Snow and Tell: Unlocking Analytics with Snowflake and Sigma

Julian Alvarado

Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

The demands of modern data analytics, including the need to process, store, and analyze massive amounts of data in a variety of formats, require a modern, cloud-based approach. Snowflake and Sigma combine to create a new approach to analytics that allows decision-makers at all levels to harness the power of data.

Snowflake’s unique data architecture delivers the performance, flexibility, and concurrency needed to support real-time analytics. And Sigma is designed to sit on top of Snowflake, leveraging the full power of the cloud to make data accessible for everyone. With a combined Sigma and Snowflake BI solution, entire organizations can explore data, ask important questions, and share discoveries quickly and easily.

Why Snowflake + Sigma for BI & Analytics?

Why are Sigma and Snowflake perfect partners for business intelligence? Here are five key reasons.

Cloud capabilities and performance

Sigma and Snowflake share a common mission to make data easily accessible and to leverage the power of the cloud to analyze massive amounts of data in row-level detail. Snowflake’s multi-cluster, shared data architecture separates compute resource scaling from storage resources, enabling seamless, non-disruptive scaling. Snowflake automatically scales to support any amount of data, any number of workloads, and concurrent users and applications without requiring data movement, data marts, or data copies.

Sigma is designed to close the gap in Snowflake’s data warehousing innovation by leveraging the full power of Snowflake’s cloud architecture for robust analytics. Sigma’s cloud-native design allows users to take advantage of Snowflake’s elasticity, compute power, and scale. Sigma connects directly to the Snowflake data warehouse and allows users to analyze billions of rows of data with ease.

Analytics without limits

Sigma serves as an analytical front end for Snowflake that provides a visual spreadsheet-like interface. All interactions and click commands inside Sigma’s UI are translated into SQL “under the hood,” unlocking true self-service analytics for business users. No query is off-limits, no matter how complex.

Snowflake consolidates data — whether extracted from traditional sources or streaming sources — on a single platform, without requiring cumbersome transformations and tradeoffs. Its patented technology natively loads and optimizes both structured and semi-structured data such as JSON, Avro, or XML, and makes it available via SQL without sacrificing speed, performance, or flexibility, so it’s immediately queryable in Sigma. As a result, Simga eliminates long query times, reduces reporting queues, and ensures that business users have a single place to explore all kinds of data, including mobile, web, and IoT data.

Security and governance

Snowflake follows best-in-class, standards-based practices to ensure security. The platform provides role-based access permission, data encryption at rest and in transit, and utilizes private link connectivity. The Snowflake service runs inside a Virtual Private Cloud, with individual hosts protected by firewalls configured with the most stringent rules. All communication with the Snowflake service is protected at the network level using industrial-strength, secure protocols, and its security program leverages established best practices for security controls. Additionally, Snowflake works with AICPA-certified, third-party auditors to maintain security compliance and attestations including both SOC 1, Type II and SOC 2, Type II. Snowflake is also PCI DSS certified, FedRamp Ready, and HIPAA compliant.

Sigma sits on top of Snowflake, using a secure connection to query the data warehouse directly. With Sigma, data always stays in Snowflake, where it’s fresh, secure, and governed. Data is never stored at rest. Because Sigma provides a single point-of-access for your data, it’s possible to establish robust data governance while still enabling users to answer their own questions. Sigma’s approach keeps report sprawl to a minimum and access to sensitive information restricted. Administrators can set permissions by team and namespace, and can restrict data access directly from the database. Ultimately, these capabilities give companies greater visibility and data access without the traditional risks encountered with other third-party analytics tools, such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Usage-based pricing

Snowflake offers usage-based pricing for compute and storage, meaning customers only pay for the amount of data stored and the amount of compute processing used. There are no upfront costs, over-provisioned systems, or idle clusters consuming money. Additionally, customers don’t have to pay for each query or provision for peak loads.

Sigma brings a similar cloud pricing model to the table. Instead of the site or individual user licenses offered by traditional BI providers, Sigma provides unlimited access to data consumers, or “readers.” An organization only pays for active users that perform interactive analyses. Accessing reports, dashboards, and worksheets is free for any employee, making it easy to get insights to those who need them without having to worry about costs. This innovative pricing model provides businesses with the ability to scale analytics across the organization and involve everyone in the data conversation at lower costs than traditional BI vendors charge.

Sigma Pro Tip

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Increased collaboration

With traditional analytics tools, users are confined to static reports or dashboards. With Sigma, however, data teams can curate data for analysis or allow business experts to iteratively curate data themselves, while still maintaining control where needed. As a result, teams have a single source of truth that everyone can access. Sigma supports both individual workspaces and team workspaces, making it easy to collaborate on data analysis while still maintaining data permissions. This allows teams to collaborate efficiently and unlock the answers to questions in an iterative way.

Additionally, Sigma supports embedded analytics, making it possible to publicly or privately embed your Sigma visualizations, dashboards, and reports on a public web page, inside a company portal, or in a third-party application. And because Sigma is connected directly to Snowflake, not relying on stale extracts, the data is always fresh and up to date.

How To Connect Sigma and Snowflake for Business Intelligence Acceleration

Connecting your Snowflake data warehouse to Sigma is simple. Unlike other BI tools, Sigma comes optimized to work with Snowflake “out of the box,” dramatically reducing the time it takes to get up and running with a proof of concept. There are two ways to go about making the connection. You can connect to your Snowflake data warehouse by creating a connection in Sigma or by creating a connection via Snowflake Partner Connect. In either case, when creating a connection, you will need to specify a Snowflake user and role that Sigma will use to connect to the database. You can change which user and role is used to connect at any time. Sigma will have access to all of the tables and schemas that the user has access to. To restrict what data different Sigma users see, you can set up permissions in Sigma using teams.

Connect to Snowflake from Sigma

Open your Admin Portal by selecting Administration in the user menu at the top right of your screen.

Select the Connections page from the left-hand panel.

Click the Create Connection button.

Name your connection.

Select Snowflake under warehouse type. You will then be prompted to specify your Connection Credentials.

Under Account, enter the account name of your Snowflake instance.

Under Warehouse, enter your warehouse’s name as listed in Snowflake.

If you have OAuth enabled on your organization, and you would like to use it on the connection, switch on OAuth access.

Learn more

Please note: Steps 9 – 11 are not applicable if you choose to use OAuth without a service account.

Under User, enter your Snowflake username.

Under Password, enter your Snowflake password.

[optional] Under Role, you can specify a Snowflake role to be used on this connection.

[optional] Under Connection Features, you can set a connection timeout and/or enable write access.

After completing the form, click the Create button.

Connect to Sigma using Snowflake Partner Connect

The benefit of using Partner Connect is that your database connection will automatically be set up for you in Sigma.

Go to Snowflake Partner Connect in your Snowflake console.

Switch the user role to `ACCOUNTADMIN`.

Select Sigma from the Partner Connect list.

The Connect to Sigma modal will appear. Click ‘Connect’.

Sigma will now open in a new window, and you will be prompted to create your new organization.

Snowflake + Sigma = A Match Made in the Cloud

As companies strive to become more data-driven, business intelligence adoption is crucial. Organizations must invest in solutions to make data accessible for anyone in the organization, not just the data team. Snowflake’s unique approach to cloud data warehousing has created new opportunities, and Sigma’s approach encourages curiosity, collaboration, and informed decision-making.

Ready to visualize your data for actionable insights?