Introduction to Data Pipelines

Data pipelines automate many of the manual steps involved in transforming and optimizing continuous data loads. Frequently, the “raw” data is first loaded temporarily into a staging table used for interim storage and then transformed using a series of SQL statements before it is inserted into the destination reporting tables. The most efficient workflow for this process involves transforming only data that is new or modified.

Features Included in Continuous Data Pipelines

Snowflake provides the following features to enable continuous data pipelines:

Continuous data loading

Options for continuous data loading include the following:

Change data tracking

A stream object records the delta of change data capture (CDC) information for a table (such as a staging table), including inserts and other data manipulation language (DML) changes. A stream allows querying and consuming a set of changes to a table, at the row level, between two transactional points of time.

In a continuous data pipeline, table streams record when staging tables and any downstream tables are populated with data from business applications using continuous data loading and are ready for further processing using SQL statements.

For more information, see Change Tracking Using Table Streams.

Recurring tasks

A task object defines a recurring schedule for executing a SQL statement, including statements that call stored procedures. Tasks can be chained together for successive execution to support more complex periodic processing.

Tasks may optionally use table streams to provide a convenient way to continuously process new or changed data. A task can transform new or changed rows that a stream surfaces. Each time a task is scheduled to run, it can verify whether a stream contains change data for a table (using SYSTEM$STREAM_HAS_DATA) and either consume the change data or skip the current run if no change data exists.

Users can define a simple tree-like structure of tasks that executes consecutive SQL statements to process data and move it to various destination tables.

For more information, see Executing SQL Statements on a Schedule Using Tasks.


The following diagram illustrates a common continuous data pipeline flow using Snowflake functionality:

Continuous data pipeline flow
  1. One of the following Snowflake features or a third-party data integration tool (not shown) loads data continuously into a staging table:


    Snowpipe continuously loads micro-batches of data from an external stage location (Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, or Microsoft Azure) into a staging table.

    Snowflake Connector for Kafka

    The Kafka connector continuously loads records from one or more Apache Kafka topics into an internal (Snowflake) stage and then into a staging table using Snowpipe.

  2. One or more table streams capture change data and make it available to query.

  3. One or more tasks execute SQL statements (which could call stored procedures) to transform the change data and move the optimized data sets into destination tables for analysis. Each time this transformation process runs, it selects the change data in the stream to perform DML operations on the destination tables and then consumes the change data when the transaction is committed.