Is Snowflake ‘open’ enough? | InfoWorld

The relative deserves of “open” have been hotly debated in our industry for years. There is a sense in some quarters that being open is useful by default, but this see does not constantly absolutely take into account the aims being served. What issues most to the broad vast majority of businesses are stability, effectiveness, charges, simplicity, and innovation. Open up ought to constantly be used in services of those people targets, not as the goal in by itself.

When we develop items at Snowflake, we assess exactly where open criteria, open formats, and open resource can generate the very best end result for our buyers. We think strongly in the optimistic affect of open and we are grateful for the open resource community’s endeavours, which have propelled the significant information revolution and a great deal additional. But open is not the remedy in every instance, and by sharing our thinking on this subject we hope to offer a handy point of view to other individuals making progressive systems.

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Open up is typically understood to explain two broad things: open criteria and open resource. We’ll appear at them every single in additional detail listed here.

Open up criteria

Open up criteria encompass file formats, protocols, and programming versions, which involve languages and APIs. Although open criteria frequently offer benefit to people and distributors alike, it’s essential to fully grasp exactly where they provide greater-stage priorities and exactly where they do not.

File formats

We agree that open file formats are an essential counter to the pretty serious challenge of vendor lock-in. Where we vary is in the assertion that those people open formats are the optimal way to characterize information for the duration of processing, and that direct file entry ought to be a essential characteristic of a information platform. 

At initial look, the capability to right entry data files in a normal, perfectly-acknowledged format is interesting, but it becomes troublesome when the format desires to evolve. Contemplate an enhancement that enables far better compression or far better processing. How do we coordinate throughout all probable people and apps to fully grasp the new format?

Or take into account a new stability capacity exactly where information entry is dependent on a broader context. How do we roll out a new privacy capacity that explanations via a broader semantic comprehending of the information to prevent re-identification of men and women? Is it required to coordinate all probable people and apps to adopt these alterations in lockstep? What happens if one particular of these is missed?

Our prolonged practical experience with these trade-offs gives us a robust conviction about the superior benefit of supplying abstraction and indirection versus exposing uncooked data files and file formats. We strongly think in API-pushed entry to information, in greater-stage constructs abstracting away bodily storage specifics. This is not about rejecting open it’s about providing far better benefit for buyers. We equilibrium this with making it pretty easy to get information in and out in normal formats.

A very good illustration of exactly where abstracting away the specifics of file formats drastically will help finish people is compression. An capability to transparently modify the underlying representation of information to achieve far better compression translates to storage financial savings, compute financial savings, and far better effectiveness. Exposing the specifics of file formats tends to make it following to difficult to roll out far better compression with no incurring prolonged migrations, breaking alterations, or additional complexity for apps and builders. 

Identical concerns crop up when we believe about enhancements to stability, information governance, information integrity, privacy, and several other locations. The record of databases devices provides loads of examples, like iSAMS or CODASYL, showing us that bodily entry to information leads to an innovation lifeless finish. Extra not too long ago, adopters of Hadoop located by themselves managing pricey, advanced, and unsecured environments that did not provide the promised effectiveness.

In a globe with direct file entry, introducing new capabilities translates into delays in noticing the rewards of those people capabilities, complexity for application builders, and, most likely, governance breaches. This is another issue arguing for abstracting away the inside representation of information to offer additional benefit to buyers, while supporting ingestion and export of open file formats. 

Open up protocols and APIs

Knowledge entry methods are additional essential than file formats. We all agree that staying away from vendor lock-in is a essential customer precedence. But while some think that open formats are the solution, the significant lifting in any migration is actually about code and information entry, whether or not it’s protocols and connectivity drivers, query languages, or business enterprise logic. Those who have long gone via a system migration can most likely attest that the subject of file formats is a purple herring.

For us, this is exactly where open issues most — it’s exactly where pricey lock-in can be prevented, information governance can be maximized, and increased innovation is probable. Focusing on open protocols and APIs is essential to staying away from complexity for people and enabling continuous, transparent innovation.

Open up resource

The rewards cited for open resource involve a increased comprehending of the technological know-how, increased stability via transparency, decrease charges, and local community improvement. Open up resource can provide versus some of these targets, and does so mostly when technological know-how is installed on-premises, but the change to managed companies tremendously alters these dynamics.

When it comes to increased comprehending of code, take into account that a refined query processor is typically constructed and optimized above quite a few years by dozens of Ph.D. graduates. Generating the resource code out there will not magically enable its people to fully grasp its internal workings, but there might be increased benefit in surfacing information, metadata, and metrics that offer clarity to buyers.

Yet another aspect of this discussion is the want to duplicate and modify resource code. This can offer benefit and optionality to businesses that can spend to establish these capabilities, but we’ve also witnessed it lead to undesirable repercussions, such as fragmented platforms, much less agility to put into practice alterations, and competitive dysfunction. 

Greater stability

This has typically been one particular of the primary arguments for open resource. When an group deploys software package inside of its stability perimeter, resource code availability can without a doubt maximize self esteem about stability. But there is a rising recognition of the hazards in software package supply chains, and advanced technological know-how methods typically mixture a number of software package subsystems with no an comprehending of the whole finish-to-finish affect on stability.

Thankfully there is a far better design, which is the deployment of technological know-how as managed cloud companies. Encapsulation of the internal workings of these companies allows for speedier evolution and speedy shipping and delivery of innovation to buyers. With added focus, managed companies can take away the configuration stress and reduce the hard work demanded for provisioning and tuning. 

