Databricks vs Snowflake: A Comparative Analysis

Sarima Chiorlu
June 22, 2023
16 min read
In the era of data-driven decision-making, organizations are constantly seeking the most efficient and powerful tools to process, analyze, and derive insights from their ever-growing data volumes.

Databricks vs Snowflake are two companies that consistently stand out as premier solutions in their respective industries. Both platforms include state-of-the-art tools for streamlining data management, analytics, and machine learning workflows.

Databricks is known for its unified analytics platform, which seamlessly integrates data engineering, data science, and business intelligence capabilities. On the other hand, Snowflake, with its cloud-based data warehousing platform, delivers unparalleled scalability, performance, and ease of use.

With the goal of illuminating their distinct capabilities and assisting you in making an informed choice for your data infrastructure needs, in this article, we will thoroughly examine the advantages, nuances, and distinguishing characteristics of Databricks and Snowflake.

What is Snowflake?

Snowflake is an analytic cloud data warehouse built on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure. The three pillars of Snowflake's basic philosophy are performance, scalability, and simplicity. It seeks to do away with the complications that come with conventional on-premises data warehousing systems, allowing businesses to concentrate on getting insights from their data rather than maintaining infrastructure.

A multi-cluster, shared-disk design that separates compute from storage is the foundation of the Snowflake system. This split enables autonomous scaling of computational resources, allowing users to scale up or down based on their individual workload requirements. 

The ability of Snowflake to easily manage enormous amounts of data is one of its main selling points. Snowflake improves data storage, decreasing storage costs while ensuring quick query speed. It does this by utilizing a columnar storage format and data compression techniques. Snowflake's automatic query optimization and workload management capabilities also make it possible for queries to be executed effectively regardless of the complexity or quantity of the dataset.

Let’s have a look at what Databrick offers before we take a deep dive into comparing both features.

What is Databricks?

Databricks is a platform that enables enterprises to do complex data transformations and analytics at scale, giving faster insights and shortening time-to-value. This is done by employing Spark's in-memory processing capabilities. At its core, Apache Spark is an open-source distributed computing engine that is used by Databricks to handle and analyze enormous amounts of data.

One of Databricks' main selling points is its unified approach to data analytics. It combines multiple elements, including data ingestion, data exploration, model creation, and visualization, into a unified platform. This connection eliminates the need for enterprises to deploy and manage numerous different solutions, resulting in a more streamlined end-to-end data analytics process.

Databricks' scalability is one of its key features. It helps businesses adjust their computing resources according to demand, ensuring top performance and financial effectiveness. By utilizing cloud computing resources, Databricks enables businesses to dynamically assign computing capacity to their data processing and analysis workloads. When working with huge datasets or machine learning models that require a lot of resources, this scaling capability is quite helpful.

Databricks vs Snowflake: Key Differences

Let us dive into the key distinctions between Databricks and Snowflake, unraveling their unique features and functionalities.

snowflake vs databricks comparison

Comparing Architectural Foundations 

The architectural foundations of Snowflake and Databricks encompass the underlying structures and principles upon which these data platforms are built. Let us delve into comparing the architectural foundations of Snowflake and Databricks, revealing their fundamental disparities.

Snowflake Cloud-Native Data Warehousing Architecture

Snowflake is built on a cloud-native architecture, leveraging the infrastructure and services provided by cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Its architecture is characterized by the following key elements:

a) Separation of Compute and Storage: Snowflake separates storage from computational resources, enabling independent scaling of both elements. Data is stored in a virtual warehouse, while computational resources manage query execution and processing. Organizations are able to scale computational resources up or down as necessary because of this separation, maximizing both performance and cost.

b) Shared-Disk Architecture: Data is kept in a centralized storage layer that is accessible by numerous compute instances on the shared-disk. High concurrency is made possible as several users and workloads can process data at once.

c) Micro-Partitioning: Here, data is divided into smaller, more effective chunks known as micro-partitions. This strategy enhances query performance by allowing the platform to read only the data needed for a specific query, minimizing the amount of data retrieved and increasing overall efficiency.

d) Data Clustering: Snowflake automatically separates data into smaller groups based on shared characteristics. This clustering improves query performance by minimizing the quantity of data that must be scanned because data with similar properties is kept together.

