by Tony Harris • December 8, 2020
Snowflake has been making headlines lately, with its September 2020 IPO becoming the largest IPO for a software company in history. But while it might be a good investment for traders, that doesn’t answer the simple question: “What is Snowflake, exactly?”
If you’ve ever wondered what Snowflake is or how it works, this article is for you. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know, including features, pros and cons, and what real users have to say in reviews.
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Founded in 2012 and based in San Mateo, California, Snowflake is a technology company offering a cloud-based data warehouse for data storage and analytics. A data warehouse is a centralized data repository that acts as the endpoint for the ETL process, where information can be easily accessed and mined for insights.
Snowflake is compatible with the three largest public cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. According to an estimate by Datanyze, Snowflake currently occupies 11 percent of the data warehousing market, second only behind SAP Business Warehouse.
Perhaps the most prominent feature is how the platform decouples its compute and storage capabilities, unlike many other data warehouses in the public cloud. This means that companies using a lot of storage but little CPU, or vice versa, can save a good deal of money using Snowflake.
Another highly valuable feature is the ability to share data externally with vendors, partners, and customers—even if these third parties aren’t Snowflake users themselves. For example, healthcare providers can use Snowflake’s data sharing feature to easily create a pointer to a patient database, rather than risk violating HIPAA through awkward, cumbersome manual processes.
The pros of using Snowflake include:
The cons of using Snowflake include:
We’ve gone over the pros and cons, but is it the right choice for you? Looking at user reviews can help you make the final decision. On the software review website TrustRadius, Snowflake has an average rating of 9.1 out of 10 stars, based on 78 ratings. Senior data engineer Torrey Vegter calls Snowflake an “amazing cloud-based database” and gives it a score of 10/10, writing:
“We use Snowflake on our data engineering team to house our data warehouse and offload a substantial amount of our ETL processes to Snowflake. Snowflake enables us to offer ultra-fast querying to the business to quickly gain insights into our current data set… it works extremely well for storing a data warehouse, as the querying is optimized for larger tables that are filled in batches. It also works extremely well with unstructured data, and has basically replaced any need we previously had for NoSQL databases.”
Meanwhile, data engineer Andrew Goss gives Snowflake a score of 9/10, writing:
“While Snowflake doesn’t have all the performance optimization bells and whistles of other cloud data warehouse platforms, this is actually a good thing… most people don’t really need all of them or miss them. Using Snowflake on the whole means less knob-turning and futzing with setup/tweaking.”
However, he also notes a few criticisms in his review, including technical support issues and the lack of support for certain table expressions.
The future of Snowflake looks bright, going from unknown newcomer to massive tech success story in just 8 years—which is why DreamFactory has decided to commence development of a Snowflake connector as part of it’s integration suite. DreamFactory makes it easy to automatically generate and manage APIs without writing a single line of code, making you more productive and profitable.
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