Reading Item Collections using Query

Item Collections are groups of Items that share a Partition Key. By definition, Item Collections can only exist in tables that have both a Partition Key and a Sort Key. We can read all or part of an Item Collection using the Query API which can be invoked using the query CLI command. It might seem confusing as the word “query” is generally used colloquially to mean “reading data from a database” but in DynamoDB “query” has a specific meaning: to read all or part of an Item Collection.

When we invoke the Query API we must specify a Key Condition Expression. If we were comparing this to SQL, we would say “this is the part of the WHERE clause that acts on the Partition Key and Sort Key attributes”. This could take a couple of forms:

  • Just the Partition Key value of our Item Collection. This indicates that we want to read ALL the items in the item collection.
  • The Partition Key value and some kind ofExplore the other options in the Item explorer and figure out how to get queries to return with Replies sorted from most recent to least recent. , >=, BETWEEN, and BEGINS_WITH.

The Key Condition Expression will define the number of RRUs or RCUs that are consumed by our Query. DynamoDB will add up the size of all the rows matched by the Key Condition Expression, then divide that total size by 4KB to calculate the consumed capacity (and then it will divide that number in half if you’re using an eventually consistent read).

We can optionally also specify a Filter Expression for our Query. If we were comparing this to SQL, we would say “this is the part of the WHERE clause that acts on the non-Key attributes”. Filter Expressions act to remove some items from the Result Set returned by the Query, but they do not affect the consumed capacity of the Query. If your Key Condition Expression matches 1,000,000 items and your FilterExpression reduces the result set down to 100 items, you will still be charged to read all 1,000,000 items. But the Filter Expression reduces the amount of data returned from the network connection so there is still a benefit to our application in using Filter Expressions even if it doesn’t affect the price of the Query.

The ProductCatalog table we used in the previous examples only has a Partition Key so let’s look at the data in the Reply table which has both a Partition Key and a Sort Key. Select the left menu bar Item explorer. You may need to click the hamburger menu icon to expand the left menu if its hidden.

Console Menu Hamburger Icon

Console Menu Item Explorer

Once you enter the Item explorer you might need to click the > button to expand the Tables list

Item Explorer Expand Tables

And then choose the Reply table.

Data in this table has an Id attribute which references items in the Thread table. Our data has two threads, and each thread has 2 replies. Let’s use the Query functionality to read just the items from thread 1 by pasting Amazon DynamoDB#DynamoDB Thread 1 into the Id (Partition key) box and then clicking Run.

We can see that there are two Reply items in the DynamoDB Thread 1 thread.

Item Explorer Query Reply 1

Since the Sort Key in this table is a timestamp, we could specify a Key Condition Expression to return only the replies in a thread that were posted after a certain time by adding a sort key condition where ReplyDateTime is More than 2015-09-21 and clicking Run.

Item Explorer Query Reply 2

Remember we can use Filter Expressions if we want to limit our results based on non-key attributes. For example, we could find all the replies in Thread 1 that were posted by User B. Clear the sort key condition, and click Add filter then use PostedBy for the Attribute name, Condition Equals and Value User B, then click Run.

Item Explorer Query Reply 3

Exercise

Explore the other options in the Item explorer and figure out how to get queries to return with Replies sorted from most recent to least recent.

The solution is expandable below but try to figure it out yourself before moving forward.

Click below to expand and see the exercise solutions

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