Posted by Bob Muglia
Aug 21, 2015

SaaS stands for “Software as a Service” and it describes the modern, cloud-based delivery of software applications to business organizations. SaaS enables companies to almost instantly gain access to sophisticated applications and software systems that formerly would have required significant IT investment to install and manage.

Delivering Data Warehousing as a Service

Providing a SaaS offering has been foundational to Snowflake since our inception. Our engineering team deeply understands the complexity required to deliver and manage a data warehouse and we’re focused on providing a simple solution for companies that adopt our service. With Snowflake, architecture and automation replace the manual effort of countless DBAs and IT teams. This has been hugely successful for our customers.

As our customer base has grown, we’ve come to realize that for Snowflake, SaaS is much more than just providing our data warehouse software in the form of a cloud service. When a customer adopts Snowflake, we become their complete data warehouse solution. Snowflake effectively becomes the Data Warehousing IT team for the customer and we are responsible for solving any problems our customers experience. This includes addressing technical challenges such as loading data and connecting to a broad set of BI tools. It also includes answering broader questions, such as “how do I create a view on JSON data?” or “how do I formulate a particular query?”.

These tasks would normally be performed by an IT team or external consultant. Instead, it is Snowflake who is responsible. But then we go beyond this – we treat every customer interaction as a learning experience and use that interaction to improve the Snowflake service for all of our customers.

Accelerating the Virtuous Cycle

You might say that learning from customers to improve software is nothing new; the industry has been doing this for decades. This is commonly referred to as the virtuous cycle: customers use a product and provide feedback. That feedback enables improvements that are incorporated into the next version of the product. After that version is deployed, further use provides more feedback and the cycle continues.

What is different with Snowflake is the timescale. With other data warehousing products run by IT, even those on cloud infrastructure, the timescale of the virtuous cycle to receive, incorporate, and deploy feedback is measured in years. With Snowflake, our virtuous cycle is measured in days.

If a customer reports that a query is not performing as expected, it is immediately forwarded to our engineering team. While we cannot access the customer data, we keep a complete history of every query so engineering can reconstruct what happened in order to resolve the issue. Then we don’t stop there. We immediately incorporate this learning into the Snowflake software to improve our service. Our engineers have built every line of database code within Snowflake. They know every nuance of how things work so within a few days, we can incorporate these improvements directly into the database and service code. We update the service every week and because all Snowflake customers always run the latest version of the service, that improvement is immediately available to everyone.

Innovating Data Warehousing in the Cloud

A virtuous cycle measured in days is only possible because our engineering team is intimately familiar with all aspects of our service – they’ve built all of Snowflake over the last three years. No other data warehouse product or cloud service can come close to achieving this level of agility. The reason is that all other data warehouse services are built using old products that have been ported to the cloud. These products were designed before the cloud existed so the software within these legacy products makes many assumptions that are unnecessary and inappropriate for cloud systems. These assumptions add complexity which dramatically slows the virtuous cycle time for other vendors.

Snowflake is uniquely positioned to deliver a complete data warehousing solution. Our customers rely on Snowflake to solve their data warehousing challenges and to get the answers they need, when they need them. Because we’ve built the entire service, Snowflake can deliver these answers and evolve our service in a timeframe that is unmatched in the database industry.

That is why for Snowflake, SaaS means Solution as a Service.