What Is a Data Lakehouse? Bridging the Gap Between Data Lakes and Warehouses

Aditi Prakash
September 15, 2023
10 min read
The Data Lakehouse model merges the best of data lakes and data warehouses, aiming to offer efficient large-scale data analysis without compromising on structure and flexibility.

This guide will dive deep into the Data Lakehouse architecture, its advantages, use cases, and potential role in future data strategies.

In the ever-evolving data storage and analysis landscape, the data lakehouse is a promising paradigm combining the strengths of two foundational data architectures: data lakes and data warehouses.

The data lakehouse concept represents a unified architecture that merges the adaptability of a data lake with the structure, query performance, and transactional capabilities of a data warehouse. This streamlines data processing, data science, data analytics, and business intelligence.

In this article, we will delve into the emergence of data lakehouses, their core components, and their benefits. We will also list real-world examples of how this model helps businesses thrive.

Background: Data Lakes vs. Data Warehouses

To provide context for a data lakehouse, let’s first examine the two major storage solutions that came before it - data lake and data warehouse:

Data Lake

A data lake stores vast amounts of raw, unprocessed data in its native format. This includes structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. It offers flexibility in data types and schema-on-read, allowing data to be ingested without predefined schemas.

Lakes are also highly scalable in terms of storage and computing resources. They can handle petabytes of data and can be expanded to manage growing data volumes.

While a data lake is ideal for big data analytics, machine learning, exploration, and integration, it also has downsides, including:

  • Ensuring data quality often requires additional data preparation and cleaning efforts.
  • The flexibility of a data lake can lead to complexity in managing data, metadata, and access control.
  • Querying large, unstructured datasets can be slower than data warehouses, especially if not properly optimized.

Data Warehouse

Data warehouses store structured and processed data in a tabular format. Data is organized into predefined schemas, typically using a star or snowflake schema.

They are optimized for query performance and use indexing, caching, and aggregation to quickly execute analytical queries. A data warehouse can also store historical information.

Data warehouses are primarily used for business intelligence (BI) and reporting. They are well-suited for ad hoc queries and complex SQL-based analytics. However, they have three main disadvantages:

  • A data warehouse cannot usuaully handle diverse data types, including semi-structured and unstructured data, which is vital in today’s data landscape.
  • Loading and transforming data into a data warehouse can introduce latency, making them less suitable for real-time analytics.
  • Traditional data warehouses can be expensive and challenging to scale as data volumes grow.

Emergence of the Data Lakehouse

The emergence of the data lakehouse model can be traced to the limitations and challenges faced by data lakes and data warehouses. It provides a unified approach that combines the strengths of both architectures.

The data lakehouse offers a more comprehensive solution for modern data-driven organizations. It balances the scalability and flexibility of a data lake with the performance and structure of a data warehouse.

Key features of data lakehouses include:

  • Schema Evolution: Data lakehouses support schema-on-read, allowing users to define schemas as needed for querying while maintaining raw data in its original format. This adds flexibility and enables data quality control measures.
  • Performance Optimization: They incorporate optimizations similar to data warehouses, such as indexing and caching, to enable fast query performance on large-scale data.
  • Unified Data: A lakehouse stores structured and unstructured data, bridging the gap between data warehouses and lakes. This ensures that organizations can analyze all their data from a single repository.
  • Real-Time Analytics: They focus on supporting real-time analytics use cases, allowing organizations to gain insights from data as it’s ingested.

To learn more about modern data storage strategies checkout our latest article on Data Lake vs Lakehouse and discover the key differences between them.

Core Components of a Data Lakehouse

The main components of a data lakehouse architecture encompass various features, including:

1. Unified Batch and Real-time Processing

A data lakehouse supports batch and real-time data processing. This means it can handle data streaming in real time while also accommodating batch processing for periodic or historical data analysis. This capability is crucial for organizations dealing with time-sensitive data or those requiring immediate insights.

2. Support for Structured and Semi-Structured Data

A data lakehouse can store and process many data types, including structured (e.g., relational tables) and semi-structured data (e.g., JSON, XML, Parquet). This enables organizations to work with diverse data sources and formats without extensive data transformation efforts.

3. ACID Transactions

Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability (ACID) transactions ensure data integrity and consistency. The lakehouse supports ACID properties for transactional operations, enabling reliable data updates, inserts, and deletes. This is crucial for applications that require strong data consistency guarantees.

4. Schema Enforcement and Governance

While data lakes offer schema-on-read flexibility, a data lakehouse introduces data governance and schema management capabilities. So, data teams can define and enforce schemas during ingestion or transformation. 

This helps maintain data quality and consistency, making it easier for users to understand and use the data.

5. Scalable Storage and Efficient Querying

A data lakehouse leverages scalable storage solutions, like distributed systems or cloud object storage, to manage growing data volumes. 