Databricks' Unified Analytics Platform with Apache Spark

Databricks, on the other hand, is built on the Apache Spark framework, a powerful open-source distributed computing system. Its architectural foundations are centered around the following key elements:

a) Distributed Computing: Databricks uses Spark's distributed computing capabilities to handle and analyze enormous amounts of data across a cluster of servers. Spark's in-memory processing enables quick data access and computation, resulting in increased data processing task performance.

b) Unified Analytics Environment: Databricks offers a unified platform that combines data engineering, data science, and business intelligence capabilities. Data intake, data exploration, model creation, and visualization are all combined into a single platform, removing the need for enterprises to handle numerous dissimilar technologies.

c) Notebooks and Collaborative Workspace: Databricks provides collaborative workspaces where data experts can collaborate using notebooks. Users can create code, run queries, and see the results of their data research iteratively and interactively in notebooks. This setting encourages cooperation and knowledge exchange.

d) Language Support: Data professionals can use their chosen language for analytics and modeling activities with Databricks because it supports a variety of computer languages, including Python, R, Scala, and SQL. This adaptability enables simple integration with existing code bases and allows users to work with the languages they are most familiar with.

e) Scalability and Resource Management: Databricks is designed to grow horizontally over a cluster of devices, allowing enterprises to increase their computational resources in response to demand. Large datasets and resource-demanding machine learning applications can be handled effectively thanks to this scalability.

Evaluating Scalability and Query Performance 

Scalability and query performance are critical factors when considering data management and analytics platforms. Both Snowflake and Databricks offer robust capabilities in these areas, but their approaches and features differ. Let's evaluate the scalability and query performance aspects of Snowflake and Databricks to understand their strengths and considerations.


a) Snowflake: With regard to computing resources, Snowflake's cloud-native architecture supports elastic scalability apart from storage. Users can flexibly change the resources assigned to their virtual warehouses to accommodate shifting workload demands. Snowflake's auto-scaling capability provisions computing nodes as needed and scales down as the workload reduces. Through the effective use of resources, this flexibility guarantees optimum performance and cost-efficiency.

b) Databricks: Databricks achieves scalability by leveraging Apache Spark's distributed computing capabilities. It can horizontally grow over a cluster of servers, enabling enterprises to add or remove nodes in accordance with workload requirements. This makes it possible to distribute computer resources and carry out tasks concurrently throughout the cluster. For processing huge datasets and conducting resource-intensive machine learning applications, this scalability is very helpful.

Query Performance:

a) Snowflake: Snowflake optimizes query performance via a variety of methods. Its shared-disk architecture enables numerous compute instances to access data at the same time, enabling high concurrency. Snowflake's data clustering and micro-partitioning help decrease the amount of data retrieved during query execution, lowering query latency. Additionally, Snowflake's automatic query optimization and indexing capabilities improve performance by optimizing execution plans depending on the underlying data structure.

b) Databricks: Databricks makes use of Apache Spark's in-memory processing capabilities, which makes data access and calculation quick. Spark's distributed computing approach provides parallel processing across the cluster, enabling the effective execution of sophisticated data transformations and analytics. Additionally, Databricks offers performance optimization methods like data caching and data skipping to quicken query execution.

Performance Benchmarks and Use Case Considerations:

Evaluating scalability and query performance frequently necessitates measuring specific use cases and workloads. The ideal option between Snowflake and Databricks may be determined by the nature of the data, the complexity of the queries, and the workload factors. Conducting performance tests and benchmarking on representative workloads can provide significant insights into the platforms' performance for certain use cases.

