AWS S3 and Snowflake – use case summary

Snowflake and S3 Data Lake - Cloudyard

Both platforms are valid and will likely work together in larger enterprises.  The tricky part is always access, entitlements and RBAC or TBAC.  Across the 2 platforms and related accounts, domains and networks, this is not trivial and needs to be designed up front.  A summary of the use cases for AWS S3 Data Lake and Snowflake are below.

AWS S3 Data Lake is a data storage solution where large volumes of data are stored in their raw format. It forms the foundation of a data lake architecture where data can be kept indefinitely at a low cost.  You can life cycle manage the data storage to cold archiving retention (glacier).

  • Storage: S3 provides highly durable, scalable, and secure object storage. It can store any type of data, such as logs, images, and other forms of unstructured data.
  • Cost-effective: S3 is designed for 99 x .9 (11), (11 9’s) of durability, and its pricing model is based on the amount of data stored and transferred, making it cost-effective for large data volumes.
  • Flexibility: Data can be accessed using AWS native tools or third-party solutions for processing and analysis. It supports various data formats and is compatible with multiple data processing and analytics tools.
  • Security and Compliance: It offers robust security features, including access controls, encryption at rest and in transit, and integration with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).


Snowflake is a cloud-based data platform and data warehouse service that enables data storage, processing, and analytic solutions that are faster and easier to use than traditional offerings.

  • Architecture: Snowflake separates compute and storage, allowing users to scale up or down on the fly without downtime or performance degradation. This separation allows for both elastic performance and cost control.
  • Data Warehouse: Unlike S3, Snowflake is specifically designed for data warehousing. It offers SQL-based analysis, integrated data sharing capabilities, and supports semi-structured data such as JSON, Avro, and Parquet directly.
  • Performance: Snowflake is known for its performance in handling complex queries and large datasets. Its architecture allows multiple users to run queries simultaneously without affecting each other’s performance.
  • Ease of Use: It provides a full SQL database engine with features like cloning, time travel, and automatic tuning. Users do not need to manage indices or optimize the database.

Use Cases Comparison

  • AWS S3 Data Lake is ideal for scenarios where you need to store vast amounts of data in a cost-effective way with flexibility in how data is processed and analyzed. It suits use cases where data is ingested in its raw form and might be used across diverse analytical platforms.
  • Snowflake excels in scenarios where organizations need to perform complex data analytics, real-time analytics, and securely share data insights across and outside the organization. It is beneficial when ease of management and scalability of computing resources are critical considerations.


The choice between AWS S3 Data Lake and Snowflake depends largely on the specific data handling and analysis needs of the organization. For large-scale data storage with flexible processing options, an S3 Data Lake is highly effective. For organizations seeking a powerful, scalable data warehousing solution with minimal management overhead, Snowflake is a strong contender. Often, organizations use both in tandem, utilizing S3 for raw data storage and Snowflake for complex querying and data analysis.