Global Snowflake: Loading Data into Snowflake from Azure Blob Storage

Snowflake is available in a number of AWS regions as we continue to expand our geographic presence to meet customer demand, reduce latency and satisfy industry compliance and country-specific regulations.

As the global adoption of Snowflake continues, we also expect customers to transfer increasingly higher data volumes between regions. There are several potential scenarios that, taken together, are driving this trend, including:

  • Data sharing across regions. A data set maintained by a Snowflake account in a specific region can be easily shared and consumed by others in different regions.
  • Synchronizing Snowflake data between different geographic regions for disaster recovery purposes.
  • Importing and exporting raw data from storage in other cloud providers. A common request from Snowflake customers running Snowflake on AWS was to support import from and export to Blob Storage in Microsoft Azure.

Therefore, we are happy to announce additional integration capabilities with Blob Storage in Microsoft Azure. This is part of Snowflake’s commitment to becoming a global cloud provider, supporting customers no matter which cloud provider(s) they choose. The integration with Azure Blob Storage complements Snowflake’s existing functionality for data loading and unloading. From now on, the Snowflake SQL commands to define an external stage support the URL and credential specifications for Azure Blob Storage. This allows customers to import data from and export data to Azure Blob Storage containers.

This targets architectures with data sets in Azure. Customers using Microsoft Azure can now easily exchange data with Snowflake to benefit from Snowflake’s leading analytics capabilities. The following picture illustrates the overall approach:


The key integration point between Azure and Snowflake is a container in Azure Blob Storage. Snowflake expects that any data to be loaded from the Azure application into Snowflake is placed in a container. This container is then registered as an external stage in Snowflake using the following Snowflake SQL command:


URL = azure://<account><container>/<path>


The URL parameter of the CREATE STAGE command now supports URLs for Azure Blob Storage service endpoints. The endpoint for a given account can be found in the overview pane of the storage account in the Azure portal, as shown in the following figure:

When defining an external stage in Azure Blob Storage, the service endpoint URL should be followed by the container name and can include additional path specifications. Note that the URL in the stage definition replaces ‘https:’ from the endpoint URL with ‘azure’. Client-side encryption is supported for files that are encrypted using an Azure Storage SDK or compatible encryption library. Customers can provide their encryption key to the CREATE STAGE command. Details on creating Azure stages can be found in the Snowflake documentation here.

After defining the external stage, customers can use Snowflake’s familiar COPY syntax to refer to the stage. For example, the following statement loads a batch of data files from the Azure Blob Storage container into a target table T1 in Snowflake:


FROM @azstage/newbatch

Similarly, the following COPY statement exports the contents of an existing table T2 in Snowflake to a set of files in the Azure external stage:

COPY INTO @azstage/t2data 


The Snowflake external stage support for Azure Blob Storage complements Snowflake’s expansion across Amazon data centers worldwide. It now provides the ability to easily access data in Azure storage using built-in Snowflake functionality.

While cloud providers do not charge for data ingress, they do charge for data egress. For Snowflake customers using the new Azure external stages, importing data from Azure Blob Storage into Snowflake will incur data egress charges for the amount of data transferred out of their Blob Storage accounts. The charges accrue to the Azure subscription that the Blob Storage accounts belong to. The rate at which these charges occur depends on the geographical location of the Blob Storage account and the volume of data transferred during a billing period. You can find more details here.   

Starting on February 1, 2018, we will pass through the cost of data egress from AWS and Microsoft through external stages. This cost will appear on your bill. Egress through JDBC and other drivers will continue to be free. Since data egress is uncommon among Snowflake customers, our initial analysis shows that many customers will not be affected by this change.

The Billing & Usage page in the Snowflake web portal tracks data transfer volumes similarly to warehouse utilization and storage volumes. More information on Snowflake data transfer prices can be found here.

To give an example, exporting a 1TB table across cloud providers, from Snowflake running in US West on AWS into an Azure Blob Storage container located in the Azure East US region, costs $90. Exporting the table within AWS and into an AWS S3 bucket located in US East costs $20 (cheaper since the transfer is within AWS US regions). Data transferred into an external stage in the same region and the same cloud provider continues to be free of charge, e.g., exporting the table from the previous example into an AWS S3 bucket in US West is free of charge.

Check out the Snowflake documentation for detailed information on exchanging data between Snowflake and Azure Blob Storage, as well as the new external stage support for Azure Blob Storage.

Try Snowflake for free. Sign up and receive $400 US dollars worth of free usage. You can create a sandbox or launch a production implementation from the same Snowflake environment.

Snowpipe: Serverless Loading for Streaming Data

Today’s organizations struggle to load, integrate and analyze the sources of streaming data they rely on to advance their businesses. The Internet-of-things, mobile devices, adtech scenarios, telemetry systems and application health monitoring are just some of the scenarios driving this trend. To remain competitive, organizations require this data to drive their analytics in near real time.

Despite the rapid rise in streaming data, and the infinite scalability of the cloud, traditional data warehousing solutions can’t deliver seamless ingestion for streaming data. They still require processes originally designed for batch loading, happening once or a few times per day. This unnecessary latency is a drag on an organization’s analytics. Workarounds using micro-batching provide some relief but are difficult to implement and require careful tuning. Equally, serverless computing is still foreign to most traditional data warehouse solutions. In fact, most cloud data warehouses, which are “cloud-washed” versions of on-premises solutions, do not offer a serverless experience.  

Snowpipe tackles both continuous loading for streaming data and serverless computing for data loading into Snowflake. With Snowpipe, AWS S3 event notifications automatically trigger Snowflake to load data into target tables. Snowflake SQL queries retrieve the most recent data within a minute after it arrived to the S3 bucket.

