What are materialized views in Snowflake, and how do they differ from regular views?

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What are materialized views in Snowflake, and how do they differ from regular views? When would you use a materialized view?

Daniel Steinhold Answered question August 2, 2023
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Materialized views in Snowflake are a specialized type of view that physically stores the results of a query as a table in the database. Unlike regular views, which are virtual and don't store data themselves, materialized views store the query results to provide faster access and improved query performance. They are particularly useful for speeding up complex and resource-intensive queries in data warehousing scenarios.

**Differences between Materialized Views and Regular Views:**

1. **Data Storage:** Regular views are virtual and don't contain any data. They are essentially saved SQL queries that act as aliases for the underlying tables, allowing you to simplify complex queries or provide restricted access to the data. On the other hand, materialized views store the actual query results as physical tables, which means they consume storage space in the database.
2. **Performance:** Regular views execute the underlying query each time they are accessed, which can be resource-intensive, especially for complex queries involving aggregations and joins. Materialized views, being pre-computed tables, provide faster query response times since they already contain the results of the query.
3. **Real-Time vs. Pre-Computed Data:** Regular views provide real-time data as they execute the underlying query each time they are accessed. Materialized views, however, contain pre-computed data that may not always reflect the latest changes in the source data. They need to be refreshed periodically to update their content.

**When to Use a Materialized View:**

Materialized views are beneficial in specific scenarios where query performance is critical, and real-time data is not a strict requirement. Here are some situations where you might consider using a materialized view:

1. **Frequently Executed Complex Queries:** If you have complex queries that involve multiple joins, aggregations, or expensive calculations, materialized views can significantly improve query performance by providing pre-computed results.
2. **Reporting and Business Intelligence:** Materialized views can be particularly useful in reporting and business intelligence scenarios, where quick access to aggregated data is essential for generating insights and analytics.
3. **Consolidated Data for Analytics:** When you need to consolidate data from various sources or summarize large datasets, materialized views can act as summary tables, making queries more efficient and reducing the need for repeated data processing.
4. **Reducing Load on Source Tables:** By using materialized views, you can offload some of the query processing load from the source tables, preventing them from being overloaded with complex queries.
5. **Data with Low Update Frequency:** Materialized views are ideal for data that doesn't change frequently. Since they need to be refreshed to update their content, they are better suited for data that doesn't require real-time access.

It's important to note that while materialized views can significantly enhance query performance, they also come with storage overhead and the need to manage data refreshes to keep the views up-to-date. The decision to use a materialized view should be based on the specific performance requirements and trade-offs for your particular use case.

Daniel Steinhold Answered question August 2, 2023
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