Considerations: It is important to assess the specific requirements of your use cases and workload patterns to determine which platform aligns better with your performance needs. Testing and benchmarking can help validate the scalability and query performance of each platform in your unique environment.

Integration and Ecosystem 

Integration capabilities and ecosystem support are crucial considerations when selecting a data management and analytics platform. Both Snowflake and Databricks offer extensive integration options and have built ecosystems around their platforms. Let's have a look at both

Snowflake Integration and Ecosystem:

Snowflake provides a wide range of integration options, allowing organizations to connect and ingest data from various sources. Key aspects of Snowflake's integration and ecosystem include:

a) Data Connectors: Snowflake offers native connectors to popular data sources, including cloud-based storage platforms like Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage, and Google Cloud Storage. These connectors enable direct data ingestion and seamless integration with data lakes and data warehouses.

b) ETL/ELT Tools: Snowflake integrates well with Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) and Extract, Load, Transform (ELT) tools such as Airbyte. These tools enable organizations to streamline data integration and transformation processes.

c) Streaming Data: Snowflake provides connectors to real-time streaming platforms such as Apache Kafka, enabling organizations to ingest and process streaming data for real-time analytics.

d) BI and Analytics Integration: Snowflake supports integration with popular business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools such as Tableau, Power BI, Looker, and Qlik. This integration allows seamless data visualization, reporting, and ad-hoc analysis on Snowflake data.

e) Partner Ecosystem: Snowflake has established partnerships with various technology vendors, including cloud providers, ISVs, and consulting firms. These partnerships expand the capabilities and offerings available to Snowflake users and provide additional support for integration and implementation.

Databricks Integration and Ecosystem:

Databricks offers extensive integration capabilities to enable seamless connectivity and interoperability within the broader data ecosystem. Key aspects of Databricks' integration and ecosystem include:

a) Data Sources: Databricks supports integration with a wide range of data sources, including databases, data lakes, and cloud storage platforms. It provides connectors to popular databases such as Oracle, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, as well as data lakes like Amazon S3, Azure Data Lake Storage, and Google Cloud Storage.

b) Streaming Platforms: Databricks integrates well with real-time streaming platforms like Apache Kafka and Apache Pulsar, allowing organizations to ingest, process, and analyze streaming data in real-time.

c) ML and AI Libraries: Databricks integrates with popular machine learning and artificial intelligence libraries, including TensorFlow, PyTorch, and scikit-learn. This integration enables data scientists to leverage their preferred libraries for building and deploying machine learning models.

d) Partner Integrations: Databricks has established partnerships with various technology vendors, enabling seamless integration with tools and services across the data and analytics landscape. These partnerships include collaborations with cloud providers, software vendors, and consulting firms.

e) Delta Lake: Databricks introduced Delta Lake, an open-source storage layer that provides ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) transactional capabilities on data lakes. Delta Lake enhances data reliability, data quality, and data governance, making it easier to integrate and work with data in the Databricks ecosystem.

Security and Compliance 

Ensuring robust security and compliance measures is crucial when selecting a data management and analytics platform. Both Snowflake and Databricks prioritize security and offer features to protect data and meet regulatory requirements. Let's explore the security and compliance capabilities of Snowflake and Databricks to understand how they address these critical aspects.

