Amazon DynamoDB Session Store

The Amazon DynamoDB Session Store handles sessions for Ruby web applications using a DynamoDB backend. The session store is compatible with Rails (3.x or 4.x) and other Rack based frameworks.


Rails Installation

Install the session store gem by placing the following command into your Gemfile:

gem 'aws-sessionstore-dynamodb'

You will need to have an existing Amazon DynamoDB session table in order for the application to work. You can generate a migration file for the session table with the following command:

rails generate sessionstore:dynamodb

To create the table, run migrations as normal with:

rake db:migrate

Change the session store to :dynamodb_store by editing config/initializers/session_store.rb to contain the following:

YourAppName::Application.config.session_store :dynamodb_store

You can now start your Rails application with session support.

Basic Rack Application Installation

For non-Rails applications, you can create the Amazon DynamoDB table in a Ruby file using the following method:

require 'aws-sessionstore-dynamodb'


Run the session store as a Rack middleware in the following way:

require 'aws-sessionstore-dynamodb'
require 'some_rack_app'

options = { :secret_key => 'SECRET_KEY' }

run SomeRackApp

Note that :secret_key is a mandatory configuration option that must be set.

Detailed Usage

The session store is a Rack Middleware, meaning that it will implement the Rack interface for dealing with HTTP request/responses.

This session store uses a DynamoDB backend in order to provide scaling and centralized data benefits for session storage with more ease than other containers, like local servers or cookies. Once an application scales beyond a single web server, session data will need to be shared across the servers. DynamoDB takes care of this burden for you by scaling with your application. Cookie storage places all session data on the client side, discouraging sensitive data storage. It also forces strict data size limitations. DynamoDB takes care of these concerns by allowing for a safe and scalable storage container with a much larger data size limit for session data.

Full API documentation of the library can be found on

Configuration Options

A number of options are available to be set in AWS::SessionStore::DynamoDB::Configuration, which is used by the RackMiddleware class. These options can be set in the YAML configuration file in a Rails application (located in config/sessionstore/dynamodb.yml), directly by Ruby code, or through environment variables.

The full set of options along with defaults can be found in the Configuration class documentation.

Environment Options

Certain configuration options can be loaded from the environment. These options must be specified in the following format:


The example below would be a valid way to set the session table name:


Rails Generator Details

The generator command specified in the installation section will generate two files: a migration file, db/migration/VERSION_migration_name.rb, and a configuration YAML file, config/sessionstore/dynamodb.yml.

You can run the command with an argument that will define the name of the migration file. Once the YAML file is created, you can uncomment any of the lines to set configuration options to your liking. The session store will pull options from config/sessionstore/dynamodb.yml by default if the file exists. If you do not wish to place the configuration YAML file in that location, you can also pass in a different file path to pull options from.

Garbage Collection

You may want to delete old sessions from your session table. The following examples show how to clear old sessions from your table.


A Rake task for garbage collection is provided for Rails applications. By default sessions do not expire. See config/sessionstore/dynamodb.yml to configure the max age or stale period of a session. Once you have configured those values you can clear the old sessions with:

rake dynamo_db:collect_garbage

Outside of Rails

You can create your own Rake task for garbage collection similar to below:

require "aws-sessionstore-dynamodb"

desc 'Perform Garbage Collection'
task :garbage_collect do |t|
 options = {:max_age => 3600*24, max_stale => 5*3600 }

The above example will clear sessions older than one day or that have been stale for longer than an hour.

Locking Strategy

You may want the Session Store to implement the provided pessimistic locking strategy if you are concerned about concurrency issues with session accesses. By default, locking is not implemented for the session store. You must trigger the locking strategy through the configuration of the session store. Pessimistic locking, in this case, means that only one read can be made on a session at once. While the session is being read by the process with the lock, other processes may try to obtain a lock on the same session but will be blocked.

Locking is expensive and will drive up costs depending on how it is used. Without locking, one read and one write are performed per request for session data manipulation. If a locking strategy is implemented, as many as the total maximum wait time divided by the lock retry delay writes to the database. Keep these considerations in mind if you plan to enable locking.

Configuration for Locking

The following configuration options will allow you to configure the pessimistic locking strategy according to your needs:

options = {
  :enable_locking => true,
  :lock_expiry_time => 500,
  :lock_retry_delay => 500,
  :lock_max_wait_time => 1

Error Handling

You can pass in your own error handler for raised exceptions or you can allow the default error handler to them for you. See the API documentation on the AWS::SessionStore::DynamoDB::Errors::BaseHandler class for more details.