Q: What is Amazon Redshift?

Amazon Redshift is a fast, fully managed data warehouse that makes it simple and cost-effective to analyze all your data using standard SQL and your existing Business Intelligence (BI) tools. It allows you to run complex analytic queries against petabytes of structured data, using sophisticated query optimization, columnar storage on high-performance local disks, and massively parallel query execution. Most results come back in seconds. With Redshift, you can start with per hour fees with no commitments and scale out to petabytes of data, less than a tenth the cost of traditional solutions. Amazon Redshift also includes Amazon Redshift Spectrum, allowing you to directly run SQL queries against exabytes of unstructured data in Amazon S3. No loading or transformation is required, and you can use open data formats, including Avro, CSV, Grok, Ion, JSON, ORC, Parquet, RCFile, RegexSerDe, SequenceFile, TextFile, and TSV. Redshift Spectrum automatically scales query compute capacity based on the data being retrieved, so queries against Amazon S3 run fast, regardless of data set size.

Traditional data warehouses require significant time and resource to administer, especially for large datasets. In addition, the financial cost associated with building, maintaining, and growing self-managed, on-premise data warehouses is very high. As your data grows, you have to constantly trade-off what data to load into your data warehouse and what data to archive in storage so you can manage costs, keep ETL complexity low, and deliver good performance. Amazon Redshift not only significantly lowers the cost and operational overhead of a data warehouse, but with Redshift Spectrum, also makes it easy to analyze large amounts of data in its native format without requiring you to load the data.

Redshift Spectrum is a feature of Amazon Redshift that enables you to run queries against exabytes of unstructured data in Amazon S3, with no loading or ETL required. When you issue a query, it goes to the Amazon Redshift SQL endpoint, which generates and optimizes a query plan. Amazon Redshift determines what data is local and what is in Amazon S3, generates a plan to minimize the amount of Amazon S3 data that needs to be read, requests Redshift Spectrum workers out of a shared resource pool to read and process data from Amazon S3.

Redshift Spectrum scales out to thousands of instances if needed, so queries run quickly regardless of data size. And, you can use the exact same SQL for Amazon S3 data as you do for your Amazon Redshift queries today and connect to the same Amazon Redshift endpoint using your same BI tools. Redshift Spectrum lets you separate storage and compute, allowing you to scale each independently. You can setup as many Amazon Redshift clusters as you need to query your Amazon S3 data lake, providing high availability and limitless concurrency. Redshift Spectrum gives you the freedom to store your data where you want, in the format you want, and have it available for processing when you need it.

Q: What is Amazon Redshift Spectrum?

Redshift Spectrum is a feature of Amazon Redshift that enables you to run queries against exabytes of unstructured data in Amazon S3, with no loading or ETL required. When you issue a query, it goes to the Amazon Redshift SQL endpoint, which generates and optimizes a query plan. Amazon Redshift determines what data is local and what is in Amazon S3, generates a plan to minimize the amount of Amazon S3 data that needs to be read, requests Redshift Spectrum workers out of a shared resource pool to read and process data from Amazon S3.

Redshift Spectrum scales out to thousands of instances if needed, so queries run quickly regardless of data size. And, you can use the exact same SQL for Amazon S3 data as you do for your Amazon Redshift queries today and connect to the same Amazon Redshift endpoint using your same BI tools. Redshift Spectrum lets you separate storage and compute, allowing you to scale each independently. You can setup as many Amazon Redshift clusters as you need to query your Amazon S3 data lake, providing high availability and limitless concurrency. Redshift Spectrum gives you the freedom to store your data where you want, in the format you want, and have it available for processing when you need it.

Q: What does Amazon Redshift manage on my behalf?

Amazon Redshift manages the work needed to set up, operate, and scale a data warehouse, from provisioning the infrastructure capacity to automating ongoing administrative tasks such as backups, and patching. Amazon Redshift automatically monitors your nodes and drives to help you recover from failures. For Redshift Spectrum, Amazon Redshift manages all the computing infrastructure, load balancing, planning, scheduling and execution of your queries on data stored in Amazon S3. 

