Building Big Data Storage Solutions (Data Lakes) for Maximum Flexibility
AWS Whitepaper

In-Place Querying

One of the most important capabilities of a data lake that is built on AWS is the ability to do in-place transformation and querying of data assets without having to provision and manage clusters. This allows you to run sophisticated analytic queries directly on your data assets stored in Amazon S3, without having to copy and load data into separate analytics platforms or data warehouses. You can query Amazon S3 data without any additional infrastructure, and you only pay for the queries that you run. This makes the ability to analyze vast amounts of unstructured data accessible to any data lake user who can use SQL, and makes it far more cost effective than the traditional method of performing an ETL process, creating a Hadoop cluster or data warehouse, loading the transformed data into these environments, and then running query jobs. AWS Glue, as described in the previous sections, provides the data discovery and ETL capabilities, and Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum provide the in-place querying capabilities.

Amazon Athena

Amazon Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy for you to analyze data directly in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. With a few actions in the AWS Management Console, you can use Athena directly against data assets stored in the data lake and begin using standard SQL to run ad hoc queries and get results in a matter of seconds.

Athena is serverless, so there is no infrastructure to set up or manage, and you only pay for the volume of data assets scanned during the queries you run. Athena scales automatically—executing queries in parallel—so results are fast, even with large datasets and complex queries. You can use Athena to process unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data sets. Supported data asset formats include CSV, JSON, or columnar data formats such as Apache Parquet and Apache ORC. Athena integrates with Amazon QuickSight for easy visualization. It can also be used with third-party reporting and business intelligence tools by connecting these tools to Athena with a JDBC driver.

Amazon Redshift Spectrum

A second way to perform in-place querying of data assets in an Amazon S3-based data lake is to use Amazon Redshift Spectrum. Amazon Redshift is a large-scale, managed data warehouse service that can be used with data assets in Amazon S3. However, data assets must be loaded into Amazon Redshift before queries can be run. By contrast, Amazon Redshift Spectrum enables you to run Amazon Redshift SQL queries directly against massive amounts of data—up to exabytes—stored in an Amazon S3-based data lake. Amazon Redshift Spectrum applies sophisticated query optimization, scaling processing across thousands of nodes so results are fast—even with large data sets and complex queries. Redshift Spectrum can directly query a wide variety of data assets stored in the data lake, including CSV, TSV, Parquet, Sequence, and RCFile. Since Redshift Spectrum supports the SQL syntax of Amazon Redshift, you can run sophisticated queries using the same BI tools that you use today. You also have the flexibility to run queries that span both frequently accessed data assets that are stored locally in Amazon Redshift and your full data sets stored in Amazon S3. Because Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift share a common data catalog and common data formats, you can use both Athena and Redshift Spectrum against the same data assets. You would typically use Athena for ad hoc data discovery and SQL querying, and then use Redshift Spectrum for more complex queries and scenarios where a large number of data lake users want to run concurrent BI and reporting workloads.