Many organizations often ponder if Snowflake, a modern data analytics platform, is a data warehouse or database. Data warehouse and database are two key components of Snowflake’s architecture. Both play distinct but complementary roles, helping you store, process, and analyze data efficiently. 

The Snowflake warehouse is designed to provide you with scalable and efficient computing resources for data processing and query execution. On the other hand, the Snowflake database is a robust and flexible environment for you to store and retrieve structured and semi-structured data.

Understanding the difference between both components is vital so that you can choose the most appropriate solution for your business needs. This article will provide you with a detailed guide on Snowflake warehouse vs database.

What is a Snowflake Warehouse?

  • A Snowflake warehouse is a virtual computational resource that allows you to process large volumes of data and run complex analytical queries.
  • The computational resources can be scaled up or down based on your workload requirements.
  • Snowflake’s architecture supports high concurrency and enables multiple users of your organization to run queries simultaneously without any performance degradation.

What is a Snowflake Database? 

  • A Snowflake database is a cloud-based platform that handles various data management tasks. It stores data in a columnar format in cloud storage and uses end-to-end encryption to ensure data security.
  • It allows for secure and controlled data sharing between different Snowflake accounts without copying the entire dataset.
  • You can also clone a database and grant specific permissions to users on the stored data. The Snowflake database supports multiple data formats, including JSON, Avro, CSV, and XML.  

Accessing Snowflake Warehouse vs Database vs Schema

Here are the major commands that you must use for every Snowflake category:

Snowflake Warehouse

You can perform warehouse tasks through SQL commands using web interfaces, such as Snowsight or Classic Console. A warehouse should be running to process SQL statements for any session.

  • Create a warehouse: You can create a warehouse using the following SQL command:
CREATE OR REPLACE WAREHOUSE <name>;
  • Start a warehouse: You can start a warehouse at any time using the given SQL command:
ALTER WAREHOUSE <name> RESUME;
  • Suspend a warehouse: A running warehouse can be stopped at any time using the following SQL command:
ALTER WAREHOUSE <name> SUSPEND;
  • Resize a warehouse: You can use the given SQL statement to resize the warehouse while it is running:
ALTER WAREHOUSE Name SET WAREHOUSE_SIZE=’’;
  • Use a warehouse: A Snowflake session can accommodate only one current warehouse at one time. You can use the current warehouse with the following SQL command.
USE WAREHOUSE <name>;

Snowflake Database 

Snowflake database tasks can also be performed using web interfaces like Snowsight or Classic Console.

  • Create Database: A database can created in three ways:
    • Creating a clone of an existing database. 
    • Creating a database from a share provided by another Snowflake account. 
    • Creating a replica of an existing primary database. 
  • Use Database: This specifies the active databases in the session. To use a database, you must pass the following SQL command:
USE [ DATABASE ] <name>;
  • Drop Database: You can remove or delete a database from the system using the following SQL command:
DROP DATABASE [ IF EXISTS ] <name> [ CASCADE | RESTRICT ];
  • Show Databases: It specifies the list of databases you can access, including the deleted databases within the time travel period. The output consists of database metadata and properties such as name, kind, database name, and schema name.
SHOW [ TERSE ] DATABASES [ HISTORY ] [ LIKE '<pattern>' ]
 [ STARTS WITH '<name_string>' ]
 [ LIMIT <rows> [ FROM '<name_string>' ] ]

Snowflake Schema

A schema in Snowflake is a logical group of related objects within a database. It helps organize and manage data more effectively, especially in environments where multiple projects share the same database. Working on schemas includes several operations, such as creating, managing, and organizing schemas. Here’s a comprehensive list of operations applicable to Snowflake schemas:

  • Create Schema: You can create a new schema in the current database or create a clone of an existing schema. Use the SQL command given below to create a schema,
CREATE SCHEMA <name>;
CREATE SCHEMA <name>  CLONE <existing schema name>;
  • Drop Schema: You can remove a schema from the current database with the following SQL statement:
DROP SCHEMA [ IF EXISTS ] <name> [ CASCADE | RESTRICT ];
  • Use Schema: It specifies the active or current schemas in a session. Use the following SQL statement below:
USE [ SCHEMA ] [<db_name>.]<name>;
  • Show Schemas: It specifies the list of schemas you can access, including the dropped schemas within the time travel period. The SQL syntax is as follows:
SHOW [ TERSE ] SCHEMAS
  [ HISTORY ]
  [ LIKE '<pattern>' ]
  [ IN { ACCOUNT | APPLICATION <app_name> | DATABASE [ <db_name> ] } ]
  [ STARTS WITH '<name_string>' ]
  [ LIMIT <rows> [ FROM '<name_string>' ] ]

Key Differences Between Snowflake Warehouse vs Database

Snowflake’s architecture has distinct purposes and functions for warehouses and databases. Understanding the differences between a Snowflake database vs warehouse is crucial for you to manage resources and optimize performance effectively. Here’s a detailed comparison between the two:

AspectSnowflake WarehouseSnowflake Database
PurposeTo execute analytical queries, load data, and perform data processing tasks.To store and organize large volumes of data.
Components








Snowflake warehouse consists of the following components:

Compute Layer: Used for query processing and execution. 
Storage Layer: Used for storing structured and semi-structured data in cloud-based services like AWS, Azure, or GCP.
Metadata Layer: Used to handle metadata, including database schema information, query history, and access controls.
Virtual warehouses: These can dynamically scale compute resources based on your workload demands.
Each Snowflake database consists of the following components:

