What Is Snowflake Data Type?


Scott Campbell

In the world of data storage and analysis, Snowflake has emerged as a popular cloud-based data warehousing platform. One of the key features that sets Snowflake apart from other platforms is its unique data type system.

What are Data Types?

Data types are a fundamental aspect of any programming language or database system. They define the type of values that can be stored and manipulated within a system. For example, common data types include integers, strings, booleans, and floating-point numbers.

Snowflake provides an extensive range of data types to accommodate various requirements and use cases. These data types encompass a wide range of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data formats.

The Snowflake Data Type Hierarchy

Snowflake organizes its data types into a hierarchy based on their characteristics and usage. This hierarchy consists of four main categories:

  • Fixed-Length: These data types have a fixed size, which means they occupy a specific number of bytes in memory. Examples include fixed-length strings, integers, booleans, and timestamps.
  • Variable-Length: As the name suggests, these data types can vary in size depending on the length of their values. Variable-length strings (VARCHAR) fall into this category.
  • Semi-Structured: This category includes complex data structures such as arrays, objects (JSON), and XMLs.
  • Unstructured: Unstructured data types refer to large binary objects (BLOBs) such as images or documents that are typically stored externally.

Fixed-Length Data Types

The fixed-length category includes various commonly used data types:

  • BOOLEAN: Represents a Boolean value (True/False).
  • DATE: Stores a date value in the format ‘YYYY-MM-DD’.
  • TIME: Stores a time value in the format ‘HH:MI:SS’.
  • TIMESTAMP: Represents a timestamp with timezone information.
  • VARIANT: A flexible data type that can store JSON-like structures.

Variable-Length Data Types

The variable-length category primarily consists of the VARCHAR data type, which is used to store strings of varying lengths. Unlike fixed-length strings, VARCHAR allows for more flexibility as it adapts to the length of the stored values.

Semi-Structured Data Types

Snowflake supports semi-structured data types, enabling users to store and query complex data structures:

  • ARRAY: This data type represents an ordered list of values. Each element within an array can have a different data type.
  • OBJECT: Objects are structured collections of key-value pairs. These objects can be nested within each other, allowing for hierarchical representation.
  • VARIANT: Similar to its usage in fixed-length data types, VARIANT serves as a flexible container for storing semi-structured or unstructured data in JSON-like formats.

Unstructured Data Types

Lastly, Snowflake offers support for unstructured or large binary objects through the BLOB (Binary Large Object) data type. BLOBs are typically used to store files such as images, videos, or documents, which are not directly queryable within the database.


Snowflake’s comprehensive data type system provides users with the flexibility to handle a wide range of data formats. Whether it’s fixed-length, variable-length, semi-structured, or unstructured data, Snowflake has the appropriate data type to suit your needs. Understanding these data types is crucial for effectively storing and analyzing data within the Snowflake platform.

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