Amazon Redshift vs Databricks: 11 Feature-by-Feature Breakdown

Amazon Redshift vs Databricks 11 Feature-by-Feature Breakdown

Redshift vs Databricks: History

What is Redshift?

Amazon Redshift, simply termed as Redshift, is Amazon Web Services’ fully managed data warehouse service. It’s primarily designed for large scale data analytics. A brief peek into its past reveals it originated from the ParAccel Analytic Platform.

Key Features of Redshift

Redshift is packed with features. Here are some of the outstanding ones:

  • Columnar Storage and Data Compression
    • Columnar storage: Instead of storing data row-wise, Redshift organizes data column-wise. This means data retrieval for specific columns is super fast, optimizing query performance.
    • Data compression: Reduces storage space and I/O operations, leading to zippier results.
  • Massive Parallel Processing (MPP) Architecture
    • Boosts data processing speeds by dividing a large dataset and query load among multiple nodes.
    • Highly scalable. It can grow to accommodate your increasing data needs.
  • Data Warehousing Capabilities

Overview of Databricks

What is Databricks?

Databricks is more than just a data tool; it’s an integrated environment for cloud-based big data analytics. At its core, it’s built upon Apache Spark, the open-source parallel processing framework.

Key Features of Databricks

Dive deep, and Databricks has some serious firepower:

  • Unified Analytics Platform
    • Direct integrations with top-notch machine learning tools. ML enthusiasts, rejoice!
    • Collaboration tools make it a playground for both data scientists and engineers. Share, edit, and crunch those numbers!
  • Delta Lake
    • Brings ACID transactions into big data. Ensure data reliability and quality.
    • Time travel feature: Allows data versioning. Jump back to any older data version whenever you wish.
  • Auto-scaling and Cluster Management
    • Sets it apart from traditional Spark setups. Say goodbye to manual scaling!
    • Efficiently uses Spot instances, ensuring you get more bang for your buck.

Following is the table of comparison for the features offered by two companies

Feature/ParameterAmazon RedshiftDatabricks
Core FunctionData warehousing serviceUnified analytics platform built on Apache Spark
Pricing Model– On-demand<br>- Reserved InstancesWorkspace-based pricing with options for premium features
Data Storage MethodColumnar storageDelta Lake with versioned parquet files
Processing ArchitectureMPP (Massive Parallel Processing)Apache Spark-based distributed processing
ML IntegrationExternal integrations with ML platformsUnified platform with integrated ML tools
Primary Use CaseData warehousing and large-scale data analyticsReal-time analytics, data engineering, and machine learning
Data VersioningNot native (requires integrations)Native with Delta Lake’s “time travel” feature
Auto-scalingLimited to predefined node configurationsDynamic, adapts to workloads
Security FeaturesData encryption, VPC peering IAM rolesEnterprise-grade security, Network isolation, Role-based access control
ComplianceGDPR, HIPAA, and moreGDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and other global standards
Native IntegrationsAWS ecosystem and various third-party platformsWide range, including data sources, visualization tools, and ML platforms
API & SDK AvailabilityLimited to query and management APIsComprehensive, including REST API, CLI, and SDKs for Python, Scala, etc.
Community & SupportStrong AWS community support and dedicated AWS documentationLarge Spark community, Databricks forums, extensive official documentation, and learning resources (like Databricks Academy)
Best Suited ForCompanies invested in AWS ecosystem and traditional data warehousing requirementsCompanies seeking unified analytics with capabilities for real-time data processing, machine learning, and collaboration

1. Core Function

Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is essentially Amazon Web Services’ pride and joy when it comes to data warehousing services. The primary focus of Redshift? Large scale data analytics.

  • Spotlight: Think of a colossal warehouse, brimming with data, organized perfectly on massive shelves. That’s Redshift for you.


Databricks, on the other hand, isn’t just limited to a data tool. It proudly stands as an integrated environment for cloud-based big data analytics. Its backbone? The robust Apache Spark.

  • Spotlight: Imagine a vibrant analytics lab, humming with activity, with data flowing seamlessly across interconnected stations. Welcome to Databricks!

2. Pricing Model

Cost is crucial, right? Let’s dive into the financials.

Amazon Redshift

  • On-demand Pricing: A pay-as-you-go model. Ideal for those who are wary of commitments.
  • Reserved Instances: For those ready to put a ring on it, promising longer-term usage.
Pricing ModelIdeal For
On-demandShort-term projects
ReservedLong-term commitment


  • Workspace Pricing: It can be a tad intricate, but here’s the gist: You pay for what you use. And premium features? Well, they come with premium tags.

