Snowflake vs AWS Athena - Best Data Query Warehouse in 2022

April 10, 2023
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Are you looking for the best data warehouse solution for your business or organization but confused about choosing the best option? Don't worry! We've got your back, as we have compared the two leading data warehouse giants, Snowflake vs AWS Athena, in our blog.Data warehouse solutions have seen tremendous popularity in the past few years thanks to their ability to get deep data insights. Big data and analytics have now become a driving force behind companies' progress.The volume of data generated every moment has increased significantly over time. As a result, cloud data warehouse technology has emerged as a solution and is extremely efficient at handling data analysis tasks.[lwptoc skipHeadingLevel="h1,h4,h5,h6"]Speaking of data warehouse solutions, both Snowflake and AWS Athena have proven themselves as the front runners and provide profound big data analysis. So we decided to dig deep into their comparison to help you make the right decision. Keep reading to unlock the better choice for your business.

Understanding Snowflake and AWS Athena

Before we had cloud data warehouse solutions, the idea of setting up a data warehouse meant hefty amounts, labor, and complicated processes. However, warehouse solutions like Snowflake and AWS Athena have simplified the process and are providing affordable solutions.

Related: Snowflake vs Redshift – Complete Comparison Guide

We need to define AWS Athena and Snowflake before we compare them so that our readers who are not acquainted with them can get a clear idea about them. If you already know about both leading data warehouse solutions, then you may skip this heading and move on to the next one.

What is Snowflake?

Snowflake is a cloud data warehouse solution that is made on either the AWS or Azure cloud infrastructure. It is perfect for businesses and organizations that don't look forward to hiring special resources to handle their server's maintenance, support, and installation.Since Snowflake is a cloud-based warehouse solution, it does not involve any hardware or software, which means you don't have to worry about the management, installation, configuration, selection, or any such things.The revolutionary architecture and the trailblazing data sharing abilities are the reason why Snowflake is a renowned name in the market.As a result of the Snowflake architecture's ability to expand storage and carry the computation process separately, you have the complete freedom to pay for storage only when they need it. Additionally, the sharing feature makes it quite handy for companies to share authorized and secure data instantly.

What is AWS Athena?

Using Athena is quite simple as you have to define the schema after pointing to your data in Amazon Simple Storage Service and proceed with querying via SQL. It is a fast service and delivers output within a couple of seconds.You don't have to worry about scaling with Athena, as it is serverless and is designed to scale automatically. By being serverless, Athena cuts down the work required to manage the infrastructure.Thanks to Athena's auto-scaling feature, you don't have to worry about running queries concurrently when working with big data sets or complicated queries.AWS Athena is a cloud storage service that is used by data analysts worldwide to manage massive amounts of data. This interactive query service uses SQL to analyze data that is stored in Amazon S3.Athena eliminates the need for time-consuming ETL operations by conducting the data analysis. This simplifies large-scale dataset analysis for anybody with a basic understanding of SQL.

Snowflake vs AWS Athena: Comparison

Now that you know about Snowflake and AWS Athena, we can juxtapose both cloud warehouse solutions to conclude the better solution. We will compare Snowflake vs AWS Athena in six different departments and then choose our final winner with the most wins in all departments.


The most important aspect while choosing a data warehouse solution is the performance. Noone fancies a system that lacks performance. Thankfully, in terms of performance, both Snowflake and Athena are strong contenders.Snowflake allows you to scale a virtual warehouse or add more warehouse instances and lets you operate as many sessions as you want simultaneously.Athena also permits an infinite number of processes to run at the same time. However, in reality, AWS only allows up to 20 SQL queries to run in parallel.AWS Athena is a serverless service that scales, manages, and builds data sets without requiring extra infrastructure. However, Athena depends a lot on how the data is structured in S3.Even though Snowflake isn't serverless, you won't have to worry about setting up storage and computing since Snowflake works on them independently and handles them using the Snowflake Data Cloud.All in all, Athena is a bit conflicting in performance, while Snowflake is a lot more consistent. AWS Athena helps with data discovery but isn't an excellent query engine.Winner: Snowflake


