Conducting a proof of concept for Amazon Redshift - Amazon Redshift
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Conducting a proof of concept for Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is a fast, scalable data warehouse that makes it simple and cost-effective to analyze all your data using standard SQL with your existing business intelligence (BI) tools. Amazon Redshift offers fast performance in a low-cost cloud data warehouse. It uses sophisticated query optimization, accelerated cache, columnar storage on high-performance local disks, and massively parallel query execution.

In the following sections, you can find a framework for building a proof of concept with Amazon Redshift. The framework helps you to use architectural best practices for designing and operating a secure, high-performing, and cost-effective data warehouse. This guidance is based on reviewing designs of thousands of customer architectures across a wide variety of business types and use cases. We have compiled customer experiences to develop this set of best practices to help you develop criteria for evaluating your data warehouse workload.

Overview of the process

Conducting a proof of concept is a three-step process:

  1. Identify the goals of the proof of concept – you can work backward from your business requirements and success criteria, and translate them into a technical proof of concept project plan.

  2. Set up the proof of concept environment – most of the setup process is a click of few buttons to create your resources. Within minutes, you can have a data warehouse environment ready with data loaded.

  3. Complete the proof of concept project plan to ensure that the goals are met.

In the following sections, we go into the details of each step.

Identify the business goals and success criteria

Identifying the goals of the proof of concept plays a critical role in determining what you want to measure as part of the evaluation process. The evaluation criteria should include the current scaling challenges, enhancements to improve your customer's experience of the data warehouse, and methods of addressing your current operational pain points. You can use the following questions to identify the goals of the proof of concept:

  • What are your goals for scaling your data warehouse?

  • What are the specific service-level agreements whose terms you want to improve?

  • What new datasets do you need to include in your data warehouse?

  • What are the business-critical SQL queries that you need to test and measure? Make sure to include the full range of SQL complexities, such as the different types of queries (for example, select, insert, update, and delete).

  • What are the general types of workloads you plan to test? Examples might include extract-transform-load (ETL) workloads, reporting queries, and batch extracts.

After you have answered these questions, you should be able to establish SMART goals and success criteria for building your proof of concept. For information about setting goals, see SMART criteria in Wikipedia.

Set up your proof of concept

Because we eliminated hardware provisioning, networking, and software installation from an on-premises data warehouse, trying Amazon Redshift with your own dataset has never been easier. Many of the sizing decisions and estimations that used to be required are now simply a click away. You can flexibly resize your cluster or adjust the ratio of storage versus compute.

Broadly, setting up the Amazon Redshift proof of concept environment is a two-step process. It involves the launching of a data warehouse and then the conversion of the schema and datasets for evaluation.

Choose a starting cluster size

You can choose the node type and number of nodes using the Amazon Redshift console. We recommend that you also test resizing the cluster as part of your proof of concept plan. To get the initial sizing for your cluster, take the following steps:

  1. Sign in to the Amazon Web Services Management Console and open the Amazon Redshift console at

  2. On the navigation menu, choose Create cluster to open the configuration page.

  3. For Cluster identifier, enter a name for your cluster.

  4. The following step describes an Amazon Redshift console that is running in an Amazon Region that supports RA3 node types. For a list of Amazon Regions that support RA3 node types, see Overview of RA3 node types in the Amazon Redshift Management Guide.

    If you don't know how large to size your cluster, choose Help me choose. Doing this starts a sizing calculator that asks you questions about the size and query characteristics of the data that you plan to store in your data warehouse. If you know the required size of your cluster (that is, the node type and number of nodes), choose I'll choose. Then choose the Node type and number of Nodes to size your cluster for the proof of concept.


    If your organization is eligible and your cluster is being created in an Amazon Web Services Region where Amazon Redshift Serverless is unavailable, you might be able to create a cluster under the Amazon Redshift free trial program. Choose either Production or Free trial to answer the question What are you planning to use this cluster for? When you choose Free trial, you create a configuration with the dc2.large node type. For more information about choosing a free trial, see Amazon Free Tier.

  5. After you enter all required cluster properties, choose Create cluster to launch your data warehouse.

    For more details about creating clusters with the Amazon Redshift console, see Creating a cluster in the Amazon Redshift Management Guide.

Convert the schema and set up the datasets for the proof of concept

If you don't have an existing data warehouse, skip this section and see Amazon Redshift Getting Started Guide. Amazon Redshift Getting Started Guide provides a tutorial to create a cluster and examples of setting up data in Amazon Redshift.

When migrating from your existing data warehouse, you can convert schema, code, and data using the Amazon Schema Conversion Tool and the Amazon Database Migration Service. Your choice of tools depends on the source of your data and optional ongoing replications. For more information, see What Is the Amazon Schema Conversion Tool? in the Amazon Schema Conversion Tool User Guide and What Is Amazon Database Migration Service? in the Amazon Database Migration Service User Guide. The following can help you set up your data in Amazon Redshift:

Amazon Redshift is a relational database management system (RDBMS). As such, it can run many types of data models including star schemas, snowflake schemas, data vault models, and simple, flat, or normalized tables. After setting up your schemas in Amazon Redshift, you can take advantage of massively parallel processing and columnar data storage for fast analytical queries out of the box. For information about types of schemas, see star schema, snowflake schema, and data vault modeling in Wikipedia.