The “pipe” is a key concept in the surface area that Snowpipe adds to Snowflake. A pipe definition wraps the familiar COPY statement for data loading with Snowflake. Most of the semantics from the existing COPY statement carry forward to a pipe in Snowpipe. The main difference, though, is that pipes are continuously watching for new data and are continuously loading data from the stage used by the pipe.

Snowpipe’s surface area provides two different levels of control for pipes. With most use cases, Snowpipe can rely on Amazon SQS notifications from an S3 bucket to trigger data loads. It requires a one-time configuration for an S3 bucket and a set of target tables. This usually takes less than 15 minutes to set up. It’s completely configuration-based, with no need to write any application code other than some Snowflake DDL statements. This experience is available for preview in December 2017. The following diagram illustrates this approach:



For use cases that require more control or deeper integration into applications, Snowpipe also provides a programmatic REST API to notify Snowflake of new data in S3. The REST API is available today in preview for Snowflake customers in the US West region. The following diagram shows an architectural overview of this approach:


For both Snowpipe experiences, Snowflake runs and manages a fleet of servers that asynchronously perform the actual data loading into the target tables. This server fleet is completely internal to Snowflake, which automatically adds or removes servers from the fleet depending on the current Snowpipe load. Customers don’t need to worry about monitoring or managing compute capacity when using Snowpipe for their data loads.

Snowpipe utilization, billing and cost

Snowpipe uses a serverless billing model. Customers are charged based on their actual compute resource utilization rather than capacity reservations that may be idle or overutilized. Instead, Snowpipe tracks the resource consumption of pipes in a given Snowflake account for the load requests that the pipe processed, with per-second/per-core granularity. The utilization recorded is then translated into familiar Snowflake credits. Snowpipe utilization shows up in the form of Snowflake credits on the bill, and account administrators can track Snowpipe utilization on their Snowflake account pages during the course of the month. Snowpipe utilization is shown as a special Snowflake warehouse – indicated by the Snowflake logo proceeding the warehouse name – in the Warehouse tab in Billing & Usage on the Snowflake web portal.


A table function called pipe_utilization_history in Snowflake SQL allows you to drill into Snowpipe utilization details over specific periods of time or for specific pipes.

Give Snowpipe a spin today and let us know your feedback. Snowpipe using REST-based notifications is available today. You can find the documentation and information on how to get started here.

Snowpipe with auto-ingest using SQS is available in December. If you are interested in participating in a private preview for this capability, please let us know here. Make sure to also read part two of this blog about Snowpipe here.

You can also try Snowflake for free. Sign up and receive $400 US dollars worth of free usage. You can create a sandbox or launch a production implementation from the same Snowflake environment.

How Snowpipe Streamlines Your Continuous Data Loading and Your Business

For anyone who harbors a love-hate relationship with data loading, it’s time to tip the scales.

We all know data can be difficult to work with. The challenges start with the varying formats and complexity of the data itself. This is especially the case with semi-structured data such as JSON, Avro and XML, and it continues with the significant programming skills needed to extract and process data from multiple sources. Making matters worse, traditional on-premise and cloud data warehouses require batch loading of data (with limitations on the size of data files ingested) and huge manual efforts to run and manage servers.

The results? Poor, slow performance and the inability to extract immediate insights from all your data. Data scientists and analysts are forced to wait days or even weeks before they can use the data to develop accurate models, spot trends and identify opportunities. Consequently, executives don’t get the necessary up-to-minute insights to make real-time decisions with confidence and speed.

Common problems that affect data loading include:

  • Legacy architecture – Tightly coupled storage and compute necessitate contention with queries as data is loading.
  • Stale data – Batch loading prevents organizations from acquiring instant, data-driven insight.
  • Limited data – Lack of support for semi-structured data requires transforming newer data types and defining a schema before loading, which introduces delays.
  • Manageability – Dedicated clusters or warehouses are required to handle the loading of data.
  • High-maintenance – Traditional data warehouse tools result in unnecessary overhead in the form of constant indexing, tuning, sorting and vacuuming.

These obstacles all point to the need for a solution that allows continuous data loading without impacting other workloads, without requiring the management of servers and without crippling the performance of your data warehouse.

Introducing Snowpipe, our continuous, automated and cost-effective service that loads all of your data quickly and efficiently without any manual effort. How does Snowpipe work?

Snowpipe automatically listens for new data as it arrives in your cloud storage environment and continuously loads it into Snowflake. With Snowpipe’s unlimited concurrency, other workloads are never impacted , and you benefit from serverless, continuous loading without ever worrying about provisioning. That’s right. There are no servers to manage and no manual effort is required. Snowpipe makes all this happen automatically.

The direct benefits of Snowpipe’s continuous data loading include:

  • Instant insights – Immediately provide fresh data to all your business users without contention.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Pay only for the per-second compute utilized to load data rather than running a warehouse continuously or by the hour. 
  • Ease-of-use – Point Snowpipe at an S3 bucket from within the Snowflake UI and data will automatically load asynchronously as it arrives.
  • Flexibility – Technical resources can interface directly with the programmatic REST API, using Java and Python SDKs to enable highly customized loading use cases.
  • Zero management – Snowpipe automatically provisions the correct capacity for the data being loaded. No servers or management to worry about.

Snowpipe frees up resources across your organization so you can focus on analyzing your data, not managing it. Snowpipe puts your data on pace with near real-time analytics. At Snowflake, we tip the scales on your love-hate relationship with data so you can cherish your data without reservation.

Read more about the technical aspects of Snowpipe on our engineering blog. For an in-depth look at Snowpipe in action, you can also join us for a live webinar on December 14th.

Try Snowflake for free. Sign up and receive $400 US dollars worth of free usage. You can create a sandbox or launch a production implementation from the same Snowflake environment.