Q: How does the performance of Amazon Redshift compare to most traditional databases for data warehousing and analytics?

Amazon Redshift uses a variety of innovations to achieve up to ten times higher performance than traditional databases for data warehousing and analytics workloads:

Columnar Data Storage: Instead of storing data as a series of rows, Amazon Redshift organizes the data by column. Unlike row-based systems, which are ideal for transaction processing, column-based systems are ideal for data warehousing and analytics, where queries often involve aggregates performed over large data sets. Since only the columns involved in the queries are processed and columnar data is stored sequentially on the storage media, column-based systems require far fewer I/Os, greatly improving query performance.

Advanced Compression: Columnar data stores can be compressed much more than row-based data stores because similar data is stored sequentially on disk. Amazon Redshift employs multiple compression techniques and can often achieve significant compression relative to traditional relational data stores. In addition, Amazon Redshift doesn't require indexes or materialized views and so uses less space than traditional relational database systems. When loading data into an empty table, Amazon Redshift automatically samples your data and selects the most appropriate compression scheme.

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP): Amazon Redshift automatically distributes data and query load across all nodes. Amazon Redshift makes it easy to add nodes to your data warehouse and enables you to maintain fast query performance as your data warehouse grows.

Redshift Spectrum: Redshift Spectrum enables you to run queries against exabytes of data in Amazon S3. There is no loading or ETL required. Even if you don’t store any of your data in Amazon Redshift, you can still use Redshift Spectrum to query datasets as large as an exabyte in Amazon S3. When you issue a query, it goes to the Amazon Redshift SQL endpoint, which generates the query plan. Amazon Redshift determines what data is local and what is in Amazon S3, generates a plan to minimize the amount of Amazon S3 data that needs to be read, requests Redshift Spectrum workers out of a shared resource pool to read and process data from Amazon S3, and pulls results back into your Amazon Redshift cluster for any remaining processing.

Q: How do I get started with Amazon Redshift?

You can sign up and get started within minutes from the Amazon Redshift detail page or via the AWS Management Console. If you don't already have an AWS account, you'll be prompted to create one.

To use Redshift Spectrum, you need to first store your data in Amazon S3. You can then define the metadata about that data in your Amazon Redshift cluster or register the metadata you may already have in your Hive metastore with your cluster. You can issue a CREATE EXTERNAL SCHEMA SQL command in your Amazon Redshift cluster to define or register a database in your catalog as an external schema within Amazon Redshift. You can then issue queries against Amazon S3 using the same SQL you use for local tables and any BI tool that supports Amazon Redshift today. The external database definition you create using Amazon Redshift SQL is registered in the same data catalog that Amazon Athena uses. You can optionally manage the external database definition from the Amazon Athena Catalog as well.

Q: How do I create and access an Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster?

You can easily create an Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster by using the AWS Management Console or the Amazon Redshift APIs. You can start with a single node, 160GB data warehouse and scale all the way to a petabyte or more with a few clicks in the AWS Management Console or a single API call.

The single node configuration enables you to get started with Amazon Redshift quickly and cost-effectively and scale up to a multi-node configuration as your needs grow. A Redshift data warehouse cluster can contain from 1-128 compute nodes, depending on the node type. For details please see our documentation.

The multi-node configuration requires a leader node that manages client connections and receives queries, and two compute nodes that store data and perform queries and computations. The leader node is provisioned for you automatically and you are not charged for it.

Simply specify your preferred Availability Zone (optional), the number of nodes, node types, a master name and password, security groups, your preferences for backup retention, and other system settings. Once you've chosen your desired configuration, Amazon Redshift will provision the required resources and set up your data warehouse cluster.

Once your data warehouse cluster is available, you can retrieve its endpoint and JDBC and ODBC connection string from the AWS Management Console or by using the Redshift APIs. You can then use this connection string with your favorite database tool, programming language, or Business Intelligence (BI) tool. You will need to authorize network requests to your running data warehouse cluster.

Q: What does a leader node do? What does a compute node do?

