Athena VS. Glue: Which Amazon Product Should You Choose?

Athena VS. Glue: Which Amazon Product Should You Choose?

As data becomes a critical asset and enterprises are worried about the size of their ever-increasing database, the world of technology has seen the emergence of a revolutionary new computing paradigm called "serverless computing." Due to its higher scalability and low operational costs, this new approach to computing has quickly become popular with developers and businesses.

Serverless computing is a cloud-computing model that allows developers to deploy applications without worrying about infrastructure maintenance. The idea behind serverless computing is to offload operational tasks—such as provisioning, scaling, patching, and security—to a third-party provider like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. This allows developers to focus on writing code instead of managing servers.

It can be hard to know which serverless tools to choose on AWS when building an application. After all, there are so many options! In this write-up, we will focus on two of Amazon's most popular serverless tools: Athena and Glue.

Both are powerful data services allowing users to store and query data, but which is the best fit for you? We'll compare each tool's features and discuss why you might want to use one over the other. Let's dive in!

The Rise of Serverless Technology

In recent years, the tech world has seen a shift in cloud-based services, with serverless technology becoming increasingly popular. In 2020, the serverless computing industry was expected to be worth $7.29 billion. Furthermore, according to Serverless Architecture Report , the market is anticipated to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.71% from 2021 to 2028, reaching a value of $36.84 billion.

With no physical infrastructure to maintain, serverless technologies can offer several advantages over traditional server-based systems.

An Unprecedented Level of Scalability

Without physical hardware or software to manage, businesses can quickly spin up additional computing resources as needed without any downtime. This makes it easy for businesses to handle sudden spikes in demand, such as when launching new applications or responding to seasonality in their markets.

Drastically Reduce Costs

By not having to purchase, manage, and maintain physical servers, businesses save money on labor and hardware costs. Additionally, because cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) charge only for the resources used by customers, businesses can avoid unnecessary expenses by leveraging serverless technologies.

Embrace Digital Transformation

Finally, serverless technology allows businesses to focus on developing applications rather than dealing with tedious system administration tasks. With serverless technology, developers can quickly spin up the necessary computing resources and begin coding immediately. This can lead to faster development cycles and more time to innovate on their products.


AWS Athena vs. AWS Glue

Let's start by clarifying that this is not an either-or viewpoint. AWS Glue and AWS Athena work together while also competing with one another. Both their individual uses and their combined usage are quite advantageous. But what are these two technological tools? And how to choose one over another? Let's look at it.

AWS Athena

AWS Athena is a serverless query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena can quickly analyze vast amounts of data and provide results in seconds. It supports data formats such as CSV, JSON, ORC, Avro, and Parquet. With Athena, you don't need to manage any infrastructure, as all the work is done in the cloud.

AWS Glue

AWS Glue is a fully managed ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) service that makes it easy to move and transform data from one format to another. Glue enables you to create data pipelines, ingest data from different sources, and prepare it for analytics. Glue also supports many data formats and can scale automatically to accommodate large datasets.

What is AWS Athena?

AWS Athena is Amazon's interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data stored in the Amazon S3 data lake. Athena works directly with data stored in S3, allowing users to quickly and easily analyze data using standard SQL.

It supports various data formats, including JSON, CSV, Apache Parquet, ORC, and Avro. In addition, Athena is serverless, meaning that no servers are required to run queries. Instead, Athena scales automatically based on the volume of data it is processing.

Additionally, Athena offers automatic query optimization and caching, so it can process complex queries faster than traditional databases. With its ability to query large datasets without requiring any setup or administration, AWS Athena is a great choice for those looking to analyze their data quickly and easily.

What is AWS Glue?

AWS Glue is an Amazon product that simplifies the process of data ingestion and transformation. It is a fully-managed, pay-as-you-go service that allows users to easily extract, transform, and load data from various sources into a data warehouse.