Schemas: They help organize and manage database objects, making it easier to control access, maintain security, and improve database organization. 
Tables: Help you store the actual data in a structured format. The data in tables can be queried and manipulated using SQL commands.
Views: They simplify complex queries and provide data security by restricting user access to specific data. Views also help you present data in a particular format.
UsageYou can share the computational resources of the Snowflake warehouse with multiple users in your organization.You can use the Snowflake database to create, read, update, or delete data. However, the warehouse handles the actual processing.
Key featuresData Sharing: This feature allows you to collaborate with different teams in your organization seamlessly and enables secure data transfer.
Governance and Security: The Snowflake data warehouse offers several security features, including encryption and audit logging. These features help you comply with data privacy and regulatory compliance standards.
Zero-Copy Cloning: Snowflake allows you to create clones of databases without duplicating data, making it efficient for testing, development, and backup.
Data Storage and Compression: The Snowflake database stores your datasets in a compressed, columnar format to optimize storage and improve performance.
Time Travel: This feature allows you to query historical data and revert to previous versions of your data within a specified time (up to 90 days).
ConfigurationSnowflake warehouses offer configurable computing resources that can be auto-resumed and auto-suspended based on your requirements.Snowflake databases do not offer configurable compute resources, as they are purely logical structures designed for your organization. However, you can define schemas within a database, and within schemas, you can define tables, views, and other database objects. 
CostThe cost is associated with the amount of time the warehouse is running and the size of the warehouse. Larger or longer-running warehouses will incur more costs.The costs associated with databases are primarily based on the amount of data stored in them. There are no direct compute costs attributed to the database; those costs are tied to the warehouse to query the database.

Why Integrate Data in Snowflake Warehouse or Database? 

Integrating data into Snowflake, whether in its warehouse or database, offers several compelling advantages:

  1. Performance Tuning: Snowflake is designed to be a user-friendly and highly responsive platform. You may not need a technical expert to monitor it constantly. It can also adapt to your requirements, making it a reliable and high-performing data platform. 
  2. Disaster Recovery: You may worry about not having access to the server where the data is stored in the event of a failure. However, Snowflake offers disaster recovery, ensuring multiple data centers that offer quick access to your data if needed.
  3. Cost-Effective: Snowflake’s pay-as-you-go model allows you to optimize costs by scaling compute resources up or down based on your needs. Additionally, Snowflake’s efficient storage compression reduces data storage costs, making it a cost-effective solution for managing large volumes of data.

Data Integration Challenges in Snowflake 

Integrating data into Snowflake poses several challenges, such as:

  • Data Complexity: Collecting data from multiple sources often comes in various formats and data quality issues. You can transform and normalize the data into a unified Snowflake schema. However, performing complex data transformations and analytics, particularly with real-time data, can be demanding and time-consuming.
  • Data Consistency: Integrating data from multiple sources may lead to data inconsistency, inaccurate analytics, and reporting. For example, if you want to integrate sales data from different regions into Snowflake, discrepancies in date formats, currency conversions, or product categorizations can lead to inconsistent data.
  • Minimizing Data Silos and Latency: Despite Snowflake’s data-sharing capabilities, integrating data from diverse sources can still result in data silos. To minimize silos and reduce latency, you need to develop an efficient data pipeline that ensures data is readily-available and up-to-date across your organization.

How Hevo Streamlines Data Integration for Snowflake?

Streamlining data integration involves optimizing the processes of extracting and transforming data from several sources into the Snowflake data warehouse. Hevo is a robust ELT tool that provides a user-friendly, no-code interface and automated data pipelines for Snowflake.

With Hevo, you get more than 150+ prebuilt connectors, near real-time data integration, and a cost-effective way to manage your data pipelines. Here are some important features of Hevo:

  • Data transformation: Hevo enables you to clean and prepare the data to be loaded into the destination using Python-based and drag-and-drop methods. Thus, you can ensure your data is accurately cleaned, enriched, and mapped before loading into Snowflake.
  • Automated Schema Mapping: Hevo automatically detects the schema of the incoming data and integrates it into the Snowflake schema. Based on your data integration requirements, it lets you select between full and incremental mappings.
  • Incremental Data Loading: Using Hevo to streamline data integration for Snowflake ensures that only new or updated data is transferred. Incremental data loading boosts efficiency, reduces latency, and keeps the Snowflake data warehouse up-to-date with minimal resource consumption.

Conclusion

  • This blog has delved into the differences between warehouse vs. database in Snowflake. Before choosing the platform for your business needs, you must know the key differences and challenges.
  • Through its unique architecture, Snowflake balances efficient computation with effective storage. However, as your business grows, data will be generated exponentially.
  • To consolidate data before moving it into Snowflake, you will need a robust platform like Hevo.
  • Hevo can help you easily integrate data from diverse sources, transform it, and load it to Snowflake. Schedule a demo and explore Hevo’s features today!

FAQs

Q1. Is Snowflake a data warehouse or database? 

Snowflake is considered a data warehousing solution rather than a traditional database solution. It is a cloud-based data warehouse that excels as a storage and analytical solution.

Q2. Is there a performance issue when working with cross-database joins?

If your data resides on the same server or data center, there will be no performance issues when working with cross-database joins.



Sarthak Bhardwaj
Customer Experience Engineer, Hevo

Sarthak brings two years of expertise in JDBC, MongoDB, REST API, and AWS, playing a pivotal role in Hevo's triumph through adept problem-solving and superior issue management.

All your customer data in one place.