Security Features of Snowflake:

Snowflake incorporates several security measures to protect data and maintain a secure environment:

a) Encryption: Snowflake encrypts data at rest and in transit using industry-standard encryption algorithms. Data at rest is encrypted using customer-managed keys or Snowflake-managed keys. Snowflake also provides options for encrypted data transfers between Snowflake and client applications.

b) Access Controls: Snowflake offers granular access controls to secure data. It allows organizations to define roles, privileges, and access policies at various levels, including databases, schemas, tables, and columns. This ensures that only authorized users can access specific data.

c) Authentication and Identity Management: Snowflake integrates with popular authentication and identity management systems such as Okta, Azure Active Directory, and OAuth. This enables organizations to enforce strong authentication mechanisms, including multi-factor authentication (MFA), and centralize user management.

d) Audit Logging: Snowflake provides comprehensive audit logging capabilities, allowing organizations to track and monitor user activities, data access, and system events. These logs can be used for compliance reporting, investigating security incidents, and ensuring data governance.

e) Data Governance: Snowflake offers features to support data governance, including data classification, data masking, and row-level security. These features enable organizations to enforce data privacy and compliance policies within the platform.

Security Features of Databricks:

Databricks prioritizes security and compliance by implementing various measures:

a) Encryption: Databricks encrypts data at rest and in transit, leveraging encryption mechanisms provided by the underlying cloud platform. Data at rest is encrypted using customer-managed keys or platform-managed keys. Data transfers between Databricks and client applications are encrypted using secure protocols.

b) Access Controls: Databricks provides access controls to manage user permissions and restrict access to sensitive data. It integrates with identity providers such as Azure Active Directory and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) for user authentication and authorization.

c) Workspace Isolation: Databricks isolates user workspaces within a virtual private network (VPC) or virtual network service endpoints. This isolation provides additional security by preventing unauthorized access and data leakage.

d) Fine-Grained Access Control: Databricks offers fine-grained access controls at the notebook, folder, and cluster levels. Organizations can define permissions for specific users or groups, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access and modify resources.

e) Compliance Certifications: Databricks complies with various industry and regulatory standards, including GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC 2. It undergoes regular audits to ensure adherence to these standards and provides documentation to support customers' compliance requirements.

Considerations: It's important to note that while both Snowflake and Databricks have robust security features, organizations must still implement proper security practices and configurations to fully leverage the platform's security capabilities. Additionally, compliance requirements may vary depending on specific industries and geographies, so organizations should assess how well each platform aligns with their specific compliance needs.

User Experience and Collaboration

User experience and collaboration capabilities are essential considerations when choosing a data management and analytics platform. Both Snowflake and Databricks offer features that enhance the user experience and facilitate collaboration among data professionals. Let's have a look:

User Experience and collaboration in Snowflake:

Snowflake provides a user-friendly interface and features that enhance the overall user experience:

a) Web Interface: Snowflake offers a web-based user interface (UI) that provides a user-friendly and intuitive experience. The UI allows users to manage their databases, schemas, tables, and queries, providing a centralized hub for data management tasks.

b) SQL-Based Querying: Snowflake uses SQL as its query language, which is familiar to many data professionals. This allows users to leverage their existing SQL skills and work with the platform more efficiently.

c) Query History and Results: Snowflake keeps a history of executed queries, allowing users to refer back to previous queries and their results. This feature simplifies troubleshooting and enables users to reuse and modify past queries.

d) Workload Management: Snowflake provides workload management capabilities that allow users to prioritize and allocate resources to different workloads based on their importance. This feature ensures optimal performance and efficient resource utilization.

e) Role-Based Access: Snowflake allows administrators to define roles and privileges for users, enabling granular access controls. This ensures that users only have access to the necessary resources based on their roles and responsibilities.

f) Collaboration: Snowflake exhibits their dedication to teamwork through data sharing. Snowflake facilitates the effective and efficient sharing of data and database objects by generating business assets from data, with monetization options that create prospective revenue prospects. Data can be distributed to partners, vendors, and clients utilizing controlled and customized perspectives.