3. Data Storage Method

Data storage is where the magic begins.

Amazon Redshift

Redshift gleams with its columnar storage prowess.

  • Benefits?
    • Super-fast data retrieval for specific columns.
    • Optimizes query performance like a charm.


Databricks shines with Delta Lake.

  • What’s the big deal?
    • It brings ACID transactions to big data, ensuring your data’s reliability.
    • The time travel feature is just wow! Data versioning becomes a piece of cake.

4. Processing Architecture

Under the hood, this is what powers these giants.

Amazon Redshift

Welcome to the world of MPP (Massive Parallel Processing).

  • Pros?
    • Divides a vast dataset among multiple nodes. More the merrier!
    • Scalability is off the charts.


All hail Apache Spark.

  • Why it rocks?
    • Distributed processing, optimized to perfection.
    • Handles large-scale data operations without breaking a sweat.

5. ML Integration

Machine learning is all the rage now. How do these platforms measure up?

Amazon Redshift

  • Integration: It dances well with external ML platforms. But, it’s more like a partner dance rather than a solo performance.


  • Natively Integrated: ML tools are embedded in its DNA.
    • Collaboration between data scientists? Seamless!
    • ML workflows? Fluid, efficient, and intuitive.

6. Primary Use Case

The real deal. Why should you pick one over the other?

Amazon Redshift

Designed for data warehousing and large-scale analytics.

  • Visualize: A mighty warehouse with data packages neatly stacked, ready for analysis.


Its strength? Real-time analytics, data engineering, and yes, machine learning.

  • Visualize: An agile lab with data experiments running in tandem, results popping up in real-time.

7. Data Versioning

Version control isn’t just for code; it’s crucial for data too. Let’s see how these tools stack up.

Amazon Redshift

Redshift, by default, doesn’t offer native data versioning.

  • Workarounds:
    • You can timestamp data entries.
    • External integration might be the way to go.


Databricks, with its Delta Lake, is a game changer.

  • Key Features:
    • Native “time travel” feature ensures you can access older data versions.
    • Data integrity remains intact with ACID transactions.

8. Auto-scaling

Scaling is vital. Whether you’re dealing with a data deluge or a light sprinkle, your platform should handle it with grace.

Amazon Redshift

  • Limited Flexibility: Redshift’s auto-scaling is tied to predefined node configurations.
  • Manual Tweaks: Scaling often requires a hands-on approach.


  • Dynamic Scaling: This platform adapts on-the-fly, adjusting to your workloads.
  • Efficiency: Less manual intervention ensures a smooth data processing ride.

9. Security Features

No compromises here. Let’s explore the fortresses these platforms have built.

Amazon Redshift

  • Data Encryption: At rest and in transit, your data’s safety is guaranteed.
  • VPC Peering: Ensure private communication between your Amazon VPC and Redshift.
  • IAM Roles: Fine-tuned access controls.


  • Enterprise-grade Security: Comprehensive measures for data protection.
  • Network Isolation: Your data stays in a secure environment, away from prying eyes.
  • Role-based Access Control: You decide who gets to see what.

10. Compliance

In an era where data rules, compliance is king.

Amazon Redshift

  • Certifications: GDPR, HIPAA, and more.
  • Peace of Mind: With AWS backing, expect regular updates on compliance norms.


  • Broad Spectrum: GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and other global standards are checked off the list.
  • Transparent Reporting: Stay in the loop with clear, timely compliance reports.

11. Native Integrations

How well do these platforms play with others?

Amazon Redshift

  • AWS Ecosystem: Being a part of the AWS family, Redshift enjoys native integrations with other AWS services.
  • Third-party Platforms: Redshift isn’t shy. It can mingle with a wide array of external tools.


  • Versatile Integrations: Connects effortlessly to various data sources, visualization tools, and ML platforms.
  • Spark Community: Being Spark-based has its perks, with numerous plugins and extensions available.

12. API & SDK Availability

For those who love to get their hands dirty with custom codes.

Amazon Redshift

  • Scope: Limited mostly to query and management APIs.
  • Integration: While robust, it’s less flexible for developers aiming for unique customizations.


  • Comprehensive Tools:
    • REST API, CLI, and more.
    • SDKs available for Python, Scala, and more. Coders, rejoice!

Endnote: In the duel of Amazon Redshift vs. Databricks, it’s evident that both platforms bring their A-game. The ultimate choice hinges on your specific needs, infrastructure, and, of course, budget. Here’s hoping this breakdown aids you in your quest for the perfect data platform. Happy analyzing!

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