Striking a balance with ‘open’ at Snowflake

The relative deserves of “open” have been hotly debated in our industry for years. There is a perception in some quarters that staying open is helpful by default, but this perspective does not normally fully take into consideration the goals staying served. What matters most to the broad bulk of corporations are safety, efficiency, fees, simplicity, and innovation. Open up should really normally be employed in company of those goals, not as the intention in by itself.

When we establish items at Snowflake, we assess in which open requirements, open formats, and open supply can create the finest consequence for our shoppers. We feel strongly in the positive effects of open and we are grateful for the open supply community’s endeavours, which have propelled the significant data revolution and a great deal much more. But open is not the solution in just about every instance, and by sharing our imagining on this subject matter we hope to supply a practical standpoint to other folks creating modern systems.

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Open up is frequently recognized to describe two broad things: open requirements and open supply. We’ll look at them each individual in much more depth listed here.

Open up requirements

Open up requirements encompass file formats, protocols, and programming models, which incorporate languages and APIs. Although open requirements normally supply price to users and sellers alike, it’s vital to recognize in which they provide greater-degree priorities and in which they do not.

File formats

We agree that open file formats are an vital counter to the very true issue of seller lock-in. Wherever we vary is in the assertion that those open formats are the ideal way to stand for data during processing, and that immediate file access should really be a crucial attribute of a data system. 

At initial look, the means to directly access files in a standard, very well-known structure is attractive, but it gets troublesome when the structure requirements to evolve. Look at an improvement that enables greater compression or greater processing. How do we coordinate throughout all feasible users and programs to recognize the new structure?

Or take into consideration a new safety functionality in which data access is dependent on a broader context. How do we roll out a new privateness functionality that reasons by a broader semantic comprehending of the data to keep away from re-identification of men and women? Is it essential to coordinate all feasible users and programs to adopt these variations in lockstep? What transpires if just one of these is missed?

Our prolonged experience with these trade-offs offers us a sturdy conviction about the outstanding price of giving abstraction and indirection as opposed to exposing raw files and file formats. We strongly feel in API-pushed access to data, in greater-degree constructs abstracting absent bodily storage facts. This is not about rejecting open it’s about offering greater price for shoppers. We balance this with making it very straightforward to get data in and out in standard formats.

A fantastic illustration of in which abstracting absent the facts of file formats drastically will help conclusion users is compression. An means to transparently modify the underlying illustration of data to achieve greater compression interprets to storage financial savings, compute financial savings, and greater efficiency. Exposing the facts of file formats tends to make it subsequent to unattainable to roll out greater compression without incurring prolonged migrations, breaking variations, or additional complexity for programs and builders. 

Comparable problems come up when we assume about enhancements to safety, data governance, data integrity, privateness, and a lot of other places. The record of database methods gives lots of examples, like iSAMS or CODASYL, showing us that bodily access to data potential customers to an innovation useless conclusion. Much more not long ago, adopters of Hadoop identified on their own taking care of expensive, advanced, and unsecured environments that didn’t produce the promised efficiency.

In a world with immediate file access, introducing new abilities interprets into delays in realizing the advantages of those abilities, complexity for application builders, and, most likely, governance breaches. This is an additional issue arguing for abstracting absent the internal illustration of data to supply much more price to shoppers, whilst supporting ingestion and export of open file formats. 

Open up protocols and APIs

Knowledge access approaches are much more vital than file formats. We all agree that staying away from seller lock-in is a crucial client priority. But whilst some feel that open formats are the solution, the significant lifting in any migration is genuinely about code and data access, irrespective of whether it’s protocols and connectivity drivers, question languages, or small business logic. Individuals who have gone by a system migration can probable attest that the subject matter of file formats is a red herring.

For us, this is in which open matters most — it’s in which expensive lock-in can be avoided, data governance can be maximized, and bigger innovation is feasible. Concentrating on open protocols and APIs is crucial to staying away from complexity for users and enabling continuous, clear innovation.

Open up supply

The advantages cited for open supply incorporate a bigger comprehending of the technological innovation, amplified safety by transparency, decreased fees, and group development. Open up supply can produce versus some of these goals, and does so mostly when technological innovation is mounted on-premises, but the change to managed companies greatly alters these dynamics.

When it arrives to bigger comprehending of code, take into consideration that a complex question processor is usually constructed and optimized around quite a few years by dozens of Ph.D. graduates. Generating the supply code offered will not magically enable its users to recognize its inner workings, but there might be bigger price in surfacing data, metadata, and metrics that supply clarity to shoppers.

An additional component of this dialogue is the desire to duplicate and modify supply code. This can supply price and optionality to corporations that can make investments to develop these abilities, but we’ve also noticed it guide to unwanted penalties, which includes fragmented platforms, much less agility to put into action variations, and competitive dysfunction. 

Amplified safety

This has customarily been just one of the most important arguments for open supply. When an business deploys computer software within its safety perimeter, supply code availability can in fact boost confidence about safety. But there is a escalating consciousness of the dangers in computer software provide chains, and advanced technological innovation solutions frequently mixture multiple computer software subsystems without an comprehending of the complete conclusion-to-conclusion effects on safety.

Luckily for us there is a greater design, which is the deployment of technological innovation as managed cloud companies. Encapsulation of the inner workings of these companies permits for quicker evolution and fast shipping and delivery of innovation to shoppers. With added concentrate, managed companies can remove the configuration burden and remove the energy needed for provisioning and tuning. 

