What is Zero Copy Cloning in Snowflake – Comprehensive Guide


Zero Copy Clone Snowflake FI

Snowflake’s Data Cloud is based on a cutting-edge Data Platform that is available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Snowflake provides data storage, processing, and analytic solutions that are faster, easier to use, and more adaptable than traditional systems. Snowflake is not based on any current database technology or “Big Data” software platforms like Hadoop. Snowflake, on the other hand, combines a completely new SQL query engine with an innovative Cloud-native architecture.

This article covers topics like an introduction to Snowflake and Zero Copy Clone Snowflake, its advantages, and how to do it.

Table of Contents

What is Snowflake?

Snowflake is a leading Cloud-computing Data Warehousing startup that will play a key role in AI’s future. Snowflake is a Data Warehouse as a Service (DWaaS). It helps businesses to set up and operate a system without relying heavily on DBAs or IT personnel. Snowflake provides Data collection, Analysis, and Analytical solutions that are significantly quicker, easier to use, and more adaptable than traditional systems. It helps with System Integration, Business Intelligence, sophisticated analytics, and security and governance, among other things.

You can clone a table, a schema, or even a database in seconds and without taking up any space with Snowflake. To put it another way, the cloned table only contains data that differs from the original table. There are three layers to the architecture:

  • Cloud Services: The service coordinator and collection.
  • Query Processing: The system’s brain, where queries are executed utilizing “Virtual Warehouses”.
  • Database Storage: This is where the data is physically stored in columnar mode.
Zero Copy Clone Snowflake: Architecture
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Key Features of Snowflake

The following are some of Snowflake’s unique characteristics:

  • Scalability: Snowflakes’ Multi-Cluster Shared Data Architecture splits compute and storage resources for scalability. This strategy allows users to scale up resources when large amounts of data need to be loaded quickly and scale back down once the operation is complete without interfering with other tasks.
  • Support for Semi-Structured Data: Snowflake’s architecture allows the storage of Structured and Semi-Structured data in the same region by using the VARIANT schema on the Read data type. Both organized and semi-structured data can be stored in VARIANT.
  • Security: Snowflake has a lot of security features that cover everything from how users access the system to how data is kept. To restrict access to your account, you can adjust Network Policies by whitelisting IP addresses.
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What is Zero Copy Clone Snowflake?

Cloning, often known as “Zero Copy Cloning Snowflake“, duplicates a database, schema, or table. When the clone is produced, a snapshot of the data in the source object is captured and made available to the copied object. The cloned object can be written to and is unrelated to the clone source. That is, modifications implemented to either the source or clone object do not affect the other.

The Snowflake Zero Copy Clone Snowflake function is one of the most powerful features in Snowflake. It allows you to take a snapshot of any table, schema, or database at any point in time and generate a reference to an underlining partition that originally shares the underlying storage till you make a change. This can be quite useful for quickly producing backups that don’t cost anything extra until the copied object is changed.

The days of waiting an entire day or two for an environment provision are long gone. Cloning in Snowflake is much faster than cloning in other databases. Depending on the size of the source item, it could take several minutes. Until you make any changes, snowflake copying shares the same storage. However, as soon as you make adjustments, it begins its own lifetime for partition changes. This can make storage calculations more complicated, but since Snowflake manages it, you don’t have to worry about it. This means that changes to the original object or the clone can be done independently of one another and are protected by CDP.

The clone can be replicated an unlimited number of times in Snowflake, with each clone having a piece of shared storage and independent storage. Every table in Snowflake has a unique ID that is used to identify it. Similarly, every table has CLONE GROUP ID, which indicates whether or not the table is cloned. If both columns have a different ID, this table is cloned; otherwise, it is not. To query the TABLE STORAGE METRICS view, you must have the Account Admin role. When you use the Clone database command, it simply does the following:

  • Makes a new database.
  • All objects beneath the database are produced (notice that certain objects are not cloned due to constraints).

Data is not replicated and held as a “Replica” as one might think. Instead, Snowflake cleverly produces a reference to the Source Database/Tables from the cloned object, which provides a tremendous benefit of not just logically replicating data but also reducing storage costs. When a user requests a table from a cloned object, the Cloud services simply retrieve the data from the original source, ensuring that the information is as current as feasible. Furthermore, creating the clone does not take any time—it takes the same amount of time as creating a table.

