What Data Structure Types Can Be Ingested Into a Variant Column in a Snowflake Table?


Angela Bailey

Data structures are an essential part of any database system. They determine how data is organized and accessed, providing efficiency and flexibility in data management.

In the case of Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehousing platform, a variant column allows for storing semi-structured data. This means that you can ingest various types of data structures into a variant column in a Snowflake table.

Supported Data Structure Types

The variant data type in Snowflake supports several fundamental data structures:

  • Object: An object is a collection of key-value pairs, similar to a JSON object. It allows you to store structured information with flexible schemas.
  • Array: An array is an ordered collection of elements, where each element can be of any supported data type. It enables you to store multiple values within a single column.
  • String: A string is a sequence of characters.

    It allows you to store textual data such as names, addresses, or descriptions.

  • Numeric: Numeric types include integers and floating-point numbers. They enable you to store numeric values like quantities or measurements.
  • Date and Time: Date and time types allow you to store temporal information like dates, times, or timestamps with timezone support.
  • Boolean: A boolean type represents logical truth values – true or false. It is useful for storing binary or flag-like information.

Ingesting Data Structures into Variant Columns

Ingesting different types of data structures into variant columns is relatively straightforward in Snowflake. You can use the SQL language and appropriate functions to manipulate and transform your data before loading it into the variant column.

For example, if you have a JSON object, you can use the PARSE_JSON function to extract specific fields and values. Similarly, if you have an array of values, you can use the FLATTEN function to transform it into individual rows.

Once your data is transformed, you can load it into the variant column using standard SQL INSERT statements or by leveraging Snowflake’s bulk data loading capabilities.

Querying and Manipulating Data in Variant Columns

One of the advantages of using a variant column is the ability to query and manipulate semi-structured data directly within Snowflake. You can use SQL functions like GET, ARRAY_INSERT, or OBJECT_INSERT to extract or modify specific elements within a variant column.

Additionally, Snowflake provides powerful querying capabilities for structured and semi-structured data. You can use SQL extensions like dot notation or bracket notation to access nested fields within objects or arrays stored in variant columns.


SELECT myVariantColumn:objectField1 AS field1,
       myVariantColumn:arrayField[0] AS firstElement
FROM myTable;

In this example, we are selecting the value of “objectField1” from the “myVariantColumn” variant column and the first element of “arrayField” from the same column. This demonstrates how you can retrieve specific elements from semi-structured data stored in a variant column.


The ability to ingest various data structure types into a variant column makes Snowflake a powerful platform for managing semi-structured data. Whether it’s objects, arrays, strings, numerics, dates and times, or booleans, Snowflake provides flexibility in storing and querying diverse data formats.

By leveraging appropriate SQL functions and querying techniques, you can efficiently work with semi-structured data stored in variant columns, unlocking the full potential of Snowflake’s data warehousing capabilities.

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