower base and display informative blog post, then Network Publisher is a must for you.

podPress

This WP plugin allows the ease of hosting a podcast. Not only will you get automatic feed generation in this Twitter plugin for WordPress but also various features like Podcast Download stats etc. This plugin supports a wide range of formats including that of Video podcasting.

IntenseDebate Comments

This twitter plugin offers you a wide range of uses. It is one of the best plugin when it comes to managing access to the files, pages and posts of a user. It helps to start a conversion on a blog. You can use it for building a self reader communality which will help to increase the comment on your blog and will surely increase your follower count.

All these Twitter plugins will definitely help you to get more Twitter followers, thereby helping you to popularize your brand and create more awareness.

Accenture Acquires Cloud Sherpas To Enhance Cloud Consulting Chops, Especially Around Salesforce.com

Accenture, the worldwide consulting company, announced today it was buying Cloud Sherpas, a firm that specializes in helping companies incorporate cloud services like Salesforce.com, Google and ServiceNow into the enterprise.

Accenture did not disclose the purchase price.

It’s not a coincidence that this announcement came as Dreamforce, the enormous Salesforce.com customer conference, is taking place in San Francisco this week. The acquisition actually has a lot do with Salesforce consulting services.

Accenture already has a team of more than 2700 consultants devoted to helping with Salesforce integration. They will be adding 500 additional Salesforce experts with the Cloud Sherpas deal.

“The context is Accenture has been driving a cloud first agenda in response to clients focusing on the cloud increasingly as a platform to fuel transformation,” Saideep Raj, global managing director at Accenture told TechCrunch. The deal certainly helps expand the Salesforce consulting team, but it’s more than that, Raj said.

Cloud Sherpas also brings experience with Google as Google’s largest consulting partner and ServiceNow, a company that Accenture is seeing embedded in an increasing number of enterprise processes where service is a key component.

Cloud Sherpas, has been around since 2007 and has grown into a worldwide consultancy with over 1100 employees, who will now be part of Accenture. As soon as the deal closes. They will join the newly created Accenture Cloud First Applications team.

If cloud computing is supposed to simplify computing, you may wonder why it would require a consulting team to help implement cloud solutions, and that’s a legitimate question. Companies moving to the cloud have lots of issues around digitization and transformation, and working with existing legacy applications alongside cloud applications. There are also issues of more complex custom integrations with a product as sophisticated as Salesforce.

That’s where Cloud Sherpas comes into play. While Accenture has also been helping companies make this move to the cloud, even before the acquisition, this gives them a huge team of experienced consultants to expand that consulting unit with one stroke of a pen on a check.

Cloud Sherpas formed at a time when the idea of Software as a Service in the enterprise was just beginning to develop as a mainstream concept. While Salesforce.com launched in 1999, many of today’s biggest cloud companies weren’t even around at that point. It was a company well ahead of the market need in that regard.

“We saw several things including demand from users of technology, not just as it relates to corporate transactions, but enabling the user experiences around mobile technology. The cloud was uniquely suited  to this and we thought it was going to take off and resonate with users,” David Northington, Cloud Sherpas CEO said.

Over the years, the cloud services have gotten better, and the projects have grown increasingly sophisticated. Northington says that as part of Accenture, that should only accelerate.

Today, there is all kinds of complexity in spite of the cloud notion of simplicity. If you’re integrating  enterprise cloud service into an existing enterprise stack, it sometimes takes help. For instance, companies working with Salesforce Wave, the company’s analytics platform might need help connecting to the various data sources and create the kinds of custom reports a company might need.

But it’s more than helping implement a single service, it’s about stitching together a range of services from a single vendor like Salesforce or across services, and that’s where this combination could really shine, Raj explained.

Cloud Sherpas has raised over $63 million, according to Crunchbase.

Titan Graph Database Integration with DynamoDB: World-class Performance, Availability, and Scale for New Workloads

Today, we are releasing a plugin that allows customers to use the Titan graph engine with Amazon DynamoDB as the backend storage layer. It opens up the possibility to enjoy the value that graph databases bring to relationship-centric use cases, without worrying about managing the underlying storage.

The importance of relationships

Relationships are a fundamental aspect of both the physical and virtual worlds. Modern applications need to quickly navigate connections in the physical world of people, cities, and public transit stations as well as the virtual world of search terms, social posts, and genetic code, for example. Developers need efficient methods to store, traverse, and query these relationships. Social media apps navigate relationships between friends, photos, videos, pages, and followers. In supply chain management, connections between airports, warehouses, and retail aisles are critical for cost and time optimization. Similarly, relationships are essential in many other use cases such as financial modeling, risk analysis, genome research, search, gaming, and others. Traditionally, these connections have been stored in relational databases, with each object type requiring its own table. When using relational databases, traversing relationships requires expensive table JOIN operations, causing significantly increased latency as table size and query complexity grow.

Enter graph databases

Graph databases belong to the NoSQL family, and are optimized for storing and traversing relationships. A graph consists of vertices, edges, and associated properties. Each vertex contains a list of properties and edges, which represent the relationships to other vertices. This structure is optimized for fast relationship query and traversal, without requiring expensive table JOIN operations.

