Data Insights

Snowflake vs Redshift: A Comprehensive Guide On Choosing Your Cloud Data Warehouse

Thalia Barrera
April 6, 2023
15 min read

Embarking on the quest for the perfect cloud data warehouse can be complex, with Snowflake and Amazon Redshift offering robust features and unique benefits.

This blog post delves into the intricacies of Snowflake and Redshift, comparing their performance, pricing, and core features. It also provides insightful recommendations tailored to specific use cases, company sizes, and industries, ensuring you have the knowledge to make a well-informed decision for your data strategy.

Whether you're a data-driven powerhouse seeking to enhance your data warehouse approach, a startup traversing the cloud-based data warehouse landscape, or simply eager to stay informed about the latest trends in data management and data warehousing solutions, this blog post is your invaluable resource.

In a rush? Don't worry. Here’s a concise summary of the key aspects to consider:

Snowflake vs Redshift TL;DR

Setting up the context

Before jumping into a deep comparison of Snowflake and Redshift, consider these critical questions: 

  • What problems do you need to solve? 
  • What kind of business do you have? 
  • What tech and infrastructure are you currently using? 
  • Is your operation at a scale where your data warehouse choice matters?

Once you're clear on these aspects, it’s worth looking at the unique tech context of Snowflake and Redshift. In short, three main factors set these data warehouses apart: cost management, user-friendliness, and cloud environment.

Let's break these aspects down.

Redshift is part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) family and is built on other foundational AWS services like S3 and EC2. On the other hand, Snowflake is built on other cloud based services from AWS (just like Redshift), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Azure, which makes it a multi-cloud data warehouse solution.

So, while they seem like rivals, both Redshift and Snowflake ultimately contribute to AWS's overall earnings, this situation allows Snowflake to exist as a distributor or middleman, taking on risk and gaining profit margins as a reward.

Snowflake can reach markets that Redshift might struggle with, mainly because it removes the need for highly skilled professionals, making it more accessible.

For example, setting up and configuring Redshift could demand a good deal of engineering resources. A project that could take months with Redshift might be significantly shorter with Snowflake. Startups, in particular, find Snowflake attractive due to its lower engineering requirements.

However, be mindful that Snowflake can be pricier for the above reasons. Customers might need to operate at a larger scale to secure better pricing. Not being familiar with the data warehouse and neglecting to read the documentation carefully can lead to hidden or extra costs.

Another key point to consider is whether your current infrastructure relies heavily on AWS. Redshift might have the upper hand if that's the case due to its native integration with the AWS ecosystem. That's not to say you can't achieve the same results with Snowflake, but things might run more smoothly.

Eager to venture further and uncover the subtleties of these data warehouses?

Let's dive headfirst into each aspect.

Performance: Snowflake vs Redshift

When hunting for the perfect cloud data warehouse, performance is like the holy grail for data professionals.

Let’s compare Snowflake and Redshift by assessing key differences in their architecture, query speed, scalability, and concurrency strengths.

Query Speed

Snowflake and Redshift are like the racehorses of the data warehouse world, letting you analyze massive amounts of data at breakneck speeds. 

Snowflake combines traditional shared-disk and shared-nothing architectures to provide the best of both worlds. This data warehouse architecture keeps compute and storage resources separate so that you can scale them independently.

On the other hand, Redshift is built on a Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture that shares the same data workload across multiple nodes, like a well-coordinated data juggling act. Its columnar storage format lets Redshift cherry-pick the necessary columns to process a query, reducing I/O operations.


Snowflake and Redshift shine in the scalability department, allowing you to tweak resources as needed. Snowflake's architecture allows near-instant scaling of compute resources and data tasks without affecting storage. Plus, you can create multiple Virtual Warehouses to store data and run queries on multiple data warehouses concurrently.

Redshift isn't left in the dust, though. It lets you resize clusters or add extra nodes to handle growing data volumes and query loads. But watch out for the catch—resizing Redshift clusters might need some downtime, impacting availability.


Snowflake's architecture is designed for concurrency, letting you create multiple Virtual Warehouses to handle different workloads. Each Virtual Warehouse runs queries independently, ensuring one user's queries don't hinder another's performance.

Snowflake also sports a cool feature called Multi-Cluster Warehouses, which automatically adds or removes compute clusters based on query load and demand, ensuring performance and resource utilization stay in harmony.

