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The Snowflake data platform is not build on any existing database technology or “big data” software platforms such as Hadoop. Instead, Snowflake combines a completely new SQL query engine with an innovative architecture natively designed for the cloud. To the user, Snowflake provides all of the functionality of an enterprise analytic database, along with many additional special features and unique capabilities.

Snowflake architecture is hybrid of traditional share-disk and shared-nothing database architectures. Similar to shared-disk architectures, Snowflake uses a central data repository for persisted data that is accessible from all compute nodes in the platform. But similar to shared-nothing architectures, Snowflake processes queries using MPP (massively parallel processing) compute clusters where each node in the cluster stores a portion of the entire data set locally. This approach offers the data management simplicity of a shared-disk architecture, but with the performance and scale-out benefits of a shared-nothing architecture

Snowflake is a cloud platform that provides fully managed storage, provides multiple scalable and available on-demand compute instances. It suspend automatically when left in idle state and resume when query executed on the server.

Snowflake’s unique architecture consists of three key layers:

Database Storage

When data loads into Snowflake, Snowflake reorganizes that data into its internal optimized, compressed, columnar format. Snowflake stores this optimized data in cloud storage.

Snowflake manages all aspects of how this data store — the organization, file size, structure, compression, metadata, statistics, and other aspects of data storage are handle by Snowflake. The data objects stored by Snowflake are not directly visible nor accessible by customers; they are only accessible through SQL query operations run using Snowflake.

Query Processing

Query execution is performed in the processing layer. Snowflake processes queries using “virtual warehouses”. Each virtual warehouse is an MPP compute cluster composed of multiple compute nodes allocated by Snowflake from a cloud provider.

Each virtual warehouse is an independent compute cluster that does not share compute resources with other virtual warehouses. As a result, each virtual warehouse has no impact on the performance of other virtual warehouses.

For more information, see Virtual Warehouses.

Cloud Services

The cloud services layer is a collection of services that coordinate activities across Snowflake. These services tie together all of the different components of Snowflake in order to process user requests, from login to query dispatch. The cloud services layer also runs on compute instances provisioned by Snowflake from the cloud provider.

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