What are the differences between Presto and Apache Drill?

Drill is an open source SQL query engine which began life as a paper “Dremel: Interactive Analysis of Web-Scale Datasets” from Google in 2010. Development of Apache Drill began in 2012.

Performance & Concurrency
Drill has never enjoyed wide adoption partially because it was tied to one Hadoop distribution (MapR) but mainly because of inherent performance and concurrency limitations. There are companies that built products based on Drill who report these performance and concurrency issues, and many have migrated away from Drill as a result. Presto’s popularity and adoption, on the other hand, has exploded as numerous companies from SME to web-scale have deployed Presto and contribute to the project. These include Facebook, Uber, Alibaba, Twitter, Netflix, AirBnB and LinkedIn. Users value Presto’s vendor-neutrality and rate of innovation.

Presto connects to external metastores (AWS Glue, Hive Metastore Catalog); many users deploy Presto + AWS Glue/Hive for their data lake analytics. In addition, schema for relational data sources can be obtained directly from each connector. On the other hand, Drill performs its own schema discovery and does not need a metastore such as Hive (but can use Hive if needed), which is a benefit.

Compared to Presto, the Apache Drill community has dwindled somewhat especially when it comes to adoption and contributions. We talk to many users who are looking to move from Apache Drill to Presto. If we look at DB engines – https://db-engines.com/en/ranking/relational+dbms – we see that Presto has continued on a positive upward trend and ranks #27, as opposed to Drill which is at #49 in a downward trend.

Overall, Drill is in decline. This was accelerated when HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who acquired MapR) announced they will no longer support or contribute to Drill (a drawback of having a query engine tied to an ecosystem such as Hadoop). Presto’s popularity continues to increase, as illustrated by 1) the number of commits to the project (In the past month 46 authors have pushed 79 commits to master and 88 commits to all branches, and on master 568 files have changed and there have been 10,930 additions – as of Feb 26 2021), and 2) Presto’s continued rise on DB-engines.

Drill is a top-level Apache Foundation project but does not have a strong and active community behind it. Presto is backed by a strong community and is overseen by the Presto Foundation which is part of the Linux Foundation with 8 premier organizations driving it including Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Intel and Ahana.

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