Redshift has enhanced its massive parallel processing concurrency capabilities with the Concurrency Scaling feature, which automatically adds extra clusters to handle increased query loads.

Redshift also offers workload management (WLM) capabilities, letting you define query queues and allocate resources based on priority to juggle concurrency like a pro.

Pricing: Snowflake vs Redshift

When selecting a cloud data warehouse, pricing is one of the most crucial factors. Understanding the pricing models and cost structures is essential to avoid unexpected expenses and ensure cost-effectiveness.

Let's delve into Snowflake and Redshift's pricing schemes, compare their offerings, and determine which is more cost-effective for your needs.

Snowflake Pricing

With Snowflake's pricing, you only pay for the resources you consume. The cost structure consists of two main elements:

  • Compute usage: You're charged based on the compute resources employed to execute queries. Consider it a "pay-per-query" approach, calculated per second with a 60-second minimum. Snowflake's Virtual Warehouses are adaptable, and pausing them when unnecessary can help save on costs.
  • Storage usage: Snowflake separately bills for data storage, which is calculated according to the monthly data volume in terabytes (TB). They efficiently compress and optimize data storage, contributing to cost savings.

Remember that Snowflake offers extra features, like data sharing and regional data transfers, which may come with additional charges.

Redshift Pricing

Redshift's cost structure is a mix of on-demand, reserved instances, and serverless pricing, broken down into these components:

  • Compute usage: Redshift charges you based on the number and type of nodes in a cluster. You can choose the pay-as-you-go option (on-demand pricing) or commit to a long-term relationship (reserved instances) for discounted rates. Additionally, Amazon Redshift Serverless allows you to pay for usage by automatically managing capacity based on your application's needs, so you pay only for the capacity consumed while processing the workload.
  • Storage usage: For Redshift's dense storage nodes, storage costs are bundled with compute costs, simplifying the pricing model. However, for the RA3 nodes with managed storage, you'll be charged separately for data storage based on the monthly amount.
  • Data transfer: Redshift doesn't charge for data transfer within the same AWS region, but crossing regional borders comes at a cost.
  • Concurrency Scaling: Redshift's Concurrency Scaling feature, which helps manage concurrency better, bills separately based on the usage of extra clusters. You can use Concurrency Scaling to automatically provision additional compute capacity and pay only for what you use on a per-second basis after exhausting the free credits.
Snowflake vs Redshift comparison in terms of pricing

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Evaluating cost-effectiveness in cloud data warehouses can seem complex, with Snowflake and Redshift offering unique attributes. Data volume, query patterns, and storage requirements contribute to decision-making.

Here are several scenarios that can help you solve the mystery and identify the optimal solution for your organization:

  • Riding the waves: If your company faces unpredictable query loads that ebb and flow like the tide, Snowflake's pay-as-you-go model and pause button for compute resources might be your best bet. You only pay for what you use, which is excellent for managing costs.
  • Smooth sailing: For organizations with more stable and predictable workloads, Redshift's reserved instances are like a long-term investment that saves costs over time. It's the budget-conscious choice in this case.
  • Going the distance: If your company frequently transfers data between regions, Snowflake could be more expensive because of its data transfer fees. In this scenario, Redshift might be the more cost-effective solution.
  • Concurrency conundrum: Snowflake's architecture and Multi-Cluster Warehouses could be the ticket to cost-effective data warehousing for businesses juggling multiple queries simultaneously. However, it might be the more wallet-friendly choice if Redshift's Concurrency Scaling, and workload management features are enough to handle your concurrency needs.

Ecosystem and integrations: Snowflake vs Redshift

Snowflake and Redshift both offer a rich and extensive ecosystem of integrations with various data sources, tools, and platforms that help you with large data volumes put the pieces together, from data ingestion to transformation and analysis.

Snowflake's Integrations

With Snowflake, you can connect to various data sources, transformation tools, and BI platforms.

Key integrations include:

  • Data Sources: Snowflake plays well with databases, data lakes, and data streams. Data ingestion is a breeze thanks to its compatibility with popular data-loading tools like Apache Kafka, Airbyte, Stitch, or Talend.