In this way, graphs can scale to billions of vertices and edges, while allowing efficient queries and traversal of any subset of the graph with consistent low latency that doesn’t grow proportionally to the overall graph size. This is an important benefit for many use cases that involve accessing and traversing small subsets of a large graph. A concrete example is generating a product recommendation based on purchase interests of a user’s friends, where the relevant social connections are a small subset of the total network. Another example is for tracking inventory in a vast logistics system, where only a subset of its locations is relevant for a specific item. For us at Amazon, the challenge of tracking inventory at massive scale is not just theoretical, but very real.

Graph databases at Amazon

Like many AWS innovations, the desire to build a solution for a scalable graph database came from Amazon’s retail business. Amazon runs one of the largest fulfillment networks in the world, and we need to optimize our systems to quickly and accurately track the movement of vast amounts of inventory. This requires a database that can quickly traverse the logistics history for a given item or order. Graph databases are ideal for the task, since they make it easy to store and retrieve each item’s logistics history.

Our criteria for choosing the right graph engine were:

  1. The ability to support a graph containing billions of vertices and edges.
  2. The ability to scale with the accelerating pace of new items added to the catalog, and new objects and locations in the company’s expanding fulfillment network.

After evaluating different technologies, we decided to use Titan, a distributed graph database engine optimized for creating and querying large graphs. Titan has a pluggable storage architecture, using existing NoSQL databases as underlying storage for the graph data. While the Titan-based solution worked well for our needs, the team quickly found itself having to devote an increasing amount of time to provisioning, managing, and scaling the database cluster behind Titan, instead of focusing on their original task of optimizing the fulfillment inventory tracking.

Thus, the idea was born for a robust, highly available, and scalable backend solution that wouldn’t require the burden of managing a massive storage layer. As I wrote in the past, I believe DynamoDB is a natural choice for such needs, providing developers flexibility and minimal operational overhead without compromising scale, availability, durability, or performance. Making use of Titan’s flexible architecture, we created a plugin that uses DynamoDB as the storage backend for Titan. The combination of Titan with DynamoDB is now powering Amazon’s fulfillment network, with a multi-terabyte dataset.

Sharing it with you

Today, we are happy to bring the result of this effort to customers by releasing the DynamoDB Storage Backend for Titan plugin on GitHub. The plugin provides a flexible data model for each Titan backend table, allowing developers to optimize for simplicity (single-item model) or scalability (multi-item model).

The single-item model uses a single DynamoDB item to store edges and properties of a vertex. In DynamoDB, the vertex ID is stored as the hash key of an item, vertex property and edge identifiers are attribute names, and the vertex property values and edge property values are stored in the respective attribute values. While the single-item data model is simpler, due to DynamoDB’s 400 KB item size limit, you should only use it for graphs with fairly low vertex degree and small number properties per vertex.

For graphs with higher vertex degrees, the multi-item model uses multiple DynamoDB items to store properties and edges of a single vertex. In the multiple-item data model, the vertex ID remains the DynamoDB hash key, but unlike the single-item model, each column becomes the range key in its own item. Each column value is stored in its own attribute. While requiring more writes to initially load the graph, the multiple-item model allows you to store large graphs without limiting vertex degree.

Amazon’s need for a hassle-free, scalable Titan solution is not unique. Many of our customers told us they have used Titan as a scalable graph solution, but setting up and managing the underlying storage are time-consuming chores. Several of them participated in a preview program for the plugin and are excited to offload their graph storage management to AWS. Brian Sweatt, Technical Advisor at AdAgility, explained:

“At AdAgility, we store data pertaining to advertisers and publishers, as well as transactional data about customers who view and interact with our offers. The relationships between these stakeholders lend themselves naturally to a graph database, and we plan to leverage our experience with Titan and Groovy for our next-generation ad targeting platform. Amazon’s integration between Titan and DynamoDB will allow us to do that without spending time on setting up and managing the storage cluster, a no brainer for an agile, fast-growing startup.”

Another customer says that AWS makes it easier to analyze large graphs of data and relationships within the data. According to Tom Soderstrom, Chief Technology Officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

“We have begun to leverage graph databases extensively at JPL and running deep machine learning on these. The open sourced plugin for Titan over DynamoDB will help us expand our use cases to larger data sets, while enjoying the power of cloud computing in a fully managed NoSQL database. It is exciting to see AWS integrate DynamoDB with open sourced projects like Elasticsearch and Titan, while open sourcing the integrations.”

Bringing it all together

When building applications that are centered on relationships (such as social networks or master data management) or auxiliary relationship-focused use cases for existing applications (such as a recommendation engine for matching players in a game or fraud detection for a payment system), a graph database is an intuitive and effective way to achieve fast performance at scale, and should be on your database options shortlist. With this launch of the DynamoDB storage backend for Titan, you no longer need to worry about managing the storage layer for your Titan graphs, making it easy to manage even very large graphs like the ones we have here at Amazon. I am excited to hear how you are leveraging graph databases for your applications. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

For more information about the DynamoDB storage backend plug-in for Titan, see Jeff Barr’s blog and the Amazon DynamoDB Storage Backend for Titan topic in the Amazon DynamoDB Developer Guide

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