Data Lakes vs Data Warehouses: Know how to Choose the best fit

Today’s data-driven world thrives in the hands of scalable and efficient solutions that can store, handle, and analyze data to yield valuable insights. Majorly Businesses have to navigate through data that is gathered from various sources, including social media, purchases, and contacts with customers. 

As data tends to differ by format, size, and volume businesses must understand what is required for their data environment by proper analysis. Appropriate data processing and storage solutions are critical to the success of any business. Thus selecting the appropriate infrastructure becomes crucial in this situation. Usually, it comes down to choosing between a data warehouse and a data lake. 

Comprehending the distinct requirements of their data and business objectives enables Organizations must make critical choices about the best ways to manage their enormous and diversified data guaranteeing that the data architecture they have chosen is in line with their strategic aims and analytical requirements.

In this scenario, two well-known solutions – ‘Data lake and Data warehouse’ have become major players with distinct benefits and applications. 

Hop into the depths of data lake and data warehouse with us, and gain the knowledge to help your company make wise decisions when navigating the intricate field of data management.

What are Data Warehouses?

A data warehouse is a specialized database where structured and optimized data from multiple sources is kept. A data warehouse application acts as a framework for deriving insightful conclusions from both current and historical data. Enterprise Data warehouse is built to meet an organization’s reporting and analytical needs. 

Databases, spreadsheets, and other data repositories are a few sources of information that data warehouse management integrates. This integration contributes to the development of a thorough and complete company picture. 

Businesses use Data warehouses through the method of extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) of data from several sources, thus providing a strong basis for analytical operations. Through the consolidation of data into a structured format, enterprises can conduct queries and analyses to obtain practical insights. Modern Data warehouse serves as a key component in the BI environment, and BI and data warehousing go hand in hand. 

From an architectural perspective, three data warehouse types can be identified: the Enterprise warehouse, the Data Mart, and the Virtual Warehouse.

What are Data Lakes?

Large volumes of raw, unstructured data can be kept in their raw state in centralized repositories called “data lakes” until they are needed. 

Businesses who deal with large amounts of data can use these storage systems which breaks data into smaller, more manageable chunks. The structure of the data, which includes object organization and metadata storage, serves as a basis for classification and discovery. With this strategy, businesses may affordably and scalable store a variety of data kinds, including unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data, facilitating sophisticated analytics and data processing.

Platforms and technologies that can be used to build data lakes include object storage, cloud services, and open-source data lake frameworks. AWS, Google Cloud, Databricks, and Hadoop data lake are a few of the well-liked data lake options.

Data Lakes vs. Data Warehouses
Feature Data Lake Data Warehouse
Data type Supports structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data Suits for structured data
Data processing approach Schema-on-read Schema-on-write
Accessibility Accessible and easy to update Complicated to make changes
Update and Deletion Supports Update and Delete operations Primarily designed for append-only operations; updates may be complex
Data integration flexibility High flexibility Requires structured data for integration
Data processing speed Suited for batch processing, may have a lower processing speed Optimized for fast querying and analytics
Data structure Flexible Schema Fixed Schema
Data processing Engines Hadoop, Spark, Flink, etc. SQL-based processing engines (e.g., Snowflake)
Process used Extract Load Transform (ELT) process Extract Transform Load (ETL) process
Example technologies Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, AWS S3, Azure Data Lake Storage Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Teradata.
Use case focus Exploration, big data analytics Business intelligence, Reporting, analytics


How to choose the best from data lakes and data warehouses?

Since every business is different in what it needs and wants from its data storage and analysis, there is no one right answer to this question. But when deciding between a data lake and a data warehouse, there are a few general things to take into account:

Type and quantity of the data: A data warehouse can be more appropriate if the data is primarily structured and originates from a small number of sources. A data lake might be more adaptable and scalable if the data is heterogeneous, unstructured, and sourced from numerous sources.

The purpose and use of the data: A data warehouse could provide greater performance and security if the data is required for predefined business questions and reports. A data lake might provide greater flexibility and diversity if the data is used for exploratory research and discovery.

Cost:  Typically, Data warehouses have larger upfront expenses. Over time, they provide more predictable and controllable costs.

Data lakes are frequently seen to be more affordable for storing substantial amounts of unstructured and raw data. Handling and analyzing various data kinds in data lakes may demand further expenditures and lead to unpredictable expenses.

Resources: Firms may find it easier to maintain and administer data warehouse solutions if they have a well-defined data strategy and governance. An enterprise data lake could be more flexible and economical if the company takes a more exploratory and agile approach.


In conclusion, deciding between data warehouses and lakes is an important decision that has an immediate influence on a company’s ability to manage and use data effectively and efficiently.  Whether your company is looking for the flexible versatility of a data lake or the organized efficiency of a data warehouse, a careful assessment of features and characteristics will help you select the best-suited option. By carefully considering the distinct features of your data and the overall objectives of your enterprise, you may leverage these technologies’ potential to get insightful knowledge and facilitate well-informed decision-making in your company.


Author: GeakMinds

GeakMinds, a trusted IT and Analytics consulting firm and a classical partner of Microsoft brings over ten years of experience in delivering Data & AI, Digital Transformation, Testing, and Staffing solutions.