    Snowflake supports various semi structured data types, such as JSON, Avro, ORC, Parquet, and XML. It offers built-in import/export functionality, native data types (ARRAY, OBJECT, VARIANT) for storage, and native querying support for semi-structured data.
  • Data Transformation: Snowflake partners with leading transformation tools and platforms, such as dbt, so you can easily perform complex data transformations and build pipelines.
  • Business Intelligence: Visualize and analyze your data seamlessly with various BI tools, including Tableau, Looker, Power BI, and Qlik.
  • Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics: Snowflake teams up with platforms like DataRobot, Dataiku, and to help you build and deploy sophisticated data models.

Snowflake's kryptonite is its lack of native integration with some AWS services, like Amazon Kinesis or AWS Glue, which might require extra configuration or third-party tools.

Redshift's Integrations

Redshift also offers a universe of integrations with data sources business intelligence tools, transformation tools, and BI platforms.

Key integrations include:

  • Data Sources: Redshift can connect with relational databases, data lakes, and streaming platforms. It gets along with AWS services like Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, and Amazon Kinesis, as well as third-party tools like Apache Kafka and Airbyte.

    The SUPER data type in Amazon Redshift stores semi structured data. It enables schemaless persistence, allowing coexistence of different data versions within the same column. SUPER data can include scalar values (null, boolean, numbers, and strings) or complex values (arrays or structures, like JSON storage).
    Redshift also supports multiple data output formats with the UNLOAD command.
  • Data Transformation: Redshift joins forces with AWS Glue, empowering you to build data pipelines and perform complex transformations.
  • Business Intelligence: Redshift integrates with popular BI tools like Tableau, Looker, Power BI, and Qlik for seamless data visualization and analysis.
  • Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics: Team up with Redshift and AWS SageMaker or other advanced analytics platforms to build and deploy machine learning models and perform sophisticated data analysis.

Data Security and Compliance: Snowflake vs Redshift

Data security and compliance are like superheroes in cloud data warehouses, defending your organization's data and ensuring it complies with all the necessary regulations.

Let's take a look at the superpowers Snowflake and Redshift possess in the realm of data management and security.

Snowflake's Data Security Arsenal

  • Data Encryption: Snowflake provides end-to-end encryption, protecting data at rest using AES-256 and in transit with TLS. Data is automatically encrypted by Snowflake using Snowflake-managed keys.
  • Access Control: Snowflake supports role-based access control (RBAC), user authentication through standard user/password credentials, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), federated authentication, single sign-on (SSO), Snowflake OAuth, and External OAuth to ensure secure access to your data.
  • Data Storage and Isolation: Choose the geographical location where your data is stored, based on your region. Snowflake allows deployment inside a cloud platform VPC (AWS or GCP) or VNet (Azure) and supports isolation of data for loading and unloading using Amazon S3 policy controls, Azure storage access controls, and Google Cloud Storage access permissions.
  • Compliance and Advanced Security Features: Snowflake supports PHI data in compliance with HIPAA and HITRUST CSF regulations (requires Business Critical Edition or higher). It also offers Column-level Security, Row-level Security, and Object Tagging for advanced control and tracking of sensitive data and resource usage (requires Enterprise Edition or higher).
  • Data Protection and Recovery: Snowflake Time Travel allows querying historical data in tables and restoring and cloning data in databases, schemas, and tables (1-day standard for all accounts; additional days, up to 90, allowed with Snowflake Enterprise). Snowflake Fail-safe provides a 7-day window for disaster recovery.
  • Auditing Capabilities: Snowflake's comprehensive auditing includes query logging and data access monitoring, allowing you to analyze audit logs with your existing security information and event management (SIEM) systems.

Redshift's Data Security Toolkit

  • Data Encryption: Redshift encrypts data at rest with AES-256 and data in transit with SSL/TLS. It supports customer-managed encryption keys via AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and provides hardware-accelerated SSL for communication with Amazon S3 or Amazon DynamoDB during COPY, UNLOAD, backup, and restore operations.
  • Access Control: Redshift offers access control through RBAC, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) integration, Single Sign-On (SSO), and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) via identity provider integration. Redshift also provides column-level access control and row-level security control for more granular data access management.
  • Network and Cluster Security: Redshift supports cluster security groups, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) for protecting access to your cluster, and cluster encryption when launching the cluster.
  • Auditing Capabilities: Redshift's detailed audit logs help you track user activities, query execution, and data access. You can integrate these logs with SIEM systems or AWS-native tools like Amazon CloudWatch for analysis and alerts.