User Experience and Collaboration in Databricks:

Databricks offers a collaborative and interactive environment that promotes teamwork and productivity:

a) Notebooks: Databricks provides a collaborative workspace where data professionals can work together using notebooks. Notebooks combine code, documentation, and visualizations in an interactive environment, allowing users to write code, execute queries, and visualize results. This collaborative workspace fosters knowledge sharing and streamlines collaborative workflows.

b) Version Control: Databricks integrates with popular version control systems like Git, allowing users to manage and track changes to notebooks and code. This feature facilitates collaboration among team members and ensures proper versioning and reproducibility of analyses.

c) Libraries and Shared Code: Databricks allows users to install and share libraries and packages across notebooks and clusters. This promotes code reuse, accelerates development, and facilitates collaboration by enabling the sharing of common code and functions.

d) Live Collaboration: Databricks supports real-time collaboration, enabling multiple users to work simultaneously on the same notebook. This feature enhances team productivity by allowing users to collaborate, provide feedback, and make changes in real-time.

e) Integration with Development Tools: Databricks integrates with popular development tools such as Jupyter, IntelliJ, and Visual Studio Code. This allows users to leverage their preferred development environment while seamlessly working with Databricks.

Snowflake vs Databricks: Use Cases and Applications


Snowflake's primary strength lies in its ability to serve as a robust, scalable, and easy-to-use data warehouse. The platform can handle structured and semi-structured data like JSON, Avro, or XML, which makes it flexible for various types of data storage and analytic applications. Here are a few use cases:

  • Business Intelligence (BI): Snowflake is an excellent fit for BI use cases due to its fast SQL-based querying and seamless integration with popular BI tools like Tableau, Power BI, and Looker. You can store large amounts of data and easily perform reporting, dashboarding, or ad-hoc analysis.
  • Data Sharing and Data Marketplaces: Snowflake allows for secure, real-time data sharing without needing to copy or move the data. This feature is particularly useful for organizations looking to monetize their data or establish data marketplaces. Additionally, businesses can effortlessly collaborate with their partners or customers by sharing live and ready-to-query data.
  • Data Engineering: With its ability to handle large datasets and support for various data formats, Snowflake is often used for building robust data pipelines. Snowpipe, Snowflake's continuous data ingestion service, enables near real-time data processing.


Databricks is an industry-leading platform that provides a unified analytics solution combining data science, data engineering, and business analytics. Built on Apache Spark, it has the following use cases:

  • Big Data Processing: Databricks, being rooted in Apache Spark, is excellent for big data processing tasks. It can handle batch processing, streaming, and complex transformations on large datasets.
  • Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics: Databricks offers a collaborative workspace for data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning models. The platform supports multiple machine learning libraries and frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch, and offers MLflow, an open-source platform to manage the machine learning lifecycle.
  • Real-Time Analytics: Databricks' support for Spark Streaming and integration with tools like Kafka makes it suitable for real-time analytics use cases. You can ingest data in real-time, perform transformations, and serve the processed data to downstream applications for immediate insights.
  • ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) Workflows:With its ability to handle large volumes of data and support for a variety of data sources, Databricks is commonly used for ETL workflows. You can efficiently extract data from various sources, transform it within Databricks, and load it into a data warehouse for storage and analysis.

In summary, while there is some overlap, the two platforms are optimized for somewhat different use cases. Snowflake excels as a cloud data warehouse platform with great features for BI and data sharing, while Databricks shines in areas of big data processing, machine learning, and advanced analytics.


In conclusion, the comparative analysis of Databricks and Snowflake reveals two powerful platforms that excel in different areas while complementing each other in the data management and analytics landscape.

While Databricks and Snowflake have their unique strengths, they can also work together in a complementary manner, with Databricks for data exploration, preprocessing, and advanced analytics, and Snowflake as a powerful data warehousing solution for storing and querying large datasets. The seamless integration between the two platforms allows for a cohesive data pipeline, from data ingestion and preparation in Databricks to storage and analytics in Snowflake.

If you found this exploration of Databricks vs. Snowflake insightful and crave more knowledge, dive into our in-depth comparison of two other cloud data warehouse giants, Snowflake vs. Redshift—uncover the nuances and make informed decisions in the ever-evolving landscape of data management.

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