Skip to Content

What is the difference between Spark and snowflake?

In today’s data-driven world, organizations rely on powerful tools and platforms to process and analyze large volumes of data. Two popular options for data processing and analytics are Apache Spark and Snowflake. While both are capable of handling big data workloads, they differ in terms of their architecture, data processing models, and integration capabilities. In this article, we will explore the differences between Spark and Snowflake and discuss how to choose the right platform based on your specific requirements.


Definition and purpose of Spark: Apache Spark is an open-source distributed computing system designed for processing and analyzing large datasets. It provides an easy-to-use programming interface and supports various data processing tasks, including batch processing, stream processing, machine learning, and graph processing.

Key features and capabilities of Spark: Spark offers several key features that make it a powerful tool for big data processing:

  1. In-memory computing: Spark leverages in-memory data storage, allowing for faster data access and processing compared to traditional disk-based systems. This feature enables real-time data analysis and interactive querying.
  2. Data processing and analysis: Spark provides a wide range of libraries and APIs for processing and analyzing data, including SQL, DataFrame API, GraphX, and MLlib. This makes it suitable for various data processing tasks, from simple data transformations to complex analytics.
  3. Stream processing: Spark Streaming allows you to process real-time data streams with low latency. It supports various data sources, including Kafka, Flume, and HDFS, making it ideal for building real-time analytics and machine learning applications.

Data source integration with Spark: Spark offers seamless integration with various data sources, including Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), Amazon S3, Apache Kafka, and more. It can read data from and write data to these sources, enabling flexible data ingestion and transformation.

Advantages and disadvantages of using Spark: Spark has several advantages that make it a popular choice for big data processing:

  1. Scalability and performance: Spark’s distributed computing model allows it to scale horizontally across a cluster of machines, making it suitable for processing large volumes of data. Additionally, its in-memory computing capability provides faster query execution and iterative processing.
  2. High-level programming APIs: Spark provides high-level APIs in multiple languages, including Scala, Java, Python, and R. This makes it accessible to developers with different skillsets and allows for faster development and prototyping.
  3. Complexity and learning curve: While Spark offers powerful features, it can be more complex to set up and configure compared to some other platforms. Additionally, mastering Spark’s APIs and understanding its computational model may require a learning curve for developers who are new to the platform.

Now that we have looked at Spark’s features and capabilities, let’s shift our focus to Snowflake.


Definition and purpose of Snowflake: Snowflake is a cloud-based data warehousing platform that provides a SQL-based approach to data processing and analytics. It is known for its unique architecture, scalability, and performance.

Key features and capabilities of Snowflake: Snowflake offers several key features that set it apart as a data warehousing platform:

  1. Cloud-native architecture: Snowflake is built from the ground up for cloud computing. It utilizes a multi-cluster, shared data architecture that separates storage and compute. This allows for independent scaling of resources, optimizing cost-efficiency and performance.
  2. Elastic scalability and performance: Snowflake’s architecture allows it to automatically scale up or down based on workload demands. This ensures that you have the necessary resources when you need them, without the need for manual intervention.
  3. Data sharing and collaboration: Snowflake allows organizations to securely share data with external partners and collaborate on data analysis projects. This feature makes it a popular choice for organizations that require data sharing and collaboration capabilities.

Data source integration with Snowflake: Snowflake uses external tables to extract data from external data sources. These tables contain the address of the original data, acting as a reference to that. After transformations have been applied, the final dataset is loaded into the destination table.

Advantages and disadvantages of using Snowflake: Snowflake offers several advantages that make it a popular choice for data warehousing and analytics:

  1. Fully managed service: Snowflake is a fully managed service, meaning that the infrastructure and maintenance tasks are handled by the platform. This allows organizations to focus on data analysis and insights, without worrying about infrastructure management.
  2. Separation of storage and compute: Snowflake’s architecture separates the storage and computational components, allowing for independent scaling of resources. This ensures optimal performance and cost-efficiency.
  3. Limited support for complex computations: While Snowflake excels in managing and analyzing structured data, it has some limitations when it comes to handling complex computations and unstructured data. It may not be the best choice for organizations that require advanced analytics or heavy data processing.

Now that we have explored the features and capabilities of both Spark and Snowflake, let’s compare the differences between the two.

Differences between Spark and Snowflake

Data processing model

  1. Spark’s in-memory computing vs Snowflake’s cloud-native architecture: Spark utilizes in-memory computing for faster data processing, while Snowflake adopts a cloud-native architecture that separates storage and compute. This allows for independent scalability and optimized performance.
  2. Spark’s batch and stream processing vs Snowflake’s SQL-based approach: Spark supports both batch and stream processing, making it suitable for real-time data analysis. In contrast, Snowflake focuses on SQL-based queries for data processing, making it a powerful tool for data warehousing and analytics.

Data ingestion and integration

  1. Spark’s ability to read data from various sources vs Snowflake’s use of external tables: Spark offers rich integration with various data sources, allowing for easy data ingestion from different platforms. Snowflake, on the other hand, uses external tables to extract data from external sources, providing flexibility in data extraction and transformation.
  2. Spark’s flexibility in data transformation vs Snowflake’s loading into destination tables: Spark provides extensive support for data transformation and processing, allowing for complex data manipulations. Snowflake, however, loads the transformed data into destination tables, simplifying the data storage and retrieval process.

Scalability and performance

  1. Spark’s distributed computing vs Snowflake’s elastic scalability: Spark’s distributed computing model allows it to scale horizontally across a cluster, providing scalability for big data processing. Snowflake, on the other hand, offers elastic scalability, automatically adjusting resources based on workload demands.
  2. Spark’s potential for higher performance with proper tuning vs Snowflake’s optimized query execution: Spark’s in-memory computing and distributed nature enable it to achieve high performance. With proper tuning and optimization, Spark can deliver fast query execution. Snowflake, on the other hand, optimizes query execution internally, ensuring efficient data retrieval and processing.


  1. Spark vs. Snowflake: A Comprehensive Comparison of the …
  2. Spark vs Snowflake? : r/dataengineering
  3. What is Apache Spark?
  4. Benchmarking Snowflake vs Spark for Optimized DataOps
  5. Apache Spark vs Snowflake