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Glossary

What is a Data Lake?

What is a Data Lake?

Data lakes are storage reservoirs that hold large amounts of raw data in their native format, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. This “big data” approach to data storage allows businesses to store large volumes of data more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods.

Data lakes are increasingly popular for storing and processing big data because of their low cost and the ability to save data in its native format, in addition to allowing analysts to promptly extract, load, and transform (ELT) the data into the desired format for rapid analysis.

However, data lakes are more complex to manage than traditional systems, and can quickly become data swamps—poorly managed data lakes with little value to the organization that houses them. By fully understanding the business value and specific needs of data lakes, companies can fully utilize them for advanced data analytics.

Key features of a data lake

Data lakes enable data scientists to transform data from multiple sources to get insights that were once impossible. With its vast storage capacity, a data lake can accommodate a company’s data needs without breaking a sweat and are typically less expensive than traditional data warehouse appliances. Plus, its intelligent search and retrieval features make it easy to find the information you need when you need it.

Key features of a data lake include:

Large storage capacity

Data lakes can store large amounts of data, including both structured and unstructured data, that can be imported from multiple sources, such as social media, IoT devices, and clickstream data.

Unified interface

Providing a consistent user interface and architecture for preparing, integrating, and analyzing data allows for easier data transformation. Users may easily combine data from several sources without having to undergo the trouble of transforming it each time.

Why do organizations use a data lakes?

An organization’s reasons for using a data lake can be multifaceted, but collectively work to facilitate data sharing within the organization to enable analytics while reducing costs.

Organizations need quick and easy access to all of their data to make data-driven decisions, and data lakes provide a centralized location for storing all data — regardless of type or structure.

This helps avoid data silos, which are created when data is spread across different departments or data sources. Data lakes provide a unified view of the organization’s data, empowering business analysts and data scientists with easy access to the data they need for analytics.

What are the benefits of using a data lake?

Data lakes offer many benefits to help organizations utilize their data assets better and improve their decision-making process. This type of repository has various benefits over traditional data storage techniques. As organizations increasingly seek to gain insights from all their data, data lakes will become essential to their overall big data strategy.

Scalability

Data lakes are designed to be scalable, and can handle large volumes of data without compromising performance. This is particularly important as organizations build their data repositories and need a reliable system that won’t get bogged down or become more expensive to maintain.

Flexibility

The flexibility in terms of the data types that can be stored allows organizations to harness their data for real-world insights. For example, historical data stored as Parquet, AVRO, and other file types can be utilized in a data lake to make important business decisions. Data lakes offer greater flexibility than traditional storage methods, making them ideal for storing data from a variety of sources, such as social media, sensors, and logs.

Analytics-ready

Data lakes are designed to be queryable, meaning that they can be easily analyzed using a variety of tools such as Hadoop, Trino, and Spark. This makes them ideal for extracting insights from large data sets. In addition, data lakes can be used for a variety of purposes, such as predictive analytics, machine learning, and data visualization.

Cost-effective

Data lakes are a cost-effective type of storage for large amounts of data from many sources. Data lakes typically allow data of any structure reducing cost because data is more flexible and scalable as it doesn’t need to fit a specific schema.

What are the challenges of using a data lake?

Data lakes are not without challenges. In particular, they can be difficult to manage and govern effectively. Without the right tools and processes in place, data lakes can become difficult to manage and make it hard to find and utilize data.

Security

It can be difficult to control access to the data in a data lake because most data lakes are designed to give users self-service access without having to go through a central IT department. This improves efficiency and allows more people to work with data, but can expose sensitive data to major security risks. It is essential to have strict security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access and ensure users are trained appropriately to use data lakes safely.

ACID Compliance

A key challenge of using a data lake is ensuring that the data is ACID compliance. ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability, and it is a set of properties that guarantees that database transactions are processed reliably. To ensure ACID compliance, data lakes must be carefully designed and implemented. In addition, data lakes can be subject to regulatory requirements, making it crucial to have a governance framework in place.

Governance

Having accurate trustworthy data is paramount for business decision-making and resource allocation. Because they are capable of storing vast amounts of information, data lakes can easily accumulate outdated or duplicate data, making it challenging to find the most accurate and up-to-date information. Data lakehouses — which combine the central repository of a data warehouse with the raw data access of a data lake — assist in data governance by streamlining processes and creating transparency on how data is used throughout the organization.

Data lake v. Data warehouse

The data lake vs. data warehouse debate has been around for some time now. Data lakes are a newer technology than data warehouses, offering many advantages over their older counterparts. Data lakes are designed to be more flexible and scalable, making them ideal for organizations growing quickly or with large amounts of data. Most data lakes are built on Hadoop, a distributed file system that can store vast amounts of data. Hadoop is designed to be scalable and fault-tolerant, meaning it can keep working even if some of the system’s servers fail, making it an ideal platform for data lakes.

When you build a data lake on Hadoop, you can use any number of technologies to access the data. You can use SQL-based tools like Trino, Hive, or Impala to run queries against the data. Or you can use Hadoop’s MapReduce framework to process and analyze the data.

On the other hand, data warehouses have been around for longer and are more traditional. They’re designed to work with structured data and typically don’t scale as well as data lakes. However, they can be easier to use and maintain, making them a good choice for organizations that aren’t ready for a data lake.

A data warehouse might be a better option if you need to work with structured data and don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary for a data lake. A data lake is best for companies that have a significant amount of data or are expecting to grow quickly.

A synergy of data lakes and data warehouses, a data lakehouse integrates the best of both worlds, combining a robust storage system for raw data in its native format with an added governance layer that enforces security and controls access to the data.

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Set your analytics team up for success by selecting the best option for managing your large data repository. Learn more about data management techniques with Starburst.

Additional Reading

​​https://www.starburst.io/blog/data-lake-analytics-for-smart-modern-data-management/
https://www.starburst.io/solutions/data-lake-engine/

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