Compliance Certifications

Snowflake and Redshift are like A+ students when it comes to compliance certifications:

  • HIPAA: Both platforms passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) with flying colors, proving they can handle sensitive healthcare data.
  • GDPR: Both are in good standing with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), meeting the strict data privacy and security requirements for taking care of personal data belonging to European Union residents.
  • SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3: They both aced their SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 audits, showing off their commitment to top-notch security and reliability.
  • FedRAMP: Snowflake and Redshift made the grade for the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), meeting the strict security requirements for handling US government data.
  • PCI DSS: Both platforms get gold stars for complying with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), ensuring they can securely process and store credit card data.

Ease of Use and Learning Curve: Snowflake vs Redshift

When adopting a new cloud data warehouse, you want to ensure it meets the complexity requirements your team can handle.

So, let's see how Snowflake and Redshift measure up in terms of ease of use and learning curves.

Snowflake: The Smooth Operator

Snowflake is like that user-friendly gadget you can use right out of the box.

It has a web-based interface that's so straightforward even your grandparents could use it. Plus, it speaks SQL, which is second nature to data professionals. With automatic scaling and resource management, it takes the headache out of large scale data analysis.

Snowflake Resources

  • Documentation: Check out the Snowflake website for guides, tutorials, and everything you need to become a Snowflake expert.
  • Community Support: Join the Snowflake forum to chat with fellow Snowflakers and share your experiences.
  • Training Materials: Enroll in Snowflake University for online courses, webinars, and certification programs.
  • Snowflake Partner Network: Get extra help from technology partners, consultants, and managed service providers.

Redshift: The Familiar Face

Redshift is also user-friendly and speaks SQL, but it's a bit more of a challenge for newbies to the AWS ecosystem.

You'll need hands-on experience managing resources and performance tuning, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves.

Redshift Resources

  • Documentation: Dive into user guides, tutorials, and best practices on the AWS website.
  • Community Support: Connect with fellow Redshift users and AWS professionals on the community forums and Developer Center.
  • Training Materials: Enroll in AWS courses, webinars, and certification programs to sharpen your Redshift skills.
  • AWS Partner Network: Get expert help from technology partners, consultants, and managed service providers in the AWS ecosystem.

Recommendations Based on Specific Use Cases, Company Sizes and Industries

When exploring the vast universe of various cloud services and data warehouses, finding a solution that fits your organization like a tailored suit is vital.

So, let's see which platform could be the perfect match for different use cases, company sizes, and industries:

  • Startups and Small Businesses: Snowflake is like that budget-friendly, easy-to-use gadget perfect for startups and small businesses. Its pay-as-you-go pricing model and simple setup are ideal for handling fluctuating workloads.
  • Large Enterprises: Snowflake and Redshift can flex their muscles for large enterprises, but the best fit depends on your organization's unique needs. If you're already deep in the AWS ecosystem, Redshift might be your best friend. On the other hand, if flexibility and multi-cloud support are top priorities, Snowflake could be the way to go.
  • Healthcare and Finance: With top-notch security features and HIPAA and PCI DSS compliance certifications, Snowflake and Redshift are well-equipped to handle sensitive healthcare or financial data.
  • Data-Intensive Industries: If your business is swimming in data, like e-commerce, gaming, or IoT, Snowflake's automatic scaling and improved concurrency make it a strong contender for handling unpredictable workloads and high-performance demands.
  • Hybrid or Multi-Cloud Strategists: Snowflake is your best choice for organizations juggling multiple cloud providers with its support for various cloud platforms and a rich ecosystem of integrations.

Wrapping up

Deciding between cloud services like Snowflake and Redshift comes down to your specific needs, situation and data strategy.

Before making a choice, think about some key factors like the problems you're tackling, your business type, and your current tech setup. After you've got a handle on these points, compare the two platforms based on cost, ease of use, and cloud compatibility.

Snowflake is great for startups and businesses without a big engineering team, thanks to its accessibility and multi-cloud flexibility. But keep in mind that it might come with higher costs, and you'll need to understand the platform well to avoid any hidden fees.

On the flip side, Redshift is a go-to choice for businesses that are already deep into the AWS world. Its tight integration with AWS services means things could run more smoothly, but it might demand more engineering resources during setup and configuration.

If you still would like to know more about these platforms, I wrote extensively about Redshift for its 10 year anniversary, and later about the evolution of the Snowflake data cloud.

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