Which one is the Perfect Data Storage Solution for Your Business: Databases, Data Warehouses, Data Lakes, and Delta Lakes

In the diverse universe of data storage, countless alternatives are available, each boasting its own distinctive capabilities and uses. However, it’s important to note that not all storage solutions are apt for every scenario. Some could even incur higher costs for specific business situations, underscoring the importance of a judicious choice to prevent ensuing technical liabilities.


The widely-known and commonly used Database! What’s the essence of it?

A Database, specifically an Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) system, is a storage medium designed to maintain data relationships, enabling query executions, and establishing connections with row-based data.

Their row-based nature makes them a perfect fit for applications involving heavy writing, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, e-commerce platforms, and user access within Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Often, they serve as the backbone of websites.

Postgres and Mssql lead the pack in popularity due to their cost-effectiveness and user-friendly setup process. Within minutes, you can set up an environment and start learning SQL.

Years ago, my data analysis assignments were conducted on a restricted version of Mssql, where queries were allowed a 2-minute execution time. Trust me when I say that performing multiple joins on hundreds of millions of records within this timeframe wasn’t a walk in the park. Hours were spent optimizing queries for my reports. These experiences led me to appreciate a better option for such tasks, the Data Warehouse.

Data Warehouse

Unlike databases, Data Warehouses (Online Analytical Processing, OLAP) adopt a column-based format, offering optimal performance in reading specific columns and executing queries differently than OLTPs. While OLTPs present you with all tables initially, an OLAP database retrieves only the requested columns.

Prominent Data Warehouses like Google’s BigQuery and Amazon’s Redshift come equipped with robust scalability and a serverless approach, enabling extensive data analysis. They also offer SQL-like syntax for data creation, manipulation, and querying.

Running the same report that once took over 2 minutes on a database was accomplished in seconds on a well-indexed data warehouse. However, while they are ideal for complex queries, they may not be suited to handle unstructured data, such as log files or images. This is where Data Lakes become handy.

Data Lakes

As implied by the name, Data Lakes are reservoirs of raw data whose purpose is not defined until needed. They store raw, unprocessed data in its original format, whether structured, semi-structured, or unstructured.

Data Lakes are excellent for big data and real-time analytics, offering a storage solution for all data types with the flexibility for different kinds of analytics—ranging from dashboards and visualizations to big data processing, real-time analytics, and machine learning.

With the surge of big data, Data Lakes are gaining popularity. Major players in this space include Amazon’s S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Azure’s Blob Storage, offering vast storage at a relatively lower cost. However, their flexibility comes with a challenge— a strong data governance strategy is required to prevent them from becoming data swamps, where the data is unorganized, and its origin, reliability, and business value are unknown.

Delta Lakes

Then, there are Delta Lakes, a relatively new concept in the data storage world. Delta Lakes merge the benefits of Data Lakes and Data Warehouses.

They store data like a Data Lake, but with the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) transactions typical of a Data Warehouse. This means you can manage huge amounts of raw, unstructured data, but with the performance, concurrency, and robustness generally associated with a Data Warehouse.

One of the popular open-source storage layers offering such capabilities is Delta Lake, a Databricks-led project that introduces reliability, performance, and lifecycle management to data lakes, making them more manageable and less likely to devolve into data swamps.

In order to compare these data storage options side by side, let’s look at a simple table that outlines their ideal use cases, example tools, and notable features:

Data Storage TypeIdeal forExample ToolsNotable Features
Database (OLTP)Transactional data, Write-heavy applications (CRM systems, e-commerce, user access in SaaS apps)Postgres, MssqlStores data in relation, Row-based
Data Warehouse (OLAP)Complex queries on structured, columnar dataGoogle’s BigQuery, Amazon’s RedshiftColumn-based, Faster reading of specific columns
Data LakeStoring vast amounts of raw, unstructured, or semi-structured dataAmazon’s S3, Google Cloud Storage, Azure’s Blob StorageGood for big data, Real-time analytics
Delta LakeBlending capabilities of Data Lakes and Data WarehousesDelta Lake (Databricks)ACID transactions, can handle large amounts of unstructured data


Your data storage choice should align with the specific requirements of your project. Databases are best for transactional data with heavy writing, Data Warehouses for structured, columnar data with heavy reading, Data Lakes for storing a vast array of raw data, and Delta Lakes if you require a blend of the previous options. Make your selection based on your business needs, data nature, and your team’s technical abilities.

Data Warehouses, widely used for analytical purposes, are renowned for their speed in processing complex queries. They are often the ‘T‘ in the Extract, Load, Transform (ELT) process, transforming the data stored within them.

In this increasingly data-driven world, choosing the correct data storage solution is pivotal for any organization’s success. If you’re still unsure about which data storage is the most suitable for your business needs, or how to optimally utilize them, consulting with an expert can make a significant difference. At Anyon Consulting, our team of experienced data professionals is ready to guide you. We will work closely with you to understand your specific requirements and provide tailor-made solutions to maximize your business potential. Contact Us today!


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