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Snowflake expands cloud data warehouse platform to Snowpark

Snowflake customer Instacart, the online grocery giant, uses the Snowpark cloud data warehouse to list all its services in a data catalog to improve the user experience.

Snowflake on Tuesday revealed a flurry of updates and preview features to expand its cloud data warehouse platform.

Among the technologies the cloud data warehouse vendor is building out, showcased at its Snowflake Summit 2021 virtual conference, is its Snowpark developer experience feature, which the vendor first introduced in November 2020 as a preview.

Snowpark enables Snowflake users to build applications on top of the Snowflake cloud data warehouse platform using different programming languages including Java, Scala and Python. Snowpark is still in preview but is being expanded with additional Java functionality that improves performance, as well as an enhanced SQL API that accelerates queries.

Snowflake also unveiled its Powered by Snowflake program, which provides a series of resources including technical experts and best practices that help to make it easier for organization to use Snowpark and the rest of the Snowflake Data Cloud to build applications.

One organization that is already using Snowpark and is part of the Powered by Snowflake program is grocery delivery service Instacart, headquartered in San Francisco. In a briefing ahead of the conference, Dusty Pearce, vice president of infrastructure at Instacart, detailed how the company relies on Snowflake to run its business.

How Instacart is powered by the Snowflake cloud data platform

The online grocery giant uses data from both its retail partners and shoppers to optimize the Instacart portal and uses a data mesh strategy to handle the volume of data. Having all the data available about products helps ensure that customers see the right products and have a better overall experience.

Screenshot of Instacart vice president of infrastructure Dusty Pearce
Dusty Pearce, vice president of infrastructure at Instacart.

That data mesh approach involves pulling data from many different sources and then making it accessible to help improve consumers' experience. Instacart's catalog of products is all driven from Snowflake.

"It's not just … this analytic database that's driving decisions for executives; of course it's doing that," Pearce said. "But this is core to our business. That's where our catalog lives."

It's not just … this analytic database that's driving decisions for executives; of course it's doing that. But this is core to our business. That's where our catalog lives.
Dusty PearceVice president of infrastructure, Instacart

Pearce said Instacart is partnering with Snowflake to build a retailer partner portal where Instacart can share insights and data with its retailer partners to help optimize operation and increase revenues.

As the pandemic hit in 2020, Instacart saw a massive surge in business, Pearce said.

"Having a partner that is both reliable and scalable was really critical for us," Pearce said. "Those were tough times. People needed Instacart to be running and so for us, keeping the platform up and running, it's something we're really proud of."

Snowflake building out security and privacy features in preview

Also before the conference, Christian Kleinerman, Snowflake's senior vice president of product, detailed a series of new features that are in preview on the Snowflake data cloud.

One key area of focus for the preview features is security and privacy. Snowflake has a data classification now in preview that aims to help organizations easily classify and label personally identifiable information. With the new classifier, customers can get a perspective on what data is potentially sensitive data, Kleinerman said.

The other side of the privacy issue is not only identifying what is sensitive, but also keeping certain data hidden. To that end, Snowflake is introducing the concept of anonymized views, which enables users to query certain data sets without exposing potentially identifying information.

Redefining storage format for cloud data warehouse platform optimization

Behind the scenes, Snowflake introduced a series of platform optimizations in April to make its storage system more efficient.

Snowflake has redefined the storage format for data in in its platform, which in turn has helped to improve data storage efficiency, Kleinerman said.

"Using this new format and we have seen customers obtaining gains of up to 30% for better storage efficiencies and this translates directly to better economics for customers," he said.

The Snowflake conference runs June 8-10.

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