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GoDynamo: A User's Guide


GoDynamo is a API for the DynamoDB database ( written in Go.

GoDynamo supports all endpoints, uses AWSv4 request signing, and supports IAM authentication as well as traditional AWS keys.

To install GoDynamo, run the following command:

go get

which installs a package that requires the rest of the packages in the library.

Also installed as dependencies are goawsroles which manages support for IAM roles, namely:

GoDynamo is the foundation of bbpd, the http proxy daemon for DynamoDB. You may find that package here:

To understand how to use Go code in your environment, please see:

and other documentation on the site.


GoDynamo is configured with an external file. This allows you to write programs that do not contain hardcoded authentication values. The conf_file package contains an exported method Read that must be called to read these configuration variables into your program state, where they will be visible as the exported global variable Conf. The Read method will first look for ~/.aws-config.json, and then /etc/aws-config.json. You may also set an environment variable GODYNAMO_CONF_FILE that will permit you to specify a fully-qualified file path for your own conf file. If none of those files are present, the Read method will return false and it is advised that your program terminate.

A sample of a skeleton aws-config.json file is found in conf/SAMPLE-aws-config.json. Please see the go docs for the conf package to see an explanation of the fields and their use. It is recommended that you set file permissions on the configuration file to be as restrictive as possible.

For convenience, here is the sample configuration file (comments nonstandard):

    "services": {
                // Traditional AWS access/secret authentication pair.
                // If you use syslogd (a linux or *bsd system), you may set this to "true".
                // (currently unusued)
        "dynamo_db": {
            // You can alternately set the scheme/port to be https/443.
            // If set to true, programs that are written with godynamo may
            // opt to launch the keepalive goroutine to keep conns open.
            "iam": {
                // If you do not want to use IAM (i.e. just use access_key/secret),
                // set this to false and use the settings above.
                // The role provider is described in the goawsroles package.
                // See:
                // Currently the only support is for the "file" provider, whereby
                // roles data is written to local files.
                // The identifier (filename, etc) for the IAM Access Key
                // The identifier (filename, etc) for the IAM Secret Key
                // The identifier (filename, etc) for the IAM Token
                // If using the "file" role provider, the base dir to read IAM files.
                // Set to true if you would like the roles resource watched for changes
                // and automatically (and atomically) updated.

In this configuration example, the recommended option of using IAM credentials has been selected, with the source for these credentials being local text files. Creating the automation to retrieve these credential files and store them on your host is specific to your installation as IAM is capable of setting fine-grained permissions. See your sysadmin for assistance. If you do not wish to use IAM or cannot create the automation to keep your local credential files up to date, you may wish to set use_iam to false and just set the access and secret keypair.

Example Program

In any program you write using GoDynamo, you must first make sure that your configuration has been initialized properly. You will optionally wish to use IAM support for authentication.

See the files in tests for full examples for various endpoints. Below is a small example illustrating the way a program using GoDynamo is set up:

package main

import (
	conf_iam ""
	put ""
	keepalive ""

// This example will attempt to put an item to a imaginary test table.
func main() {
	// Let's try to read a conf file located at `$HOME/.aws-config.json`.
	home := os.Getenv("HOME")
	home_conf_file := home + string(os.PathSeparator) + "." + conf.CONF_NAME
	home_conf, home_conf_err := conf_file.ReadConfFile(home_conf_file)
	if home_conf_err != nil {
		panic("cannot read conf from " + home_conf_file)
	if home_conf.Initialized == false {
		panic("conf struct has not been initialized")

	// A convenience to keep connections to AWS open, which is not needed if you
	// are generating many requests through normal use.
	if home_conf.Network.DynamoDB.KeepAlive {
		log.Printf("launching background keepalive")
		go keepalive.KeepAlive([]string{home_conf.Network.DynamoDB.URL})

	// Initialize a goroutine which will watch for changes in the local files
	// we have chosen (in our conf file) to contain our IAM authentication values.
	// It is assumed that another process refreshes these files.
	// If you opt to use plain old AWS authentication pairs, you don't need this.
	if home_conf.UseIAM {
		iam_ready_chan := make(chan bool)
		go conf_iam.GoIAM(iam_ready_chan)
		iam_ready := <-iam_ready_chan
		if iam_ready {
			fmt.Printf("using iam\n")
		} else {
			fmt.Printf("not using iam\n")


	put1 := put.NewPutItem()
	put1.TableName = "test-godynamo-livetest"

	hashKey := fmt.Sprintf("my-hash-key")
	rangeKey := fmt.Sprintf("%v", 1)
	put1.Item["TheHashKey"] = &attributevalue.AttributeValue{S: hashKey}
	put1.Item["TheRangeKey"] = &attributevalue.AttributeValue{N: rangeKey}