Glue automates most of the ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) process, allowing you to focus on business logic rather than mundane coding tasks. It also has numerous pre-built connectors for popular data sources such as Amazon RDS, Redshift, and Apache Hive.

This makes it much easier to quickly connect to various data sources and move your data into the AWS cloud. Additionally, Glue provides an easy-to-use console and API that allows you to create and monitor jobs and build sophisticated workflows.

What Are the Benefits of Using AWS Athena?

AWS Athena is a powerful Amazon product that can quickly query and analyze data stored in the Amazon S3 cloud storage service. It provides an easy-to-use interface for creating, executing, and monitoring queries from multiple databases and data sources.

With Athena, you can quickly and efficiently analyze large volumes of data to gain valuable insights and make decisions about your data.

  • The most notable benefit of using AWS Athena is that it allows users to quickly query and analyze data stored in the Amazon S3 cloud storage service without needing manual coding or SQL queries.
  • Additionally, Athena is optimized for running complex queries on large datasets, making it a great choice for data analysts and scientists who need to work with large datasets. With Athena, you can quickly perform sophisticated analysis without having to write any code or learn SQL.
  • Athena also offers built-in scalability, allowing users to increase their compute resources as their data grows. Athena makes it easy to scale up your data processing operations as needed, providing more cost savings than manually provisioning additional servers.
  • Moreover, Athena is a fully managed solution that eliminates the need for manual infrastructure management, such as setting up new servers and configuring them with the necessary software.

What Are the Benefits of AWS Glue?

AWS Glue is a fully managed ETL (extract, transform, load) service that helps users prepare and load their data for analytics. It automatically discovers and classifies your data, making it easier to search, query, and analyze all of your data sources from one place.

Additionally, unlike Athena, Glue can be used across different AWS services such as S3 buckets and Redshift clusters. The most promising benefits of this Amazon tool are.

  • First and foremost, Glue is a fully managed service that allows users to easily create ETL jobs without any server-side scripting. This makes it easier for developers to get their projects up and running quickly. Additionally, Glue uses Spark as its data processing engine, allowing users to process large amounts of data quickly.
  • On top of that, Glue simplifies data access with its automated crawler system. This crawler can detect new data sources as they are added and then catalog and structure them, so they are queryable in Athena. Glue also offers a Data Catalog that makes searching and accessing data stored in multiple databases easy.
  • Finally, Glue is highly cost-efficient compared to Athena. With Athena, you pay per query, while with Glue, you only pay for the amount of data you store in your Data Catalog. This makes Glue a great choice for projects where you need to analyze a lot of data quickly or when you want to avoid paying for queries you might not need.

Which One to Choose?

Both Athena and Glue are powerful tools in Amazon's serverless computing arsenal—each with unique features designed to help businesses optimize their operations by reducing costs and increasing scalability. When deciding which is best for your business needs, consider things like budget constraints, size of datasets being queried/analyzed/transformed/loaded, etc., as well as the type of functionality (e.g., ETL versus interactive querying) required by your organization.

To put it more precisely,

  • Athena is a great choice if you need an easy way to retrieve data from various sources quickly.
  • Still, if you need more advanced features such as job scheduling or metadata tagging, Glue might be a better option.


Serverless computing represents a major shift in how we think about creating applications in the cloud era. By taking advantage of this new paradigm, businesses can reduce costs while increasing scalability, security, and efficiency at the same time.

Though Google's cloud, Microsoft's Azure, and IBM's Watson are roped in the race for serverless cloud supremacy, businesses believe Amazon's bestsellers, Athena and Glue, are two of the top contenders.

Both products offer impressive features and a variety of benefits that make them attractive options for those looking for a reliable data and analytics platform.

Athena offers fast query processing and scalability for large datasets, making it ideal for data-intensive projects. Conversely, Glue offers an easy-to-use interface, data integration, and cost savings due to serverless pricing.

Is your enterprise looking for a hybrid or fully managed cloud database management system? Contact Aspired and seek expert help on it.

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