Checklist for a complete evaluation

Make sure that a complete evaluation meets all your data warehouse needs. Consider including the following items in your success criteria:

  • Data load time – using the COPY command is a common way to test how long it takes to load data. For more information, see Amazon Redshift best practices for loading data.

  • Throughput of the cluster – measuring queries per hour is a common way to determine throughput. To do so, set up a test to run typical queries for your workload.

  • Data security – you can easily encrypt data at rest and in transit with Amazon Redshift. You also have a number of options for managing keys. Amazon Redshift also supports single sign-on integration. Amazon Redshift pricing includes built-in security, data compression, backup storage, and data transfer.

  • Third-party tools integration – you can use either a JDBC or ODBC connection to integrate with business intelligence and other external tools.

  • Interoperability with other Amazon services – Amazon Redshift integrates with other Amazon services, such as Amazon EMR, Amazon QuickSight, Amazon Glue, Amazon S3, and Amazon Kinesis. You can use this integration when setting up and managing your data warehouse.

  • Backups and snapshots – backups and snapshots are created automatically. You can also create a point-in-time snapshot at any time or on a schedule. Try using a snapshot and creating a second cluster as part of your evaluation. Evaluate if your development and testing organizations can use the cluster.

  • Resizing – your evaluation should include increasing the number or types of Amazon Redshift nodes. Evaluate that the workload throughput before and after a resize meets any variability of the volume of your workload. For more information, see Resizing clusters in Amazon Redshift in the Amazon Redshift Management Guide.

  • Concurrency scaling – this feature helps you handle variability of traffic volume in your data warehouse. With concurrency scaling, you can support virtually unlimited concurrent users and concurrent queries, with consistently fast query performance. For more information, see Working with concurrency scaling.

  • Automatic workload management (WLM) – prioritize your business critical queries over other queries by using automatic WLM. Try setting up queues based on your workloads (for example, a queue for ETL and a queue for reporting). Then enable automatic WLM to allocate the concurrency and memory resources dynamically. For more information, see Implementing automatic WLM.

  • Amazon Redshift Advisor – the Advisor develops customized recommendations to increase performance and optimize costs by analyzing your workload and usage metrics for your cluster. Sign in to the Amazon Redshift console to view Advisor recommendations. For more information, see Working with recommendations from Amazon Redshift Advisor.

  • Table design – Amazon Redshift provides great performance out of the box for most workloads. When you create a table, the default sort key and distribution key is AUTO. For more information, see Working with automatic table optimization.

  • Support – we strongly recommend that you evaluate Amazon Web Services Support as part of your evaluation. Also, make sure to talk to your account manager about your proof of concept. Amazon can help with technical guidance and credits for the proof of concept if you qualify. If you don't find the help you're looking for, you can talk directly to the Amazon Redshift team. For help, submit the form at Request support for your Amazon Redshift proof-of-concept.

  • Lake house integration – with built-in integration, try using the out-of-box Amazon Redshift Spectrum feature. With Redshift Spectrum, you can extend the data warehouse into your data lake and run queries against petabytes of data in Amazon S3 using your existing cluster. For more information, see Querying external data using Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

Develop a project plan for your evaluation

Some of the following techniques for creating query benchmarks might help support your Amazon Redshift evaluation:

  • Assemble a list of queries for each runtime category. Having a sufficient number (for example, 30 per category) helps ensure that your evaluation reflects a real-world data warehouse implementation. Add a unique identifier to associate each query that you include in your evaluation with one of the categories you establish for your evaluation. You can then use these unique identifiers to determine throughput from the system tables.

    You can also create a query group to organize your evaluation queries. For example, if you have established a "Reporting" category for your evaluation, you might create a coding system to tag your evaluation queries with the word "Report." You can then identify individual queries within reporting as R1, R2, and so on. The following example demonstrates this approach.

    SELECT 'Reporting' AS query_category, 'R1' as query_id, * FROM customers;
    SELECT query, datediff(seconds, starttime, endtime) FROM stl_query WHERE querytxt LIKE '%Reporting%' and starttime >= '2018-04-15 00:00' and endtime < '2018-04-15 23:59';

    When you have associated a query with an evaluation category, you can use a unique identifier to determine throughput from the system tables for each category.

  • Test throughput with historical user or ETL queries that have a variety of runtimes in your existing data warehouse. You might use a load testing utility, such as the open-source JMeter or a custom utility. If so, make sure that your utility does the following:

    • It can take the network transmission time into account.

    • It evaluates execution time based on throughput of the internal system tables. For information about how to do this, see Analyzing the query summary.

  • Identify all the various permutations that you plan to test during your evaluation. The following list provides some common variables:

    • Cluster size

    • Node type

    • Load testing duration

    • Concurrency settings

  • Reduce the cost of your proof of concept by pausing your cluster during off-hours and weekends. When a cluster is paused, on-demand compute billing is suspended. To run tests on the cluster, resume per-second billing. You can also create a schedule to pause and resume your cluster automatically. For more information, see Pausing and resuming clusters in the Amazon Redshift Management Guide.

At this stage, you're ready to complete your project plan and evaluate results.

Additional resources to help your evaluation

To help your Amazon Redshift evaluation, see the following:

Need help?

Make sure to talk to your account manager to let them know about your proof of concept. Amazon can help with technical guidance and credits for the proof of concept if you qualify. If you don't find the help you are looking for, you can talk directly to the Amazon Redshift team. For help, submit the form at Request support for your Amazon Redshift proof-of-concept.