Additionally, it provides efficient querying capabilities, using indexing and caching to optimize query performance on large datasets. This ensures that users can retrieve insights quickly and efficiently.

Advantages of the Data Lakehouse Model

The data lakehouse model offers several advantages that make it a good choice for modern data management and analytics:

  • Enhanced Flexibility and Scalability: Lakehouses combine a data lake’s flexibility with a data warehouse’s structured processing capabilities. This provides the agility to adapt to changing data requirements and business needs.
    Also, the scalable storage and processing capabilities of data lakehouses ensure they can handle massive volumes of data.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Data lakehouses often use cloud-based storage and compute resources, which offer a pay-as-you-go model. This provides a cost-efficient approach for organizations.
    They can scale resources up or down on demand, reducing the need for substantial initial investments in hardware and infrastructure.
  • Simplified Architecture and Reduced Data Duplication: Unlike traditional data architectures, which often require data duplication and transformation across different systems, lakehouses streamline the data pipeline.
    With data stored in its raw form and processed on-demand, there is less need for data replication and transformation. This simplifies the data architecture, reduces complexity, and minimizes the risk of data inconsistencies.
  • Better Data Quality and Data Governance: Lakehouses have data management features like schema enforcement and data governance. This enables data scientists to enforce data quality checks and schemas during ingestion or transformation.
    So, data teams have high-quality data to work with and can also maintain data lineage, making it easier to track and audit data changes.
  • Unified Data Repository: A data lakehouse is a single, unified repository for all data types and sources. This eliminates data silos and provides a centralized location for data storage and access.
    Users can query and analyze data from different departments and systems without data movement, simplifying data integration and accessibility.
  • Real-Time Analytics Support: Lakehouses support real-time analytics, allowing data scientists to gain insights from data as it’s ingested. This feature is crucial for businesses requiring real-time operations monitoring and immediate data-backed decision-making.
  • Compatibility with Existing Tools and Ecosystems: Most popular data lakehouse platforms are compatible with existing data analytics tools, SQL-based query languages, and business intelligence platforms. This ensures a smooth transition for organizations and data scientists already invested in specific technologies.

Data Lakehouse Use Cases

Here are common use cases for data lakehouses: 

  • E-commerce and Retail: E-commerce companies often deal with vast amounts of customer data, including clickstream data, transaction records, and product information. A data lakehouse allows them to store and analyze this raw data, enabling real-time personalization, recommendation engines, and demand forecasting.
  • Financial Services: Financial institutions use lakehouses to manage and analyze transaction, market, and customer data. This helps them detect fraudulent activities, optimize trading strategies, and gain insights into customer behavior for targeted marketing and risk assessment.
  • Healthcare and Life Sciences: Healthcare organizations leverage lakehouses to combine structured electronic health records (EHR) data with unstructured medical images, genomics data, and research data.
    This unified data repository facilitates advanced analytics, data science, patient outcomes prediction, and drug discovery.
  • Media and Entertainment: Media companies collect data on user engagement, content consumption, and advertising performance. A data lakehouse enables them to analyze this data to personalize content recommendations, improve ad targeting, and optimize content production.
  • Manufacturing and Supply Chain: Manufacturing companies use data lakehouses to integrate data from sensors, production systems, and supply chain operations. Analyzing real-time data helps in predictive maintenance, quality control, and supply chain optimization.
  • Telecommunications: Data teams in telecommunication companies use lakehouses to analyze call detail records, network performance data, and customer feedback. This allows them to optimize network infrastructure, improve customer experience, and identify revenue-generating opportunities.

Real-World Examples of Data Lakehouses

Leading companies across industries have shifted to the lakehouse architecture to streamline data management and analytics. These include:

  • Netflix: Netflix uses the lakehouse architecture to manage and analyze viewer data, including user interactions, content preferences, and streaming performance. It helps the streaming service make content recommendations and optimize content delivery.
  • Warner Bros Discovery: The entertainment company uses a lakehouse to leverage data to predict customer behavior and provide personalized recommendations in real-time.
  • Airbnb: Airbnb uses a lakehouse architecture to streamline data operations. This helped them significantly reduce time and cost investments in their data framework.
  • Deloitte: Deloitte created an advanced forecasting solution for healthcare and life sciences, PrecisionView, powered by a data lakehouse to provide predictive modeling and valuable insights.


The emergence of data lakehouses represents a significant advancement in data management and analytics, offering transformative potential for businesses.

This architectural model combines the best of data lakes and warehouses, addressing the limitations of traditional data architectures and unlocking new possibilities for how data teams use information. Embracing lakehouses helps companies innovate, optimize operations, and gain a competitive edge.

You can read the Airbyte blog to discover expert-backed tips and guides on data management and integration.

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