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Snowflake Architecture:
Key Features and Benefits

Written by Dylan Powell on December 27, 2023

Snowflake has revolutionized the data storage and processing world with its advanced, cloud-native Data Cloud, offering a self-managed service that outstrips traditional models in speed, ease of use, and flexibility. This blog post delves into the intricacies of Snowflake’s architecture, its seamless integration with cloud platforms and partners, and the unique benefits it offers.

Data Platform as a Self-managed Service

At its core, Snowflake is a self-managed service, eliminating the need for physical or virtual hardware management. This approach extends to software installation and maintenance, which are fully managed by Snowflake. Running entirely on cloud infrastructure, Snowflake leverages virtual compute instances and storage services, offering a hands-off experience for its users.

Key Features of Snowflake’s Self-managed Service:

The Three Distinct Layers of Snowflake’s Architecture

Snowflake’s architecture is a unique hybrid, combining the best of shared-disk and shared-nothing database architectures. It features a central data repository accessible from all compute nodes, yet processes queries using massively parallel processing (MPP) compute clusters. This innovative structure comprises three layers:

1. Database Storage

Snowflake reorganizes loaded data into an optimized, compressed, columnar format, managed entirely by Snowflake and inaccessible directly to users.

2. Query Processing

This layer utilizes “virtual warehouses,” each an MPP compute cluster, ensuring independent, non-interfering performance across warehouses.

3. Cloud Services

A suite of services coordinates Snowflake activities, managing everything from user authentication to query optimization.

Cloud Platforms and Regions

Snowflake’s flexibility is evident in its support for multiple cloud platforms, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. Users can choose their preferred platform and region for data storage and computation, based on their organizational needs or compliance requirements.

Supported Cloud Platforms:

Region Selection:

Each Snowflake account can be hosted in a chosen region on the selected cloud platform, independent of other accounts. This choice allows for alignment with data transfer billing, regional compliance, and latency considerations.

Overview of Cloud Partners in Snowflake’s Ecosystem

Snowflake’s ecosystem is enriched by a variety of cloud partners, enhancing its capabilities and integration potential. This includes support for various data loading sources, such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft Azure blob storage. Snowflake also integrates seamlessly with a range of applications for analytics, ETL, and BI tools, broadening its applicability across industries.

Key Integration Features:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Snowflake architecture?

Snowflake’s architecture is a pioneering design in the data warehousing world, distinct from traditional shared-disk or shared-nothing models. It’s a hybrid architecture that combines elements of both, utilizing a central storage repository accessible by all compute nodes, while employing a massively parallel processing (MPP) approach for query execution. This architecture is divided into three key layers: Database Storage, Query Processing, and Cloud Services, each playing a critical role in the platform’s efficiency and scalability.

What best describes the Snowflake architecture?

The best description of Snowflake’s architecture is a hybrid model combining shared-disk and shared-nothing architectures. It features:

This structure provides the simplicity of a shared-disk system with the performance benefits of a shared-nothing architecture.

What is the main purpose of Snowflake?

The primary purpose of Snowflake is to provide a highly scalable, flexible, and efficient cloud-based data warehousing solution. It enables businesses to store, process, and analyze large volumes of data with ease. Snowflake simplifies data management and supports a wide array of analytics and data-driven decision-making processes, catering to the needs of various industries and organizations.

What is the brain of Snowflake architecture?

The ‘brain’ of Snowflake’s architecture is its Cloud Services layer. This layer is crucial as it coordinates and manages the entire platform’s operations. It handles essential functions like user authentication, infrastructure management, metadata management, query parsing, and optimization, along with access control. The Cloud Services layer ensures seamless interaction between the storage and query processing layers, making it the central intelligence and control hub of Snowflake’s architecture.


Snowflake’s self-managed data platform represents a leap forward in data management and analysis. Its unique architecture, combined with broad cloud platform support and a rich ecosystem of partners, offers unparalleled flexibility and efficiency. Whether for a small business or a large enterprise, Snowflake’s solution is poised to meet the evolving demands of data-driven decision-making.

For the full detailed explanation, please refer to Snowflake’s documentation here: Snowflake Architecture