Decrease price tag

Most corporations have regarded by now that not spending a computer software license does not essentially imply decreased fees. Apart from the price tag of routine maintenance and assist, it ignores the price tag and complexity of deploying, updating, and split-repairing computer software. Value should really be measured in conditions of complete price tag and price tag/efficiency out of the box. Right here, too, managed companies are preferable, getting rid of amongst other issues the have to have to control variations, get the job done about routine maintenance windows, and fantastic-tune computer software.


1 of the most effective facets of open supply is the notion of group, by which a group of users get the job done collaboratively to strengthen a technological innovation and support just one an additional. But collaboration does not have to have to suggest supply code contribution. We assume of group as users assisting just one an additional, sharing finest practices, and speaking about long term directions for the technological innovation. 

As the change from on-premises to the cloud and managed companies continues, these topics of control, safety, price tag, and group recur. What’s intriguing is that the authentic goals of open supply are staying met in these cloud environments without essentially giving supply code for everyone—which is in which we commenced this dialogue. We have to not get rid of sight of the ideal results by focusing on methods that might no for a longer period be the finest route to those results.

Open up at Snowflake

At Snowflake, we assume about initial concepts, about ideal results, about intended and unintended penalties, and, most importantly, about what is finest for our shoppers. As this kind of, we don’t assume of open as a blanket, non-negotiable attribute of our system, and we are very intentional in selecting in which and how we embrace it. 

Our priorities are very clear: 

  1. Deliver the greatest degrees of safety and governance 
  2. Give industry-primary efficiency and price tag/efficiency by continuous innovation and 
  3. Set the greatest degrees of top quality, abilities, and ease of use so our shoppers can concentrate on deriving price from data without the have to have to control infrastructure. 

We also want to assure that our shoppers proceed to use Snowflake because they want to and not because they are locked in. To the extent that open requirements, open formats, and open supply support us achieve those goals, we embrace them. But when open conflicts with those goals, our priorities dictate versus it.

Open up requirements at Snowflake

With those priorities in thoughts, we have fully embraced standard file formats, standard protocols, standard languages, and standard APIs. We’re intentional about in which and how we do so, and we have invested closely in the means to leverage the abilities of our parallel processing engine so that shoppers can get their data out of Snowflake immediately should really they have to have or opt for to. Nonetheless, abstracting absent the facts of our small-degree data illustration permits us to continually strengthen our compression and produce other optimizations in a way that is clear to users. 

We can also progress the controls for safety and data governance immediately, without the burden of taking care of immediate (and brittle) access to files. In the same way, our transactional integrity advantages from our degree of abstraction and not exposing underlying files directly to users. 

We also embrace open protocols, languages, and APIs. This incorporates open requirements for data access, common APIs this kind of as ODBC and JDBC, and also Relaxation-primarily based access. In the same way, supporting the ANSI SQL standard is crucial to question compatibility whilst presenting the ability of a declarative, greater-degree design. Other examples we embrace incorporate company safety requirements this kind of as SAML, OAuth, and SCIM, and a lot of technological innovation certifications.

With appropriate abstractions and marketing open in which it matters, open protocols enable us to transfer quicker (because we don’t have to have to reinvent them), enable our shoppers to re-use their awareness, and permit rapidly innovation because of to abstracting the “what” from the “how.” 

Open up supply at Snowflake

We produce a smaller number of components that get deployed as computer software solutions into our customers’ methods, this kind of as connectivity drivers like JDBC or Python connectors or our Kafka connector. For all of these we supply the supply code. Our intention is to permit optimum safety for our shoppers, and we do so by offering our main system as a managed company, and we boost the peace of thoughts for installable computer software by open supply.

Nonetheless, a misguided application of open can create expensive complexity rather of small-price tag ease of use. Giving steady, standard APIs whilst not opening up our internals permits us to immediately iterate, innovate, and produce price to shoppers. But shoppers can not create—deliberately or unintentionally—dependencies on internal implementation facts, because we encapsulate them behind APIs that follow strong computer software engineering practices. That is a key reward for each sides, and it’s crucial to preserving our weekly cadence of releases, to continuous innovation, and to source efficiency. Buyers who have migrated to Snowflake inform us consistently that they appreciate those possibilities.

The interface to our fully managed company, run in its own safety perimeter, is the contract involving us and our shoppers. We can do this because we recognize just about every part and dedicate a terrific total of sources to safety. Snowflake has been evaluated by safety groups throughout the gamut of firm profiles and industries, which includes hugely controlled industries this kind of as health care and economical companies. The system is not only safe, but the separation of the safety perimeter by the cleanse abstraction of a managed company simplifies the job of securing data and data methods for shoppers.

On a remaining be aware, we enjoy our user groups, our client councils, and our user conferences. We fully embrace the price of a vivid group, open communications, open community forums, and open conversations. Open up supply is an orthogonal concept, from which we do not shy absent. For instance, we collaborated on open sourcing FoundationDB, and produced major contributions to evolving FoundationDB additional. 

Nonetheless, we don’t extrapolate from this to say there is an inherent advantage to open supply computer software. We could equally have applied a various operational retail outlet and a various design of making it to suit our specifications if desired. The FoundationDB instance illustrates our crucial thesis: Open up is a terrific selection of initiatives and procedures, but it’s just one of a lot of resources. It is not the hammer for all nails and is the finest preference only in some scenarios.