Spark SQL vs Presto

When it comes to comparing Spark SQL vs Presto there are some differences to be aware of: 


  • They are both open source, “big data” software frameworks
  • They are distributed, parallel, and in-memory
  • BI tools connect to them using JDBC/ODBC
  • Both have been tested and deployed at petabyte-scale companies
  • They can be run on-prem or in the cloud. They can be containerized


  • Presto is an ANSI SQL:2003 query engine for accessing and unifying data from many different data sources.  It’s deployed as a middle-layer for federation.
  • Spark is a general-purpose cluster-computing framework. Core Spark does not support SQL – for SQL support you install the Spark SQL module which adds structured data processing capabilities. Spark SQL is also ANSI SQL:2003 compliant (since Spark 2.0).
  • Presto is more commonly used to support interactive SQL queries.  Queries are usually analytical but can perform SQL-based ETL.  
  • Spark is more general in its applications, often used for data transformation and Machine Learning workloads. 
  • Presto supports querying data in object stores like S3 by default, and has many connectors available. It also works really well with Parquet and Orc format data.
  • Spark must use Hadoop file APIs to access S3 (or pay for Databricks features). Spark has limited connectors for data sources. 

If you want to deploy a Presto cluster on your own, we recommend checking out how Ahana manages Presto in the cloud. We put together this free tutorial that shows you how to create a Presto cluster.

After that, see this tutorial on how to manage individual Presto clusters.