Performance Comparison: Athena versus Redshift

I’ve always been a fan of database servers: self-contained entities that manage both storage and compute, and give you knobs to turn to optimize your queries. The flip side is that I have an inherent distrust of services such as Athena, which promise to run queries efficiently on structured data split between many files in a data lake. It just doesn’t seem natural; where are the knobs?

So, since I had data generated for my post on Athena performance with different file types, I decided to use that data in a performance comparison with Redshift.

Unbalanced Data in Redshift

Decision support databases have a number of quirks that are not obvious to the casual user, particularly someone coming from an OLTP background. In this post I look at how unbalanced distributions can impact your query performance, how you can identify imbalances, and what you can do to fix them.