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 MongoDB and Snowflake so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how MongoDB 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.
MongoDB vs Snowflake Breakdown
Cloud data warehouse
MongoDB uses a flexible, JSON-like document model for storing data, which allows for dynamic schema changes without downtime. It supports ad hoc queries, indexing, and real-time aggregation. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, in a replica set configuration for high availability, or as a sharded cluster for horizontal scaling. It is also available as a managed cloud service called MongoDB Atlas, which provides additional features like automated backups, monitoring, and global distribution.
Snowflake can be deployed across multiple cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
SSPL for community edition, commercial licenses for other versions
Content management systems, mobile applications, real-time analytics, IoT data management, e-commerce platforms
Big data analytics, Data warehousing, Data engineering, Data sharing, Machine learning
Horizontally scalable with support for data sharding, replication, and automatic load balancing
Highly scalable with multi-cluster shared data architecture, automatic scaling, and performance isolation
MongoDB is a popular, open-source NoSQL database launched in 2009. Designed to handle large volumes of unstructured and semi-structured data, MongoDB offers a flexible, schema-less data model, horizontal scalability, and high performance. Its ease of use, JSON-based document storage, and support for a wide range of programming languages have contributed to its widespread adoption across various industries and 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.
MongoDB for Time Series Data
Although MongoDB is a general-purpose NoSQL database, it can be used for storing and processing time series data. The flexible data model of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to the evolving structure of time series data, such as the addition of new metrics or the modification of existing ones. MongoDB provides built-in support for time-to-live (TTL) indexes, which automatically expire old data after a specified time period, making it suitable for managing large volumes of time series data with a limited storage capacity. MongoDB has also recently added a custom columnar storage engine and time series collection for time series use cases, meant to improve performance over the default MongoDB storage engine in terms of data compression and query performance.
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.
MongoDB Key Concepts
Some key terminology and concepts specific to MongoDB include:
- Database: A MongoDB database is a container for collections, which are groups of related documents.
- Collection: A collection in MongoDB is analogous to a table in relational databases, holding a set of documents.
- Document: A document in MongoDB is a single record, stored in a JSON-like format called BSON (Binary JSON). Documents within a collection can have different structures.
- Field: A field is a key-value pair within a document, similar to an attribute or column in a relational database.
- Index: An index in MongoDB is a data structure that improves the query performance on specific fields within a collection.
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.
MongoDB’s architecture is centered around its flexible, document-based data model. As a NoSQL database, MongoDB supports a schema-less structure, which allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, such as nested arrays and documents. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, a replica set, or a sharded cluster. Replica sets provide high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy, while sharded clusters enable horizontal scaling and load balancing by distributing data across multiple servers based on a shard key.
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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Flexible Data Model
MongoDB’s schema-less data model allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, making it well-suited for handling complex and evolving data structures.
MongoDB’s replica set feature ensures high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy.
MongoDB’s sharded cluster architecture enables horizontal scaling and load balancing, allowing it to handle large-scale data processing and querying.
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.
MongoDB Use Cases
Content Management Systems
MongoDB’s flexible data model makes it an ideal choice for content management systems, which often require the ability to store and manage diverse content types, such as articles, images, and videos. The schema-less nature of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to changing content structures and requirements.
IoT Data Storage and Analytics
MongoDB’s support for high data volumes and horizontal scalability makes it suitable for storing and processing data generated by IoT devices, such as sensor readings and device logs. Its ability to index and query data efficiently allows for real-time analytics and monitoring of IoT devices.
MongoDB’s flexibility and performance features make it an excellent choice for e-commerce platforms, where diverse product information, customer data, and transaction records need to be stored and queried efficiently. The flexible data model enables easy adaptation to changes in product attributes and customer preferences, while the high availability and scalability features ensure a smooth and responsive user experience.
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
MongoDB Pricing Model
MongoDB offers various pricing options, including a free, open-source Community Edition and a commercial Enterprise Edition, which includes advanced features, management tools, and support. MongoDB Inc. also offers a fully managed cloud-based database-as-a-service, MongoDB Atlas, with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on storage, data transfer, and compute resources. MongoDB Atlas offers a free tier with limited resources for users who want to try the service without incurring costs.
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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