What Is Binary Data Type in Snowflake?


Scott Campbell

The binary data type in Snowflake is a powerful feature that allows you to store and manipulate binary data. Binary data refers to any type of data that is represented in a binary format, such as images, audio files, or even executable programs. Snowflake provides support for storing and processing binary data efficiently, making it an ideal choice for applications that deal with large volumes of such data.

What is Binary Data?

Binary data is a term used to describe any type of information that is stored in a binary format. Unlike text-based data, which can be easily understood by humans, binary data is represented using a series of ones and zeros. This binary representation allows computers to process and manipulate the data more efficiently.

Binary Data Types in Snowflake

Snowflake provides several different binary data types that you can use to store and work with binary data:

  • BINARY: This is the basic binary data type in Snowflake. It can store up to 16 megabytes (MB) of binary data.
  • VARBINARY: This is a variable-length binary data type that can store up to 16 terabytes (TB) of binary data. The actual amount of storage used depends on the size of the value being stored.
  • BINARY(1): This is a fixed-length binary data type that can store exactly one byte of binary data.

The choice of which binary data type to use depends on the specific requirements of your application. If you need to store large amounts of binary data, then VARBINARY is usually the best choice. If you know that your values will always be a fixed size, then using a fixed-length BINARY type can provide some performance benefits.

Working with Binary Data in Snowflake

Once you have stored binary data in a Snowflake table, you can perform various operations on it using SQL. Snowflake provides a wide range of built-in functions that allow you to manipulate binary data, such as:

  • LENGTH: This function returns the length of a binary value in bytes.
  • SUBSTRING: This function allows you to extract a specific portion of a binary value.
  • CONCAT: This function concatenates two or more binary values together.

In addition to these functions, Snowflake also supports standard SQL operators for comparing and manipulating binary data, such as =, <>, >, and <. This allows you to write complex queries that involve binary data.


Let’s say you have a table called “images” that stores binary images. You can use the following SQL query to retrieve all images with a size greater than 1 megabyte:

SELECT * FROM images WHERE LENGTH(image_data) > (1024 * 1024);

This query uses the LENGTH function to calculate the size of each image and compares it to the value of 1 megabyte (1024 * 1024 bytes).


The binary data type in Snowflake provides a powerful way to store and manipulate binary data efficiently. Whether you need to store images, audio files, or any other type of binary data, Snowflake’s support for binary data types and functions makes it an excellent choice for your application needs.

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