Lessen expense

Most businesses have regarded by now that not paying a software package license does not essentially signify decrease charges. Moreover the expense of upkeep and assistance, it ignores the expense and complexity of deploying, updating, and split-repairing software package. Price tag ought to be calculated in conditions of total expense and cost/effectiveness out of the box. In this article, much too, managed companies are preferable, eliminating amongst other factors the need to take care of versions, get the job done about upkeep windows, and fine-tune software package.


One particular of the most strong aspects of open resource is the notion of local community, by which a team of people get the job done collaboratively to boost a technological know-how and assist one particular another. But collaboration does not need to suggest resource code contribution. We believe of local community as people serving to one particular another, sharing very best practices, and talking about upcoming instructions for the technological know-how. 

As the change from on-premises to the cloud and managed companies continues, these subjects of management, stability, expense, and local community recur. What is fascinating is that the first targets of open resource are being satisfied in these cloud environments with no essentially supplying resource code for everyone—which is exactly where we started this discussion. We have to not reduce sight of the wished-for outcomes by focusing on strategies that might no longer be the very best route to those people outcomes.

Open up at Snowflake

At Snowflake, we believe about initial rules, about wished-for outcomes, about meant and unintended repercussions, and, most importantly, about what’s very best for our buyers. As these types of, we really do not believe of open as a blanket, non-negotiable attribute of our platform, and we are pretty intentional in deciding upon exactly where and how we embrace it. 

Our priorities are crystal clear: 

  1. Provide the greatest degrees of stability and governance 
  2. Provide industry-leading effectiveness and cost/effectiveness via continuous innovation and 
  3. Set the greatest degrees of top quality, capabilities, and ease of use so our buyers can focus on deriving benefit from information with no the need to take care of infrastructure. 

We also want to ensure that our buyers continue to use Snowflake for the reason that they want to and not for the reason that they’re locked in. To the extent that open criteria, open formats, and open resource assist us achieve those people targets, we embrace them. But when open conflicts with those people targets, our priorities dictate versus it.

Open up criteria at Snowflake

With those people priorities in mind, we have absolutely embraced normal file formats, normal protocols, normal languages, and normal APIs. We’re intentional about exactly where and how we do so, and we have invested intensely in the capability to leverage the capabilities of our parallel processing motor so that buyers can get their information out of Snowflake speedily ought to they need or decide on to. However, abstracting away the specifics of our low-stage information representation allows us to constantly boost our compression and provide other optimizations in a way that is transparent to people. 

We can also advance the controls for stability and information governance speedily, with no the stress of managing direct (and brittle) entry to data files. Similarly, our transactional integrity rewards from our stage of abstraction and not exposing underlying data files right to people. 

We also embrace open protocols, languages, and APIs. This features open criteria for information entry, traditional APIs these types of as ODBC and JDBC, and also Relaxation-centered entry. Similarly, supporting the ANSI SQL normal is essential to query compatibility while featuring the ability of a declarative, greater-stage design. Other examples we embrace involve company stability criteria these types of as SAML, OAuth, and SCIM, and numerous technological know-how certifications.

With good abstractions and marketing open exactly where it issues, open protocols enable us to shift speedier (for the reason that we really do not need to reinvent them), enable our buyers to re-use their awareness, and empower speedy innovation due to abstracting the “what” from the “how.” 

Open up resource at Snowflake

We provide a modest amount of parts that get deployed as software package methods into our customers’ devices, these types of as connectivity drivers like JDBC or Python connectors or our Kafka connector. For all of these we offer the resource code. Our goal is to empower highest stability for our buyers, and we do so by providing our main platform as a managed services, and we maximize the peace of mind for installable software package via open resource.

However, a misguided application of open can generate pricey complexity as a substitute of low-expense ease of use. Presenting secure, normal APIs while not opening up our internals allows us to speedily iterate, innovate, and provide benefit to buyers. But buyers simply cannot create—deliberately or unintentionally—dependencies on inside implementation specifics, for the reason that we encapsulate them guiding APIs that stick to stable software package engineering practices. That is a important benefit for both sides, and it’s essential to sustaining our weekly cadence of releases, to continuous innovation, and to useful resource performance. Consumers who have migrated to Snowflake notify us continually that they respect those people choices.

The interface to our absolutely managed services, operate in its possess stability perimeter, is the agreement among us and our buyers. We can do this for the reason that we fully grasp every element and dedicate a good volume of resources to stability. Snowflake has been evaluated by stability groups throughout the gamut of firm profiles and industries, such as remarkably controlled industries these types of as health care and money companies. The system is not only secure, but the separation of the stability perimeter via the clean abstraction of a managed services simplifies the task of securing information and information devices for buyers.

On a last note, we like our user teams, our customer councils, and our user conferences. We absolutely embrace the benefit of a vivid local community, open communications, open discussion boards, and open conversations. Open up resource is an orthogonal strategy, from which we do not shy away. For illustration, we collaborated on open sourcing FoundationDB, and made substantial contributions to evolving FoundationDB further more. 

However, we really do not extrapolate from this to say there is an inherent advantage to open resource software package. We could equally have utilized a distinctive operational shop and a distinctive design of making it to suit our requirements if desired. The FoundationDB illustration illustrates our essential thesis: Open up is a good collection of initiatives and procedures, but it’s one particular of several equipment. It is not the hammer for all nails and is the very best preference only in some predicaments.