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Data Lakes vs. Data Warehouse: Definition & Differences

  • Neelam Tyagi
  • Jul 08, 2020
  • Updated on: Jun 14, 2021
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Talking about buzzwords today regarding data management, and listing here is Data Lakes, and Data Warehouse, what are they, why and where to deploy them. So, in this blog, we will unpack their definition, key differences, and what we see in the near future.  


“The world is now awash in data and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.” -Max Levchin, PayPal co-founder.


There are several modes to stockpile big data, but the selection of data warehouses vs. data lakes depends on who employs the data and how, so let’s pick up here.


(Must read: Hadoop vs MongoDB)



What is the Data Lake?


A data lake is a consolidated repository for accumulating all the structured and unstructured data at a large scale or small scale. 


  • It saves raw data and can manipulate without considering the structure and format of the data previously. The information is only structured when data needs to pull out and evaluated in data lakes.

  • Simultaneously, the analysis process doesn’t alter data available in the lake, i.e. data remains unstructured so that can be deposited and utilised for other goals as well. 

  • Moreover, data can be stored as-is regardless of converting data structure first and conduct diverse analytics from dashboards and visualization to big data transformations, real-time analytics and machine learning for making most suitable business decisions.


(Read also: Data Visualization Tools and Techniques)


By implementing data lakes, multiple organization usually produce business value from their data to defeat their peers. 


  • Company leaders can do the latest types of analytics that include machine learning models across brand-new sources like log files, data from click-streams, social media such as Facebook, Instagram, etc, and internet-connected devices collected in the data lakes.


(Learn here, how Instagram uses AI and Big Data technologies?


  • It assists them to recognize and work upon plausible timeliness for extensive business advancement, rapid via fascinating and retaining customers, increase productivity, proactively controlling devices, and making well-versed decisions.


Check out this video that quickly describes data lake architecture and tells how the data lakes serve in making ML systems for businesses.



What is Data Warehouse?


Data Warehouse aid the flow of data from unconventional operational systems to interpretation or solution systems through making a unique repository system of data from various sources by massive ETL processes, learn more about EDA process.


Data sources can be diverse and exhibit separate data representations that yield in deviating information like accounting, computing, billing, etc.


Also, numerous data models mould it tricky in order to get consolidated opinions when from the entire application systems, a full interpretation is required, due to this reason, Data Warehouse solutions came into play.


With the help of the relational database, a data warehouse can be designed. It has a compact multi-layered architecture, known as Layered Scalable Architecture(LSA).


(Also read: Cloud Computing Tutorial)


LSA uses a logical distribution of structure alongside data into various functional layers. The data are then drawn from layer to layer and converted into steady information, appropriate for analysis.


These four layers are described below; 


1. Primary data Layer or Staging

In this layer, data and information are placed from the source systems which is being in its primary position, also the complete changes records are preserved. 


  • From the physical representation of data sources and how they are being consolidated to how the transformation or modification are extorted, all is summarized in this layer as it extracts the subsequent storage layers. 

  • Also at this layer, ETL pipelines are implemented to convey data from source systems to the data warehouse.


2. Core Data Layer

A sort of operational element to execute a fortification, normalization, counterfeiting and refining of data from various sources that yield some traditional structures and solutions. 


  • The specific task of data quality and extensive conversions ensue here for withdrawing users from the distinctive arrangement of data sources and the necessity of their measurement and identification through which data integrity and excellence can be ensured.

  • Transmutations and immediate new data feeding are made form data model where the data model represents a stipulation of each trait and elements in the data warehouse databases. 

  • It also determines the objects the connection amidst them, the core business domain, the whole database fabrication from tables and ranges inside them to severances and indexes.


(Must read: 5 Steps of Data Analysis)


3. Data Mart Layer


Processing, cleansing and consolidating of data into the structure that is easy to decipher and deploy in BI- dashboards, can be achieved at this layer. Data marts render distinctive field-specific aspects of data and extract information from the former layers.


(In order to understand and visualize dashboard in actual, enhance your practice through Tableau: Working and features).


4. Service Layer


It regulates all the above-mentioned layers. It doesn’t include business data, though control metadata and different data elements and structures that are permitting for subsequent for data investigation, data handling,  protection, quantity management and MDM. 


Monitoring and fault analyzer tools are also accessible in this layer that boots up problem-solving practices.  


(Related blog: 10 Companies that uses big data)



Data Lake vs Data Warehouse


As businesses adopt data infrastructure to the cloud, the selection of data warehouses against data lakes, or the requirement of complicated alliances amid the two, is not an issue anymore.


(Related blog: A beginner’s guide to Cloud Computing)


It turns out to be more normal for each enterprise to possesses both and transfers data variation from lakes to warehouses to perform a business investigation. 


Below are the key differences table;



Difference factors

Data Warehouse

Data Lake


Data types

Save data in the files and folders

Stock raw data files (structured/ unstructured/ semi-structured) in its natural format


Data assimilation

Accumulate transaction system or measurable metrics

Bury data regardless of volume and diversity


Data recognition

Don’t recognize data

Recognize all data easily


Analyzing and describing

Extravagant and lethargic

Low repository and prudent



Schema-on-write, context-purified data,structured data

Schema-on-read, raw data that can be transformed when required



Required rigid structure- less agile 

When demanded, structuring and restructuring can be done- Extremely agile  



Non-metropolitan like the business professionals  

Metropolitan such as data scientists


Future of Data Lakes & Data Warehouses


As the value and quality of unstructured data increases, the popularity of data lake will also rise simultaneously, but there will invariably be an imperative spot for data warehouses and databases. 


Probably, continuing to store structured data in the data warehouses is a good option, but as several organizations are adopting to shift their unstructured data to data lakes on the cloud where it is most worthwhile to stock it and smooth to move it when necessary. 


The workload that incorporates the data lakes, data warehouse, or even database in diverse ways is one which serves well, we will endure having more of this for an anticipated prospect.

(Referred blog: Data Analytics Consulting)





While concluding the blog, it is intriguing to state” go with existing data requirement”, Enterprises deploy data lakes and data warehouses to accumulate, handle and decipher data, the data warehouse has a protracted past in the context of enterprise technologies that are deployed enormously for structured data, cleansed up and adapted for explicit business goals.


(Recommended blog: Why is Big data analytics in trends?)


“When we have all data online it will be great for humanity. It is a prerequisite to solving many problems that humankind faces.” – Robert Cailliau



Whereas data lake is the most novel technology which gets promoted by Hadoop and its open-source ecosystem. Data lakes allow banking for both structured and unstructured data in its primary mode and converting later on when an evaluation is necessary.


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