Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of ClickHouse and Snowflake so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how ClickHouse and Snowflake perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
ClickHouse vs Snowflake Breakdown
Cloud data warehouse
ClickHouse can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a managed service.
Snowflake can be deployed across multiple cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
Real-time analytics, big data processing, event logging, monitoring, IoT, data warehousing
Big data analytics, Data warehousing, Data engineering, Data sharing, Machine learning
Horizontally scalable, supports distributed query processing and parallel execution
Highly scalable with multi-cluster shared data architecture, automatic scaling, and performance isolation
ClickHouse is an open source columnar database management system designed for high-performance online analytical processing (OLAP) tasks. It was developed by Yandex, a leading Russian technology company. ClickHouse is known for its ability to process large volumes of data in real-time, providing fast query performance and real-time analytics. Its columnar storage architecture enables efficient data compression and faster query execution, making it suitable for large-scale data analytics and business intelligence applications.
Snowflake is a cloud-based data warehousing platform that was founded in 2012 and officially launched in 2014. It is designed to enable organizations to efficiently store, process, and analyze large volumes of structured and semi-structured data. Snowflake’s unique architecture separates storage, compute, and cloud services, allowing users to independently scale and optimize each component.
ClickHouse for Time Series Data
ClickHouse can be used for storing and analyzing time series data effectively, although it is not explicitly optimized for working with time series data. While ClickHouse can query time series data very quickly once ingested, it tends to struggle with very high write scenarios where data needs to be ingested in smaller batches so it can be analyzed in real time.
Snowflake for Time Series Data
While Snowflake is not specifically designed for time series data, it can still effectively store, process, and analyze such data due to its scalable and flexible architecture. Snowflake’s columnar storage format, combined with its powerful query engine and support for SQL, makes it a suitable option for time series data analysis.
ClickHouse Key Concepts
- Columnar storage: ClickHouse stores data in a columnar format, which means that data for each column is stored separately. This enables efficient compression and faster query execution, as only the required columns are read during query execution.
- Distributed processing: ClickHouse supports distributed processing, allowing queries to be executed across multiple nodes in a cluster, improving query performance and scalability.
- Data replication: ClickHouse provides data replication, ensuring data availability and fault tolerance in case of hardware failures or node outages.
- Materialized Views: ClickHouse supports materialized views, which are precomputed query results stored as tables. Materialized views can significantly improve query performance, as they allow for faster data retrieval by avoiding the need to recompute the results for each query.
Snowflake Key Concepts
- Virtual Warehouse: A compute resource in Snowflake that processes queries and performs data loading and unloading. Virtual Warehouses can be independently scaled up or down based on demand.
- Micro-Partition: A storage unit in Snowflake that contains a subset of the data in a table. Micro-partitions are automatically optimized for efficient querying.
- Time Travel: A feature in Snowflake that allows users to query historical data at specific points in time or within a specific time range.
- Data Sharing: The ability to securely share data between Snowflake accounts, without the need to copy or transfer the data.
ClickHouse’s architecture is designed to support high-performance analytics on large datasets. ClickHouse stores data in a columnar format. This enables efficient data compression and faster query execution, as only the required columns are read during query execution. ClickHouse also supports distributed processing, which allows for queries to be executed across multiple nodes in a cluster. ClickHouse uses the MergeTree storage engine as its primary table engine. MergeTree is designed for high-performance OLAP tasks and supports data replication, data partitioning, and indexing.
Snowflake’s architecture separates storage, compute, and cloud services, allowing users to scale and optimize each component independently. The platform uses a columnar storage format and supports ANSI SQL for querying and data manipulation. Snowflake is built on top of AWS, Azure, and GCP, providing a fully managed, elastic, and secure data warehouse solution. Key components of the Snowflake architecture include databases, tables, virtual warehouses, and micro-partitions.
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ClickHouse is designed for real-time analytics and can process large volumes of data with low latency, providing fast query performance and real-time insights.
ClickHouse’s columnar storage format enables efficient data compression, reducing storage requirements and improving query performance.
ClickHouse supports materialized views, which can significantly improve query performance by precomputing and storing query results as tables.
Snowflake’s architecture allows for independent scaling of storage and compute resources, enabling users to quickly adjust to changing workloads and demands.
Snowflake is a fully managed service, eliminating the need for users to manage infrastructure, software updates, or backups.
Snowflake provides comprehensive security features, including encryption at rest and in transit, multi-factor authentication, and fine-grained access control.
Snowflake enables secure data sharing between accounts without the need to copy or transfer data.
ClickHouse Use Cases
Large-scale data analytics
ClickHouse’s high-performance query engine and columnar storage format make it suitable for large-scale data analytics and business intelligence applications.
ClickHouse’s real-time analytics capabilities enable organizations to generate real-time reports and dashboards, providing up-to-date insights for decision-making.
Log and event data analysis
ClickHouse’s ability to process large volumes of data in real-time makes it a suitable choice for log and event data analysis, such as analyzing web server logs or application events.
Snowflake Use Cases
Snowflake provides a scalable, secure, and fully managed data warehousing solution, making it suitable for organizations that need to store, process, and analyze large volumes of structured and semi-structured data.
Snowflake can serve as a data lake for ingesting and storing large volumes of raw, unprocessed data, which can be later transformed and analyzed as needed.
Data Integration and ETL
Snowflake’s support for SQL and various data loading and unloading options makes it a good choice for data integration and ETL
ClickHouse Pricing Model
ClickHouse is an open source database and can be deployed on your own hardware. The developers of ClickHouse have also recently created ClickHouse Cloud which is a managed service for deploying ClickHouse.
Snowflake Pricing Model
Snowflake offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model, with separate charges for storage and compute resources. Storage is billed on a per-terabyte, per-month basis, while compute resources are billed based on usage, measured in Snowflake Credits. Snowflake offers various editions, including Standard, Enterprise, Business Critical, and Virtual Private Snowflake, each with different features and pricing options. Users can also opt for on-demand or pre-purchased, discounted Snowflake Credits.
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