A leader node receives queries from client applications, parses the queries and develops execution plans, which are an ordered set of steps to process these queries. The leader node then coordinates the parallel execution of these plans with the compute nodes, aggregates the intermediate results from these nodes and finally returns the results back to the client applications.

Compute nodes execute the steps specified in the execution plans and transmit data among themselves to serve these queries. The intermediate results are sent back to the leader node for aggregation before being sent back to the client applications.

You can create a cluster using either Dense Storage (DS) node types or Dense Compute (DC) node types. Dense Storage node types enable you to create very large data warehouses using hard disk drives (HDDs) for a very low price point. Dense Compute node types enable you to create very high performance data warehouses using fast CPUs, large amounts of RAM and solid-state disks (SSDs).

Dense Storage (DS) node types are available in two sizes, Extra Large and Eight Extra Large. The Extra Large (XL) has 3 HDDs with a total of 2TB of magnetic storage, whereas Eight Extra Large (8XL) has 24 HDDs with a total of 16TB of magnetic storage. DS2.8XLarge has 36 Intel Xeon E5-2676 v3 (Haswell) virtual cores and 244GiB of RAM, and DS2.XL has 4 Intel Xeon E5-2676 v3 (Haswell) virtual cores and 31GiB of RAM. Please see our pricing page for more details.

Dense Compute (DC) node types are also available in two sizes. The Large has 160GB of SSD storage, 2 Intel Xeon E5-2670v2 (Ivy Bridge) virtual cores and 15GiB of RAM. The Eight Extra Large is sixteen times bigger with 2.56TB of SSD storage, 32 Intel Xeon E5-2670v2 virtual cores and 244GiB of RAM. You can get started with a single DC2.Large node and scale all the way up to 128 8XL nodes with 326TB of SSD storage, 3,200 virtual cores and 24TiB of RAM.

Amazon Redshift's MPP architecture means you can increase your performance by increasing the number of nodes in your data warehouse cluster. The optimal amount of data per compute node depends on your application characteristics and your query performance needs. An Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster can contain from 1-128 compute nodes, depending on the node type.

Q: When would I use Amazon Redshift vs. Amazon RDS?

Both Amazon Redshift and Amazon RDS enable you to run traditional relational databases in the cloud while offloading database administration. Customers use Amazon RDS databases both for online-transaction processing (OLTP) and for reporting and analysis. Amazon Redshift harnesses the scale and resources of multiple nodes and uses a variety of optimizations to provide order of magnitude improvements over traditional databases for analytic and reporting workloads against very large data sets. Amazon Redshift provides an excellent scale-out option as your data and query complexity grows or if you want to prevent your reporting and analytic processing from interfering with the performance of your OLTP workload.

Q: Why should I use Amazon Redshift instead of running my own MPP data warehouse cluster on Amazon EC2?

Amazon Redshift automatically handles many of the time-consuming tasks associated with managing your own data warehouse including:

Setup: With Amazon Redshift, you simply create a data warehouse cluster, define your schema, and begin loading and querying your data. Provisioning, configuration and patching are all managed for you.

Data durability: Amazon Redshift replicates your data within your data warehouse cluster and continuously backs up your data to Amazon S3, which is designed for eleven nines of durability. Amazon Redshift mirrors each drive's data to other nodes within your cluster. If a drive fails, your queries will continue with a slight latency increase while Redshift rebuilds your drive from replicas. In case of node failure(s), Amazon Redshift automatically provisions new node(s) and begins restoring data from other drives within the cluster or from Amazon S3. It prioritizes restoring your most frequently queried data so your most frequently executed queries will become performant quickly.

Scaling: You can add or remove nodes from your Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster with a single API call or via a few clicks in the AWS Management ConsoleAWS Management Console as your capacity and performance needs change.

Automatic updates & patching: Amazon Redshift automatically applies upgrades and patches your data warehouse so you can focus on your application and not on its administration.

Exabyte scale query capability: Redshift Spectrum enables you to run queries against exabytes of data in Amazon S3. There is no loading or ETL required. Even if you don’t store any of your data in Amazon Redshift, you can still use Redshift Spectrum.