	// All endpoints now support a parameterized conf.
	body, code, err := put1.EndpointReqWithConf(home_conf)
	if err != nil || code != http.StatusOK {
		fmt.Printf("put failed %d %v %s\n", code, err, body)
	fmt.Printf("%v\n%v\n,%v\n", string(body), code, err)


For more examples that demonstrate how you might wish to use various endpoint libraries, please refer to the tests directory which contains a series of files that are intended to run against AWS, so executing them will require valid AWS credentials.

Special Features

One noteworthy feature of GoDynamo is some convenience functions to get around some static limitations of the default DynamoDB service. In particular, in endpoints/batch_get_item you will find a function DoBatchGet which allows an input structure with an arbitrary number of get requests, which are dispatched in segments and re-assembled. Likewise, in endpoints/batch_write_item you will find a function DoBatchWrite which allows an input structure with an arbitrary number of write requests. These functions are provided as a convenience and do not alter your provisioning model, so be careful.

Throttling occurs in DynamoDB operations when AWS wishes to shape traffic to their service. GoDynamo utilizes the standard exponential decay resubmission algorithm as described in the AWS documentation. While you will see messages regarding the throttling, GoDynamo continues to retry your request as per the resubmission algorithm.

JSON Documents

Amazon has been augmenting their SDKs with wrappers that allow the caller to coerce their Items (both when writing and reading) to what I will refer to as "basic JSON".

Basic JSON is stripped of the type signifiers ('S','NS', etc) that AWS specifies in their AttributeValue specification (

For example, the AttributeValue

{"AString":{"S":"this is a string"}}

is translated to this basic JSON:

{"AString":"this is a string"}

Here are some other examples:



are translated to these basic JSON values:


GoDynamo now includes support for passing in basic JSON documents in place of Items in the following endpoints:

  • GetItem
  • PutItem
  • BatchGetItem
  • BatchWriteItem

In the case of GetItem and BatchGetItem, the method is to call the methods ToResponseItemJSON and ToResponseItemsJSON respective methods on the Response types for each package, unmarshaled from the response strings returned from AWS after calling EndpointReq to complete requests.

In the case of PutItem, use NewPutItemJSON() to initialize a variable of type PutItemJSON. The Item field of this struct is an interface{}, to which you can assign data representing basic JSON. Once done, call the ToPutItem() method on the PutItemJSON variable to translate the basic JSON into AttributeValue types and return a PutItem type that you can now call EndpointReq on.

In the case of PutItem, use NewBatchWriteItemJSON() to initialize a variable of type BatchWriteItemJSON. The Item field of this PutRequest subfield is an interface {} you can assign data representing basic JSON. Once done, call the ToBatchWriteItem() method on the BatchWriteItemJSON variable to translate the basic JSON into AttributeValue types and return a BatchWriteItem type that you can now call EndpointReq on.

Note that AWS itself does not support basic JSON - the support is always delivered by a coercion of basic JSON to and from AttrbiuteValue. This coercion is lossy! For example, a B or BS will be coerced to a string type (S, SS) and NULL types will be coerced to BOOL. Use with caution.

This feature is only enabled for Item types, not for Key or other AttributeValue aliases. So for example, BatchWriteItemJSON requests of type DeleteRequest cannot use basic JSON, only PutRequest.


GoDynamo provides verbose error messages when appropriate, as well as STDERR messaging. If error reporting is not useful, it is possible that DynamoDB itself has a new or changed feature that is not reflected in GoDynamo.

Recent Noteworthy Changes

Early versions of GoDynamo utilized a global configuration that was accessed inside relevant functions once set. Many developers requested that these configurations become parameterized so they could utilize different configurations simultaneously. GoDynamo now supports parameterized configurations in every function. These new functions are called EndpointReqWithConf.

Parameterized configuration has been moved into the full api including the core authorization functions.

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