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AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Choosing the Right Data Warehousing Solution

In today’s data-driven world “Big data” is a buzzword, and businesses are looking into how to handle their own big data. A common solution for many businesses is cloud-based data warehousing services. Both products of AWS, Athena and Redshift are tools that help in building cloud-based data warehouse technologies into more interactive, current, and analytical solutions to big data problems. While both are great for analyzing data, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this tutorial, we’ll explain more about AWS’s Athena and Redshift and do a comparison between for choosing the right data warehousing solution.

AWS Athena

AWS Athena is an interactive query service that enables users to analyze data directly from AWS Simple Storage Service (AWS S3) using standard SQL queries. It is serverless, which means it automatically scales, manages resources, and charges only for the queries run. Athena is particularly popular among data analysts and business users due to its ease of use and low setup overhead. 

Key Features Of AWS Athena

  • Serverless Architecture
  • Standard SQL Support
  • Pay-Per-Query Pricing
  • Ad-hoc Analysis
  • Various Data Format

AWS Redshift

AWS Redshift is a fully managed, petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud developed by Amazon that offers high-performance querying and analytics capabilities. It is designed to handle complex analytical workloads and is often preferred by data engineers and data scientists. It allows organizations to efficiently analyze large amounts of data using SQL-based tools and business intelligence applications.

Features of Aws Redshift

  • Data Sharing
  • Scalable Architecture
  • Concurrency and Workload Management
  • Integration with Ecosystem
  • Performance Optimization

AWS Athena vs. Redshift: In-Depth Comparison 

We have disclosed the key features and strengths of both AWS Athena and AWS Redshift, let’s delve into a detailed comparison between Amazon Athena and Redshift. This will help you to choose the right data warehousing solutions among them.

1. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Performance

    In terms of performance, AWS Athena is optimized for ad-hoc querying and exploratory analysis. It may not match the raw query performance of Redshift, particularly for complex analytical tasks on large datasets. However, for smaller data and interactive data exploration without the need for data transformation or schema definition, Athena can provide satisfactory response times with the same query amount.

    On the Other hand, Redshift is optimized for complex analytical queries on large datasets, making it a powerful data warehousing and business intelligence application. AWS Redshift holds the edge due to its columnar storage and MPP architecture. The ability to distribute data across multiple nodes and parallelize query execution ensures fast response times, even with extensive data processing.

    2. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Data Size and Complexity

      Athena is not optimized for handling massive datasets. Its serverless nature and reliance on S3 for data storage cause slower query performance on larger dataset. Athena’s sweet spot lies in how much data is in datasets that are relatively smaller and well-suited for interactive querying and exploratory analysis.

      Whereas, Redshift is optimized for large massive datasets, Redshift’s columnar storage and MPP architecture feature enables efficient processing of complex queries and analytical queries. Redshift is designed to handle petabyte data which makes it suitable for enterprises and organizations with substantial data volumes and data-intensive operations.

      3. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Pricing Structure

        Athena follows pay-per-query pricing model that gives it a significant advantage in terms of cost-effectiveness, especially for low-volume query workloads. Organizations can save upfront costs and ongoing expenses for managing infrastructure, paying only for the data scanned during queries. This flexibilty makes Athena an attractive choice for small businesses with uncertain workloads.

        In contrast, AWS Redshift follows a traditional pay-as-you-go pricing model, which includes costs for data storage and compute resources. While Redshift can be cost-efficient for larger, more consistent workloads, it might not be the best fit for organizations with limited budgets or fluctuating data analysis demands.

        4. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Ease of Use

          Athena is known for its simplicity and user-friendly interface. Since it uses standard SQL for querying and analyzing data, analysts and business users with SQL proficiency can start using Athena without a steep learning curve. It is an excellent choice for organizations seeking to empower non-technical users with the ability to perform ad-hoc analyses and derive insights without relying heavily on IT or data engineering teams.

          Redshift demands more specialized knowledge to optimize and manage the redshift data warehouse effectively. It is well suited for data engineers, data scientists, and data professionals who are experienced in managing complex data workflows and optimizing query performance.

          5. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Integrations and Ecosystem

            Athena and Redshift, Both integrate seamlessly with other AWS services, offering a comprehensive cloud-based data analytics ecosystem. They can be effortlessly integrated with AWS Glue for ETL processing, AWS Lambda for serverless data transformations, and AWS QuickSight for data visualization and business intelligence.

            6. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Data Processing Paradigm

              Athena follows an on-demand query execution model and it processes queries directly on data stored in AWS S3 without the need for data movement or transformation.

              Where Redshift uses ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) approach to load data first. Data needs to be ingested into Redshift’s dedicated storage and undergo transformation before it can be queried.

              7. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Data Updates

                Athena is priorly designed for read-only operations and is not better suited for frequent data updates. It is well-suited for situations where data is relatively static and updated infrequently.

                Redshift is designed for both read and write operations. It supports data updates, inserts, and deletes, making it suitable for real-time data processing and analytical workloads with changing data.

                8. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Query Optimization

                  Athena’s query optimization is automated and largely dependent on the structure and partitioning of the data in S3. Users have limited control over query optimization. 

                  Redshift provides more control over query optimization, allowing users to define sort keys, distribution keys, and use compression to optimize query performance.

                  9. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Compression and Data Formats

                    Athena supports only basic compression formats for data stored in S3, such as Snappy and Gzip. It does not provide options for custom compression techniques.Athena supports a wide range of data formats, including CSV, JSON, Parquet, ORC, and more. It can query semi-structured and structured data efficiently.

                    Redshift provides advanced compression techniques like columnar storage, run-length encoding, and dictionary encoding. These compression techniques significantly reduce storage requirements and improve query performance.Redshift typically works with columnar formats like Parquet, ORC, and Avro, which are well-suited for analytical workloads and high-performance querying.

                    10. AWS Athena vs. Redshift: Data Partitioning And Data Consistency 

                      Athena supports data partitioning based on the underlying directory structure in S3. Partitioning can enhance query performance by limiting the amount of data scanned during queries. Athena offers eventual consistency for query results due to its direct querying approach on historical data stored in S3. In some cases, recently updated data may not be immediately reflected in query results.

                      Redshift supports explicit query data partitioning based on user-defined criteria, allowing for more fine-grained control over query performance optimization. Redshift ensures strong consistency for cloud data warehouses due to its transactional nature. Query results reflect the most recent changes made to the data in the data warehouse.


                      Ultimately, When comparing AWS Athena to other data warehousing solutions, such as BigQuery, Synapse Analytics, and Snowflake, we found that each tool has its own unique strengths and capabilities. Depending on your specific requirements and use cases, one of these other tools may be a better fit than AWS Athena or Redshift.

                      It’s important to carefully evaluate your needs and requirements, and to choose the right data warehousing solution that best fits your specific needs.

                      At SupportFly, We not only provide Managed server solutions and support services but also we offer premium Managed AWS Professional Services for both Athena and Redshift. Our Managed AWS Professional Services provides expert guidance and support to help you unlock the full potential of your cloud environment.