Amazonian Athena gifts the AWS team with the wisdom of SaaS on PaaS

Business is Redshifting itself into analytics queries

Athena, goddess of wisdom, has bestowed her name upon Amazon's new interactive query service for S3 as the company seeks to become more than a mere infrastructure vendor.

Announced at re:Invent, Athena is a serverless service using distributed query engine Presto with standard ANSI SQL support to allow customers to analyse their data as it's stored in S3, and subsequently integrate that with Amazon QuickSight for visualisation.

Large joins, window functions and arrays (to mention two uses) will be workable with a variety of standard data formats, including CSV, JSON, ORC, and Parquet.

The move is aimed to contribute to the view that there's more to AWS than its data warehouse Redshift, although AWS is still encouraging Athena users to convert their data to a columnar format. Queries, after all, are computationally expensive and, as expected, users will be paying per query.

AWS has said that customers "are charged based on the amount of data scanned by each query (the console will display this information after each query)" and this will arrive at the princely sum of $5 per TB of data scanned.

"This means that you can realize significant cost savings by compressing, partitioning, or converting your data to a columnar format," the cloudy folk added.

From Amazon's perspective, Redshift still has a purpose, with a query engine designed to handle complex queries that join a load of large database tables. Highly structured data isn't an issue AWS thinks it needs to worry about.

Athena, however, is intended to "make it easy to run interactive queries against data directly in Amazon S3 without worrying about formatting data or managing infrastructure," although somewhat formatting data remains encouraged.

Microsoft similarly announced the general availability of its appliance update, the Analytics Platform System, earlier this week to remind users that SQL Server was more than somewhere to store bytes. Meanwhile, and somewhat ironically, Google's BigQuery service continues to chase Redshift, with plentiful disagreements between the two companies over which is better. ®

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