Snowflake has been making headlines lately, having reported $1.1 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2022—that’s 106% growth year-on-year. But while this data warehousing solution might be a good investment for traders, that doesn’t answer the simple question: “What is Snowflake?”
What is Snowflake?
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 Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process, where you can easily access and mine data for insights.
ETL works like this:
- ETL extracts data from multiple disparate sources such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, transactional databases, relational databases, SaaS tools, and social media platforms.
- Then ETL transforms that data into the correct format for analytics. That transformation process might include cleansing the data and ensuring it complies with data governance principles like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA.
- Finally, ETL loads the transformed data into the Snowflake data warehouse, where you can run it through business intelligence (BI) platforms and generate insights for problem-solving and decision-making.
This might sound like an easy process, but it’s not. You need to build complex data pipelines for extracting data, transforming that data, and loading it to Snowflake. If you don’t have data engineering skills, ETL can be a challenge. That’s why many companies use ETL tools that complete the process for them.
There’s another way to connect data from disparate sources into Snowflake. DreamFactory lets you build a REST API for Snowflake integration in less than five minutes. All you need is your Snowflake credentials, and the open-source platform does all the hard work for you. That means you don’t need to build an API from scratch or worry about complicated code, schemas, data silos, query processing, metadata, or other manual tasks associated with data integration and data processing. Learn more.
It is compatible with the three largest public cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
Why Should You Move Data to Snowflake?
Migrating data to Snowflake can benefit your business. That’s because it secures and encrypts all the data you need for big data analytics. (Snowflake has data warehousing certifications such as PCI DSS).
The warehouse also makes it easier to generate business intelligence. Companies like yours typically store data in several ‘siloed’ systems that don’t connect with each other, making analytics a challenge. By moving data to the Snowflake architecture via ETL or a REST API with DreamFactory, you can move all your information to a centralized location and run data through real-time BI tools. Then you can use those data insights to grow your business.
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. (HIPAA, like many data governance frameworks, can result in expensive fines for non-compliance.)
Pros and Cons
When answering the question “What is Snowflake?” you should weigh up the pros and cons of this data warehouse. The pros of using this database include:
- Extreme scalability: users can create a practically unlimited number of virtual warehouses, each one running its own workload against the data in its database. What’s more, users can quickly and easily resize the number of nodes in each cluster for optimal performance. Snowflake can also improve connectivity and optimize database storage.
- Cloud-based: Snowflake is a cloud data warehouse, meaning you don’t need to invest in expensive hardware to store and analyze data.
- Automatic performance tuning: Snowflake includes built-in automatic query performance optimization via a query optimization engine, without the need for users to manually tweak the settings.
- Strong data security: Snowflake comes with a wide variety of industry-leading data security features, including IP allow and block lists, multi-factor authentication, and automatic 256-bit AES encryption. Snowflake is compliant with data security standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC 1 and SOC 2.
- User access controls: Now you can control who accesses your sensitive data and prevent insiders from viewing confidential information.
The cons of using Snowflake include:
- Lack of synergy: While it can run in the Amazon, Google, and Microsoft public clouds, it isn’t a native offering. Each of these public clouds offers its own cloud data warehouse solution: Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, respectively. This means that users can miss out on the benefits of a more tightly integrated cloud ecosystem.
- Lack of support for unstructured data: Snowflake only supports structured and semi-structured data.
- Higher cost: Depending on the use case, Snowflake can be more expensive than competitors such as Amazon Redshift. According to one Redshift comparison, Redshift is 1.3 times cheaper for on-demand pricing and even cheaper when purchasing a reserved instance in advance.
- No data constraints: No data limits for computing and storage might sound like an incredible thing. However, Snowflake has a pay-as-you-go model, and users might incur expensive bills if they use too much data!
Looking at user reviews can help you make the final decision. On the software review website G2.com, Snowflake has an average user rating of 4.5/5 stars based on nearly 350 reviews. The data warehouse’s highest-rated features include scalability and user access controls.
Here is a selection of some user reviews:
- “Everything about it is amazing. It is super fast and computes queries so fast. It can get you more than 6 million rows in less than 5 seconds. Snowflake has the feature of time traveling, which lets you go back to a previous stage of your data, and it is very helpful. Since it has the storage and computing separated, it lets you query in a very fast way and maintains different warehouses.” (Muskan C.)
- “Snowflake access is an easy process overall. The objects/tables creation DDL is much similar to a SQL server/MySQL syntax. Any number of tables with any number of elements could be created in your snowflake workspace. The analytical queries could be executed on top of Snowflake in a very efficient and smooth fashion with tremendous performance throughput.” (Giridhar P.)
- “Snowflake is the best data warehousing tool in the market. It gets all the features as one connects to any cloud environment like AWS, Azure, or GCP to store its data plus the virtual warehouse is pretty fast. Its internal micro partitioning feature is also pretty handy.” (Rahul B.)
Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API for Snowflake in less than five minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14-day hosted trial to learn how! DreamFactory’s guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example MySQL database.
Getting Started with Snowflake and DreamFactory
The future of Snowflake looks bright, going from an unknown newcomer to a massive tech success story in just eight years. That’s why DreamFactory has a reliable Snowflake connector as part of its 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.
Want to learn how DreamFactory can help you integrate data with Snowflake? Get in touch with the team today for a chat about your Snowflake needs and objectives or to start your free trial of the DreamFactory platform.