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10 Reasons to Make Apache Iceberg and Dremio Part of Your Data Lakehouse Strategy

March 01, 2024

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Apache Iceberg is disrupting the data landscape, offering a new paradigm where data is not confined to the storage system of a chosen data warehouse vendor. Instead, it resides in your own storage, accessible by multiple tools. A data lakehouse, which is essentially a modular data warehouse built on your data lake as the storage layer, offers limitless configuration possibilities. Among the various options for constructing an Apache Iceberg lakehouse, the Dremio Data Lakehouse Platform stands out as one of the most straightforward, rapid, and cost-effective choices. This platform has gained popularity for on-premises migrations, implementing data mesh strategies, enhancing BI dashboards, and more. In this article, we will explore 10 reasons why the combination of Apache Iceberg and the Dremio platform is exceptionally powerful. We will delve into five reasons to choose Apache Iceberg over other table formats and five reasons to opt for the Dremio platform when considering Semantic Layers, Query Engines, and Lakehouse Management.

5 Reasons to Choose Apache Iceberg Over Other Table Formats

Apache Iceberg is not the only table format available; Delta Lake and Apache Hudi are also key players in this domain. All three formats provide a core set of features, enabling database-like tables on your data lake with capabilities such as ACID transactions, time-travel, and schema evolution. However, there are several unique aspects that make Apache Iceberg a noteworthy option to consider.

1. Partition Evolution

Apache Iceberg distinguishes itself with a feature known as partition evolution, which allows users to modify their partitioning scheme at any time without the need to rewrite the entire table. This capability is unique to Iceberg and carries significant implications, particularly for tables at the petabyte scale where altering partitioning can be a complex and costly process. Partition evolution facilitates the optimization of data management, as it enables users to easily revert any changes to the partitioning scheme by simply rolling back to a previous snapshot of the table. This flexibility is a considerable advantage in managing large-scale data efficiently.

2. Hidden Partitioning

Apache Iceberg introduces a unique feature called hidden partitioning, which significantly simplifies the workflows for both data engineers and data analysts. In traditional partitioning approaches, data engineers often need to create additional partitioning columns derived from existing ones, which not only increases storage requirements but also complicates the data ingestion process. Additionally, data analysts must be cognizant of these extra columns; failing to filter by the partition column could lead to a full table scan, undermining efficiency.

However, with Apache Iceberg’s hidden partitioning, the system can partition tables based on the transformed value of a column, with this transformation tracked in the metadata, eliminating the need for physical partitioning columns in the data files. This means that analysts can apply filters directly on the original columns and still benefit from the optimized performance of partitioning. This feature streamlines operations for both data engineers and analysts, making the process more efficient and less prone to error.

3. Versioning

Versioning is an invaluable feature that facilitates isolating changes, executing rollbacks, simultaneously publishing numerous changes across different objects, and creating zero-copy environments for experimentation and development. While each table format records a single chain of changes, allowing for rollbacks, Apache Iceberg uniquely incorporates branching, tagging, and merging as integral aspects of its core table format. Furthermore, Apache Iceberg stands out as the sole format presently compatible with Nessie, an open-source project that extends versioning capabilities to include commits, branches, tags, and merges at the multi-table catalog level, thereby unlocking a plethora of new possibilities.

These advanced versioning features in Apache Iceberg are accessible through ergonomic SQL interfaces, making them user-friendly and easily integrated into data workflows. In contrast, other formats typically rely on file-level versioning, which necessitates the use of command-line interfaces (CLIs) and imperative programming for management, making them less approachable and more cumbersome to use. This distinction underscores Apache Iceberg’s advanced capabilities and its potential to significantly enhance data management practices.

4. Lakehouse Management

Apache Iceberg is attracting a growing roster of vendors eager to assist in managing tables, offering services such as compaction, sorting, snapshot cleanup, and more. This support makes using Iceberg tables as straightforward as utilizing tables in a traditional database or data warehouse. In contrast, other table formats typically rely on a single tool or vendor for data management, which can lead to vendor lock-in. With Iceberg, however, there is a diverse array of vendors, including Dremio, Tabular, Upsolver, AWS, and Snowflake, each providing varying levels of table management features. This variety gives users the flexibility to choose a vendor that best fits their needs, enhancing Iceberg’s appeal as a versatile and user-friendly data management solutio

5. Open Culture

One of the most persuasive arguments for adopting Apache Iceberg is its dynamic open-source culture, which permeates its development and ecosystem. Development discussions take place on publicly accessible mailing lists and emails, enabling anyone to participate in and influence the format’s evolution. The ecosystem is expanding daily, with an increasing number of tools offering both read and write support, reflecting the growing enthusiasm among vendors. This open environment provides vendors with the confidence to invest their resources in supporting Iceberg, knowing they are not at the mercy of a single vendor who could unpredictably alter or restrict access to the format. This level of transparency and inclusivity not only fosters innovation and collaboration but also ensures a level of stability and predictability that is highly valued in the tech industry.


Dremio is a comprehensive data lakehouse platform that consolidates numerous functionalities, typically offered by different vendors, into a single solution. It unifies data analytics through data virtualization and a semantic layer, streamlining the integration and interpretation of data from diverse sources. Dremio’s robust SQL query engine is capable of federating queries across various data sources, offering transparent acceleration to enhance performance. Additionally, Dremio’s suite of lakehouse management features includes a Nessie-powered data catalog, which ensures data is versioned and easily transportable, alongside automated table maintenance capabilities. This integration of multiple key features into one platform simplifies the data management process, making Dremio a powerful and efficient tool for organizations looking to harness the full potential of their data lakehouse.

