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What are the differences between Data Lake and Data Warehouse?


  • Understand the meaning of data lake and data warehouse
  • We will see what are the key differences between Data Warehouse and Data Lake
  • Understand which one is better for the organization



From processing to storing, every aspect of data has become important for an organization just due to the sheer volume of data we produce in this era. When it comes to storing big data you might have come across the terms with Data Lake and Data Warehouse. These are the 2 most popular options for storing big data.

data warehouse data lake

Having been in the data industry for a long time, I can vouch for the fact that a data warehouse and data lake are 2 different things. Yet I see many people using them interchangeably. As a data engineer understanding data lake and data warehouse along with its differences and usage are very crucial as then only will you understand if data lake fits your organization or data warehouse?

So in this article, let satiate your curiosity by explaining what data lake and warehousing are and highlight the difference between them.


Table of Contents

  1. What is a Data Lake?
  2. What is a Data Warehouse?
  3. What are the differences between Data Lake and Data Warehouse?
  4. Data lake or Data Warehouse: Which one to use?


What is a Data Lake?

A Data Lake is a common repository that is capable to store a huge amount of data without maintaining any specified structure of the data. You can store data whose purpose may or may not yet be defined. Its purposes include- building dashboards, machine learning, or real-time analytics.

 data lake

Now, when you store a huge amount of data at a single place from multiple sources, it is important that it should be in a usable form. It should have some rules and regulations so as to maintain data security and data accessibility.

Otherwise, only the team who designed the data lake knows how to access a particular type of data. Without proper information, it would be very difficult to distinguish between the data you want and the data you are retrieving. So it is important that your data lake does not turn into a data swamp.

data warehouse or data swamp

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What is a Data Warehouse?

A Data Warehouse is another database that only stores the pre-processed data. Here the structure of the data is well-defined, optimized for SQL queries, and ready to be used for analytics purposes. Some of the other names of the Data Warehouse are Business Intelligence Solution and Decision Support System.


What are the differences between Data Lake and Data Warehouse?

Data Lake Data Warehouse
Data Storage and Quality The Data Lake captures all types of data like structure, unstructured in their raw format. It contains the data which might be useful in some current use-case and also that is likely to be used in the future. It contains only high-quality data that is already pre-processed and ready to be used by the team.
Purpose The purpose of the Data Lake is not fixed. Sometimes organizations have a future use-case in mind. Its general uses include data discovery, user profiling, and machine learning. The data warehouse has data that has already been designed for some use-case. Its uses include Business Intelligence, Visualizations, and Batch Reporting.
Users Data Scientists use data lakes to find out the patterns and useful information that can help businesses. Business Analysts use data warehouses to create visualizations and reports.
Pricing It is comparatively low-cost storage as we do not give much attention to storing in the structured format. Storing data is a bit costlier and also a time-consuming process.

Data lake or Data Warehouse: Which one to use?

We have seen what are the differences between a data lake and a data warehouse. Now, we will see which one should we use?

If your organization deals with healthcare or social media, the data you capture will be mostly unstructured (documents, images). The volume of structured data is very less. So here, the data lake is a good fit as it can handle both types of data and will give more flexibility for analysis.

If your online business is divided into multiple pillars, you obviously want to get summarized dashboards of all of them. The data warehouses will be helpful in this case in making informed decisions. It will maintain the data quality, consistency, and accuracy of the data.

Most of the time organizations use a combination of both. They do the data exploration and analysis over the data lake and move the rich data to the data warehouses for quick and advance reporting.

data warehouse


End Notes

In this article, we have seen the differences between data lake and data warehouse on the basis of data storage, purpose to use, which one to use. Understanding this concept will help the big data engineer choose the right data storage mechanism and thus optimize the cost and processes of the organization.

The following are some additional data engineering resources that I strongly recommend you go through-

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