Snowflake Schema

Data Warehousing > Concepts > Snowflake Schema

The snowflake schema is an extension of the star schema, where each point of the star explodes into more points. In a star schema, each dimension is represented by a single dimensional table, whereas in a snowflake schema, that dimensional table is normalized into multiple lookup tables, each representing a level in the dimensional hierarchy.

Snowflake Schema

Sample snowflake schema

For example, the Time Dimension that consists of 2 different hierarchies:

1. Year → Month → Day
2. Week → Day

We will have 4 lookup tables in a snowflake schema: A lookup table for year, a lookup table for month, a lookup table for week, and a lookup table for day. Year is connected to Month, which is then connected to Day. Week is only connected to Day. A sample snowflake schema illustrating the above relationships in the Time Dimension is shown to the right.

The main advantage of the snowflake schema is the improvement in query performance due to minimized disk storage requirements and joining smaller lookup tables. The main disadvantage of the snowflake schema is the additional maintenance efforts needed due to the increase number of lookup tables.

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