5. Apache Arrow

One of the key reasons Dremio’s SQL query engine outperforms other distributed query engines and data warehouses is its core reliance on Apache Arrow, an in-memory data format increasingly recognized as the de facto standard for analytical processing. Apache Arrow facilitates the swift and efficient loading of data from various sources into a unified format optimized for speedy processing. Moreover, it introduces a transport protocol known as Apache Arrow Flight, which significantly reduces serialization/deserialization bottlenecks often encountered when transferring data over the network within a distributed system or between different systems. This integration of Apache Arrow at the heart of Dremio’s architecture enhances its query performance, making it a powerful tool for data analytics.

4. Columnar Cloud Cache

One common bottleneck in querying a data lake based on object storage is the latency experienced when retrieving a large number of objects from storage. Additionally, each individual request can incur a cost, contributing to the overall storage access expenses. Dremio addresses these challenges with its C3 (Columnar Cloud Cache) feature, which caches frequently accessed data on the NVMe memory of nodes within the Dremio cluster. This caching mechanism enables rapid access to data during subsequent query executions that require the same information. As a result, the more queries that are run, the more efficient Dremio becomes. This not only enhances query performance over time but also reduces costs, making Dremio an increasingly cost-effective and faster solution as usage grows. This anti-fragile nature of Dremio, where it strengthens and improves with stress or demand, is a significant advantage for organizations looking to optimize their data querying capabilities.

3. Reflections

Other engines often rely on materialized views and BI extracts to accelerate queries, which can require significant manual effort to maintain. This process creates a broader array of objects that data analysts must track and understand when to use. Moreover, many platforms cannot offer this acceleration across all their compatible data sources.

In contrast, Dremio introduces a unique feature called Reflections, which simplifies query acceleration without adding to the management workload of engineers or expanding the number of namespaces analysts need to be aware of. Reflections can be applied to any table or view within Dremio, allowing for the materialization of rows or the aggregation of calculations on the dataset.

For data engineers, Dremio automates the management of these materializations, treating them as Iceberg tables that can be intelligently substituted when a query that would benefit from them is detected. Data analysts, on the other hand, continue to query tables and build dashboards as usual, without needing to navigate additional namespaces. They will, however, experience noticeable performance improvements immediately, without any extra effort. This streamlined approach not only enhances efficiency but also significantly reduces the complexity typically associated with optimizing query performance.

2. Semantic Layer

Many query engines and data warehouses lack the capability to offer an organized, user-friendly interface for end users, a feature known as a semantic layer. This layer is crucial for providing logical, intuitive views for understanding and discovering data. Without this feature, organizations often find themselves needing to integrate services from additional vendors, which can introduce a complex web of dependencies and potential conflicts to manage.

Dremio stands out by incorporating an easy-to-use semantic layer within its lakehouse platform. This feature allows users to organize and document data from all sources into a single, coherent layer, facilitating data discovery. Beyond organization, Dremio enables robust data governance through role-based, column-based, and row-based access controls, ensuring users can only access the data they are permitted to view.

This semantic layer enhances collaboration across data teams, offering a unified access point that supports the implementation of data-centric architectures like data mesh. By streamlining data access and collaboration, Dremio not only makes data more discoverable and understandable but also ensures a secure and controlled data environment, aligning with best practices in data management and governance.

1. Hybrid Architecture

Many contemporary data tools focus predominantly on cloud-based data, sidelining the vast reserves of on-premise data that cannot leverage these modern solutions. Dremio, however, stands out by offering the capability to access on-premise data sources in addition to cloud data. This flexibility allows Dremio to unify on-premise and cloud data sources, facilitating seamless migrations between different systems. With Dremio, organizations can enhance their on-premise data by integrating it with the wealth of data available in cloud data marketplaces, all without the need for data movement. This approach not only broadens the scope of data resources available to businesses but also enables a more integrated and comprehensive data strategy, accommodating the needs of organizations with diverse data environments.


Apache Iceberg and Dremio are spearheading a transformative shift in data management and analysis. Apache Iceberg’s innovative features, such as partition evolution, hidden partitioning, advanced versioning, and an open-source culture, set it apart in the realm of data table formats, offering flexibility, efficiency, and a collaborative development environment. On the other hand, Dremio’s data lakehouse platform leverages these strengths and further enhances the data management experience with its integrated SQL query engine, semantic layer, and unique features like Reflections and the C3 Columnar Cloud Cache.

By providing a unified platform that addresses the challenges of both on-premise and cloud data, Dremio eliminates the complexity and fragmentation often associated with data analytics. Its ability to streamline data processing, ensure robust data governance, and facilitate seamless integration across diverse data sources makes it an invaluable asset for organizations aiming to leverage their data for insightful analytics and informed decision-making.

Together, Apache Iceberg and Dremio not only offer a robust foundation for data management but also embody the future of data analytics, where accessibility, efficiency, and collaboration are key. Whether you’re a data engineer looking to optimize data storage and retrieval or a data analyst seeking intuitive and powerful data exploration tools, this combination presents a compelling solution in the ever-evolving landscape of data technology.

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