Review of two New Cloud BI tools : Snowflake and Looker

Snowflake: data warehouse in the cloud (specially amazon)

Snowflake compute is basically an analytics computing database that has scalability. Data is stored / shared on AWS S3 buckets instead of in snowfalek. You spin up snowflake tool injest and load into it’s proprietary parallel columnar sql engine for analytics processing. Afterwards you run sql against it. It’s mostly PL/SQL and/or TSQL like syntax. In the world of hadoop snowflake is  sql based data warehouse you run on demand.

Pros:

  • Magically scale up/down compute nodes  with a few clicks. No need for database tuning.
  • Ingest JSON data directly from flatfiles/tez files.
  • Pay only for what you use platform.
  • Sql based platform so no need to learn another language.

Cons:

  • Amazon Cloud locked  Vendor
  • All your data need to  be in S3 and cleaned into a semi-structured manner to read and load into snowflake.
  • SQL is not completely up-to-date with latest (missing window functions etc.)

Looker: Cloud based Business Intelligence Reporting and Dashboards. 

Looker’s a new BI tool. It does reports, dashboards, and allow data exploration. The thing that makes it different is it cloud hosted, it uses more developer like frameworks (LookML like yaml language syntax, GIT version control, releases pushes).  It’s very fast to build up in the hands of a seasoned data engineer / data architect. It also simplifies a lot of common data warehouse tasks (auto generate time dimension lookups, rolling totals, data manipulation), and it has connectors to most data sources via jdbc.

Pros:

  • Easy to setup quickly and get baseline reports working.
  • Cloud based so you can just point to your db and host on them or setup on premise instance yourself.
  • GIT version control and rollback, something not in most BI tools.
  • Relatively cheap to embed into existing applications.

Cons:

  • Still quite new and doesn’t have all mature BI  features built out.
  • Visualizations still simple grids, bars, lines, pies and etc.
  • Requires  a fairly technical person to setup lookML schemas before business analysts can self service and data explore.
  • Need to know sql well to troubleshoot results.

Common between Looker and Snowflake is that they’re both AWS Cloud based, easy to get setup fast, and use SQL as the lingua franca.

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