AWS Athena Alternatives: Best Amazon Athena Alternatives

Looking for Athena alternatives? Ahana gives you the scale and performance of PrestoDB – the same underlying technology that powers Athena, and which is used for petabyte-scale analytics at Meta and Uber – with none of the limitations. Get better price/performance and regain control over your cloud infrastructure with Ahana’s managed Presto solution for AWS. Request a demo today!

This is the 4th blog in our comparing AWS Athena to PrestoDB series. If you missed the others, you can find them here:

Part 1: AWS Athena vs. PrestoDB Blog Series: Athena Limitations
Part 2: AWS Athena vs. PrestoDB Blog Series: Athena Query Limits
Part 3: AWS Athena vs. PrestoDB Blog Series: Athena Partition Limits

If you’re looking for Amazon Athena alternatives, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best AWS Athena alternatives out there.

Athena is a great tool for querying data stored in S3 – typically in a data lake or data lakehouse architecture – but it’s not the only option out there. There are a number of other alternatives that you might want to consider, including serverless options such as Ahana or Presto, as well as cloud data warehouses.

Each of these tools has its own strengths and weaknesses, and really the best choice depends on the data you have and what you want to do with it. In this blog post, we’ll compare Athena with each of these other options to help you make the best decision for your data.

What is AWS Athena?

AWS Athena is an interactive query service based on Presto that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena is serverless, so there is no infrastructure to manage. Amazon Athena is great for interactive querying on datasets already residing in S3 without the need to move the data into another analytics database or a cloud data warehouse. Athena (engine 2) also provides federated query capabilities, which allows you to run SQL queries across data stored in relational, non-relational, object, and custom data sources.

Why would I not want to use AWS Athena?

There are various reasons users look for alternative options to Athena, in spite of its advantages: 

  1. Performance consistency: Athena is a shared, serverless, multi-tenant service deployed per-region. If too many users leverage the service at the same time in a region, users across the board start seeing query queuing and latencies. Query concurrency can be challenging due to limits imposed on accounts to avoid users from overwhelming the regional service.
  2. Cost per query: Athena charges based on Terabytes of data scanned ($5 per TB). If your datasets are not very large, and you don’t have a lot of users querying the data often, Athena is the perfect solution for your needs. If however, your datasets are large in the order of hundreds or thousands of queries, scanning over terabytes or petabytes of data Athena may not be the most cost-effective choice.
  3. Visibility and Control: There are no knobs to tweak in terms of capacity, performance, CPU, or priority for the queries. You have no visibility into the underlying infrastructure or even into the details as to why the query failed or how it’s performing. This visibility is important from a query tuning and consistency standpoint and even to reduce the amount of data scanned in a query.
  4. Security: In spite of having access controls via IAM and other AWS security measures, some customers simply want better control over the querying infrastructure and choose to deploy a solution that provides better manageability, visibility, and control.
  5. Feature delays: Presto is evolving at an expedited rate, with new performance features, SQL functions, and optimizations being contributed by the community as well as companies such as Facebook, Alibaba, Uber, and others periodically. Amazon caught up with version 0.217 only in Nov 2020. With the current version of Presto DB being 0.248, if you need the performance, features, and efficiencies that newer versions provide you are going to have to wait for some time.

What are the typical alternatives to AWS Athena?

  1. DIY open-source PrestoDB
  2. Managed Hadoop and Presto
  3. Managed Presto Service
  4. Cloud data warehouse such as Redshift or Snowflake

Depending upon a user’s business need and the level of control desired users, leverage one or more of the following options:

DIY open-source PrestoDB

Instead of using Athena, users deploy open-source PrestoDB in their environment (either On-Premises or in the Cloud). This mode of deployment gives the user the most amount of flexibility in terms of performance, price, and security; however, it comes at a cost. Managing a PrestoDB deployment requires expertise and resources (personnel and infrastructure) to tweak, manage and monitor the deployment. 

Large scale DIY PrestoDB deployments do exist at enterprises that have mastered the skills of managing large-scale distributed systems such as Hadoop. These are typically enterprises maintaining their own Hadoop clusters or companies like FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) and tech-savvy startups such as Uber, Pinterest, just to name a few.

The cost of managing an additional PrestoDB cluster may be incremental for a customer already managing large distributed systems, however, for customers starting from scratch, this can be an exponential increase in cost.

Managed Hadoop and Presto

Cloud providers such as AWS, Google, and Azure provide their own version of Managed Hadoop.

AWS provides EMR (Elastic Map Reduce), Google provides Data Proc and Azure provides HDInsight. These cloud providers support compatible versions of Presto that can be deployed on their version of Hadoop.

This option provides a “middle ground” where you are not responsible for managing and operating the infrastructure as you would traditionally do in a DIY model, but instead are only responsible for the configuration and tweaks required. Cloud provider-managed Hadoop deployments take over most responsibilities of cluster management, node recovery, and monitoring. Scale-out becomes easier at the push of a button, as costs can be further optimized by autoscaling using either on-demand or spot instances.

You still need to have the expertise to get the most of your deployment by tweaking configurations, instance sizes, and properties.

Managed Presto Service

If you would rather not deal with what AWS calls the “undifferentiated heavy lifting”, a Managed Presto Cloud Service is the right solution for you.

Ahana Cloud provides a fully managed Presto cloud service, with a wide range of native Presto connectors support, IO caching, optimized configurations for your workload. An expert service team can also work with you to help tune your queries and get the most out of your Presto deployment. Ahana’s service is cloud-native and runs on Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) to provide resiliency, performance, scalability and also helps reduce your operational costs. 

A managed Presto Service such as Ahana gives you the visibility you need in terms of query performance, instance utilization, security, auditing, query plans as well as gives you the ability to manage your infrastructure with the click of a button to meet your business needs. A cluster is preconfigured with optimum defaults and you can tweak only what is necessary for your workload. You can choose to run a single cluster or multiple clusters. You can also scale up and down depending upon your workload needs.

Ahana is a premier member of the Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation and contributes many features back to the open-source Presto community, unlike Athena, Presto EMR, Data Proc, and HDInsight. 

Cloud Data Warehouse (Redshift, Snowflake)

Another alternative to Amazon Athena would be to use a data warehouse such as Snowflake or Redshift. This would a require a shift of paradigm from a decoupled open lakehouse architecture to a more traditional design pattern focused on a centralized storage and compute layer.

If you don’t have a lot of data and are mainly looking to run BI-type predictable workloads (rather than interactive analytics), storing all your data in a data warehouse such as Amazon Redshift or Snowflake would be a viable option. However, companies that work with larger amounts of data and need to run more experimental types of analysis will often find that data warehouses do not provide the required scale and cost-performance benefits and will gravitate towards a data lake.

In these cases, Athena or Presto can be used in tandem with a data warehouse and data engineers can choose where to run each workload on an ad-hoc basis. In other cases, the serverless option can replace the data warehouse completely.

Presto vs Athena: To Summarize

You have a wide variety of options regarding your use of PrestoDB. 

If maximum control is what you need and you can justify the costs of managing a large team and deployment, then DIY implementation is right for you. 

On the other hand, if you don’t have the resources to spin up a large team but still want the ability to tweak most tuning knobs, then a managed Hadoop with Presto service may be the way to go. 

Learn how you can get better price/performance when querying S3: schedule a free consultation call with an Ahana solution architect.

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