Snowflake Cloud Data Platform
Snowflake was founded in 2012 by two former Oracle employees with the goal of offering a pure cloud data warehouse. The Cloud Data Warehousing product, the predecessor of today’s Cloud Data Platform, was developed from scratch and released in 2014. Snowflake’s IPO in October 2020 was a big success. The company operates worldwide and has approximately 6,800 active customers of various sizes and industry sectors. It also maintains a strong and growing partner ecosystem.
The Cloud Data Platform offers simplicity and flexibility in data delivery for different workloads. An important part of this is the encapsulation of administrative database activities (“Near-Zero Management”) to simplify operations. On the other hand, the utilization of the cloud infrastructure and a special architectural approach offers performance and scalability, and creates the basis for efficient data management for nine different workloads. In addition to classic data warehousing, the Cloud Data Platform supports data engineering (building SQL-based data pipelines), data lakes, data science, data application design, marketing analytics, cybersecurity, data marketplace, as well as a unistore to support transactional use cases.
The platform can be obtained in the Amazon, Google and Microsoft cloud environments and is cloud-agnostic. Most customers use the Amazon cloud. Technically, the platform uses the cloud provider’s object store as central, fail-safe data storage for all kinds of data types and, based on this, offers cloud services and independent processing nodes for the workloads. The processing nodes can be activated as needed and offer dedicated views of the data. They are equipped with computing power depending on the application. The cloud services provide functions for management and interaction with the processing nodes, such as security, metadata and the interface for data access. Services, processing nodes and data storage can scale completely independently. In this way, individual workloads, for example, do not affect the performance of other workloads. They run in a separate ‘processing space’ but are based on the same data. Data queries are performed via SQL interfaces so the platform supports most analytical and BI tools. Data transformations can also be implemented using SQL. Partners are available to provide support with more complex data loading/transformation tasks or analysis and data science requirements.
The Data Marketplace – which can support collaboration between departments by sharing data – is an interesting workload. Snowflake enables users to easily make their data available and share it within the company or with external partners using special authorization profiles. These are ultimately views of the central data. A copy of the data is not necessary. The platform takes care of data management and security. The Data Cloud, a more global version of Data Marketplace, is a new offering that enables data consumers to connect their own data and partner data with third-party data in a huge network based on a common data layer. Concepts are in place to support access, governance and action.
User & Use Cases
Of Snowflake’s nine workloads, most respondents to this survey use the Cloud Data Platform for data warehousing and more than the half use it for data lake management or for data preparation. Considering Snowflake’s history, this focus on data provisioning and preparation is hardly surprising. But it is also interesting that 38 percent are already using the platform for advanced analytics or self-service analytics. The fact that applications for data manipulation and analysis can be tightly integrated in Snowflake’s workflows and user interfaces (e.g., to perform advanced SQL with ‘dbt’) seems to be popular. Moreover, Snowflake makes it easy for users to create new instances (sandboxes) in a self-service manner based on cloned data or by loading new data. 50 percent use Snowflake’s capabilities to do data integration. Users can take advantage of tools such as Snowplow, tools from the Snowflake partner ecosystem or refer to the concept of shared data enabled by the Data Marketplace.
Snowflake mainly targets large and mid-sized companies across all industries. The median of 15 users and the mean of 234 users per company suggests that Snowflake scales from small to large scenarios. This is also evident in the ‘Extent of usage’ numbers, which show that Snowflake is mainly used in company-wide data and analytics scenarios, but that 25 percent of companies are using the platform in several divisions and a further 25 percent are using it in just one division.
Extend of usage in the company
Total number of users per company
Total number of developers per company
Company size (number of employees)
Want to see the whole picture?
BARC’s Vendor Performance Summary contains an overview of The Data Management Survey results based on feedback from Snowflake Cloud Data Platform users, accompanied by expert analyst commentary.Contact us to purchase the Vendor Performance Summary