Advantages of Zero Copy Clone Snowflake

The following are some of the advantages of Zero Copy Clone Snowflake:

  • Saves you Time: You usually have to wait hours, days, or even weeks to create a test or development environment from a copy of your production data warehouse And you’re going to have to pay more for a test or development environment that can handle all of the replicated data.
  • Snowflake “Fast Clone”: Zero Copy Clone Snowflake is a quick technique that allows you to make many copies of your data without incurring the additional storage expenses associated with data replication, saving you a lot of time.
  • Saves Money on Storage: Zero copy clone Snowflake creates a clone of the item without having to reproduce the underlying storage. When a table is cloned, it does not utilize any data storage because it maintains all of the parent database’s existing micro-partitions at the moment of cloning; nonetheless, rows in the clone can be added, deleted, or updated independently of the original table. Each clone update generates new micro-partitions that relate solely to the clone and are safeguarded by CDP.
  • Easy to use: Cloning is a basic procedure that does not necessitate any special expertise. Zero copy clone Snowflake is a technology in which you can create copies of your tables, schemas, and databases without replicating the actual data by using the term CLONE. Administrative activities are not required.

Which Objects can be Cloned in Zero Copy Clone Snowflake?

Before you go into how to clone an object, it’s important to evaluate what objects are cloneable and any limitations. Here is a list of all cloneable objects at the time of writing. A current list may be found in Snowflake’s Cloning Documentation:

  • Data Storage Objects such as:
    • Databases
    • Schemas 
    • Tables
    • Streams
  • Data Configuration Objects:
    • Stages 
    • File Formats 
    • Sequences 

 Tasks are divided into groups based on how the cloning functionality for each category changes.

How to Clone an Object in Zero Copy Clone Snowflake?

A single SQL statement is needed to clone an object in Zero Copy Clone Snowflake:

CREATE <object_type> <object_name>
CLONE <source_object_name>

This statement will clone an existing object to generate a new one. The above is a condensed version of the statement; the full syntax is given below:

CLONE <source_object_name>

With the above command, clone Table A. Clone is generated in stage end with the data accessible in the production table named TABLE A at the time of doing this query. Your clone is nothing more than a new set of metadata pointing to the identical micro-partitions that store production data. Table A clone is a table that can be used in the same way as any other table. It is self-contained and will support time travel as well as all DML and DDL procedures.

Consider the following diagram:

Zero Copy Clone Snowflake: Table A
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Let’s imagine your ETL processes were run in a staging environment as part of your integration testing operations, and they inevitably changed some data from TABLE A CLONE. Micro Partition -3 is the owner of all of the updated data. Because this update belongs solely to the Table A clone, Snowflake duplicates that modified micro-partition and generates a new micro-partition and assigns it to the stage environment. Snowflake’s micro partitions are immutable. As a result, the variation in stage environment is recorded individually, and metadata will reference the newly generated micro partition, updating TABLE A CLONE as shown below.

Zero Copy Clone Snowflake: Table A Updated
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It’s crucial to remember that the clone is still a brand-new item. While the parent object’s metadata and data will be preserved, the new clone will have its history in terms of time travel and data loading.

  • To clone a production database with Zero Copy Clone Snowflake and make it development-ready, use the following syntax:
  • To clone a schema with Zero Copy Clone Snowflake:
CREATE SCHEMA Dev.DataSchema1 CLONE Prod.DataSchema1;
  • To clone a single table with Zero Copy Clone Snowflake:

What is the Point of Cloning an Object in Zero Copy Clone Snowflake?

There are many reasons to clone an item in any Data Warehouse, not just Snowflake. Most cloning occurs for one of three reasons:

  • To support a variety of environments, such as development, testing, and backup.
  • To test prospective modifications/development without establishing a new environment and without putting the source object at risk.
  • To complete a one-time task that makes use of its own source item.

What Privileges are Required in Zero Copy Clone Snowflake?

To clone an item, you must have the bare minimum of permissions. Your current role should have the necessary privilege(s) on the source object to generate a clone:

  • Tables: SELECT
  • Additional items: USAGE
  • In addition, to clone a schema or an object within a schema, your current role should have the requisite privileges on both the source and the clone container object(s).


This article has explained to you the Zero Copy Clone Snowflake feature. You can easily accumulate hundreds of terabytes of redundant storage because cloning entire databases for testing is so straightforward. If the Snowflake administrators are aware of the underlying process, you can easily find and remove this storage. This could help us save a lot of money. Cloning a table duplicates the structure, data, and some other aspects of the original table. In cloned tables, the load history of the source table is not kept. Data files can be loaded into clones of a source table if they were previously loaded into the source table.

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Syeda Famita Amber
Technical Content Writer, Hevo Data

Syeda is a technical content writer with a profound passion for data. She specializes in crafting insightful content on a broad spectrum of subjects, including data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data, and business intelligence. Through her work, Syeda aims to simplify complex concepts and trends for data practitioners, making them accessible and engaging for data professionals.

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