Maintenance costs should be calculated in the deciding phase of selecting a data warehouse solution. In addition to price, the effort should also be counted in, as you should always prioritize automated systems that do not require much manual intervention.Both Athena and Snowflake are self-managed services and don't require any human help for their optimization and maintenance.You don't have to worry about maintaining or tuning any variables with Snowflake and don't have to deal with backups as well since everything is automated.Like Snowflake, Athena looks after the upgrades, backups, etc. Athena even goes a step further by generating schemas for you automatically, thanks to AWS Glue. Although Snowflake does not offer any such feature, you can use third-party tools to get somewhat similar functionality on Snowflake as well.Winner: Athena


Snowflake uses SSDs on the compute nodes to store cached copies of the data you query. If your virtual warehouse is suspended, the data will remain temporarily on the compute nodes. When you subsequently start your virtual warehouse, it's possible that the cached data will still be there.Sadly, Athena does not have a data caching feature, which is a big turn-off. Athena, however, supports result caching. Result caching works as the result of each query is physically stored, and subsequent execution of the identical query is fulfilled using the cached version of the result.Snowflake also supports result caching and does all processes automatically. While, on the other hand, Athena provides a manual solution which is quite underwhelming.Athena stores the query results in S3. To reuse the results from one query in another, you will have to create DDL on the underlying table and direct the query as well. All this hard work makes Athena's version of result caching quite ineffective.Winner: Snowflake


Snowflake's storage and computation architecture are separated, resulting in excellent scalability. The only method to acquire bigger nodes is through larger clusters. Thus it is ineffective at scaling for specific queries that need more nodes.Snowflake requires rewriting whole micro-partitions for each write, it is best suited for batch writes. In addition, Snowflake sends whole micro-partitions across the network, causing a barrier as the system grows in size.Since Athena works as a shared platform and is used by multiple accounts, the performance of each account is restricted to prevent data loss. Athena has a default concurrent user limit of 20. As far as scalability goes, Snowflake is a better option than Athena.Winner: Snowflake


You cannot afford to compromise on security when picking up the right cloud data warehouse solution for your business. Snowflake and Athena offer the essential required features like robust AES 256-bit encryption, authentication, and authorization.Snowflake can secure data at the column and row level, thanks to its built-in security feature.Snowflake allows you to use its multi-tenant environment, limit data to your users, and only let specific users access the confidential data. Snowflake's data sharing feature also allows you to use secure views. Unlike Snowflake, Athena does not offer such features but enables the user to secure their objects.Athena's data security utilizes the AWS shared responsibility framework. AWS is in charge of safeguarding the global infrastructure on which the AWS Cloud runs. If your material is hosted on their infrastructure, they allow you to be in charge of keeping that content under your control.Winner: Athena


The last domain for the comparison of Snowflake vs. Athena is the pricing plans. When looking for a perfect data warehouse solution, you cannot ignore the pricing factor. In fact, some people even start looking for solutions based on this very factor.Considering the compute pricing, Snowflake charges somewhere more than around $2 to $4 per node. Keep in mind that faster analytics need bigger clusters that may cost you from $15 to $30 per hour or even more. On the other hand, Athena does not charge you a dime for computing. Isn't it cool?Snowflake charges you from $23 to $40 per TB on a monthly basis on-demand/upfront and does not charge you on transferred data. Meanwhile, Athena charges you $5 per TB scanned (10MB per query)Check out the detailed pricing plans of both cloud data warehouse solutions on their official website:

  1. AWS Athena pricing plans
  2. Snowflake pricing plans

Know your budget, and then explore the options accordingly. In terms of pricing, Athena is much cheaper than Snowflake. It comes at the cost of limited benefits.If your business or organization has a solid budget and prioritizes performance over anything, then you should go with Athena. Conversely, if you are on a tight budget and are ready to compromise on the functionalities and features, then Athena is your friend.Winner: Athena

Final Decision: Snowflake vs AWS Athena?

We have compared Snowflake and AWS Athena on six different departments and concluded a separate winner for each department. As per our research, experience, Snowflake has emerged victorious and has the edge over AWS Athena on most factors.After reading the blog, you must have chosen your winner as well. We'd love to know your choice as well, so leave the name of your preferred cloud warehousing solution in the comment below.

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