< blog
21 min read

What is MERGE Statement in Snowflake? Examples and Performance

MERGE Statement in Snowflake

Efficient data merging is critical in Snowflake to optimize performance and reduce costs. This guide focuses on practical strategies for enhancing merge query operations within Snowflake’s architecture. Aimed at data engineers, it provides a clear path to address common challenges, leveraging Snowflake’s capabilities for improved data processing efficiency.

What are Snowflake Merge Queries?

Merge queries in Snowflake allow for the seamless upserting of data — inserting new records and updating existing ones based on a match criterion. This functionality is crucial for maintaining data integrity and ensuring consistency across Snowflake tables.

Snowflake’s architecture, with its distinct separation of storage and compute layers, plays a pivotal role in the efficiency of merge operations. It enables scalable compute resources, meaning you can adjust computing power based on workload demands without altering your data storage strategy.

Let’s consider a scenario where you need to merge sales data into an existing table. The SALES_DATA table contains daily sales figures by product ID, and you want to update these records with new information or add new records if they don’t exist.

ON target.PRODUCT_ID = source.PRODUCT_ID

This snippet demonstrates how a merge query is structured in Snowflake to update existing sales figures or insert new sales data based on the PRODUCT_ID match.

Understanding and utilizing merge queries effectively within Snowflake’s unique environment can significantly enhance data processing tasks, making it a vital skill for data engineers aiming to optimize their workflows.

Prerequisites for Optimization

Before diving into optimization techniques, it’s essential to grasp the foundational elements that influence merge query performance in Snowflake. This understanding forms the basis for making informed decisions that enhance query efficiency.At its core, Snowflake’s architecture separates data storage from compute processing, allowing for dynamic scaling. This separation is key to optimizing merge queries, as it enables precise control over resource allocation and usage.

Key Components:
  • Tables and Micro-partitions: Snowflake stores data in compressed, columnar format across micro-partitions. This structure impacts how data is accessed and manipulated during merge operations. Efficient data organization within these partitions is crucial for optimizing query performance.
  • Clustering Keys: Clustering keys determine how data is organized within micro-partitions. Selecting appropriate clustering keys for your merge operations can significantly reduce the amount of data scanned, leading to faster query execution and lower compute costs.

Knowing how Snowflake manages data storage and retrieval is fundamental to optimizing merge queries. Here’s a code snippet that highlights the use of clustering keys in table creation, aimed at optimizing merge query performance:

CREATE TABLE sales_data (
product_id INT,
sales INT,
sale_date DATE
CLUSTER BY (sale_date);

This example demonstrates creating a table with a clustering key on sale_date, optimizing the retrieval of sales data for specific dates during merge operations.

By familiarizing yourself with Snowflake’s storage and compute model, as well as how data is organized and accessed, you can better prepare for implementing the optimization strategies covered in the following sections.

Common Challenges with Merge Queries

Optimizing merge queries in Snowflake involves navigating several common challenges that can impact performance, computational cost, and data integrity. Understanding these challenges is the first step toward implementing effective solutions.

  • Performance Bottlenecks

Performance issues often manifest as prolonged execution times for merge queries, especially in environments with large datasets or suboptimal data organization. These bottlenecks can stem from excessive data scanning due to poorly chosen clustering keys or lack of partitioning.

  • High Computation Costs

Inefficient merge queries can lead to increased computational costs. This is particularly true for operations that trigger full table scans or when merge queries are executed without leveraging Snowflake’s ability to scale compute resources dynamically.

  • Data Integrity Concerns

Ensuring data integrity during merge operations involves managing challenges related to duplicate data, potential data corruption, and maintaining consistency across tables. These issues can complicate merge operations, requiring careful planning and execution.

  • Optimization Strategy

A practical strategy to address these challenges involves the careful selection of clustering keys and the implementation of data partitioning. Here’s a simple example of how partitioning can be conceptualized in Snowflake, even though it manages micro-partitions automatically:

CREATE TABLE sales_data_partitioned (
 product_id INT,
sales INT,
sale_date DATE

While Snowflake does not explicitly use partitioning syntax like some other databases, designing your data loading and query patterns to mimic logical partitioning can lead to improved performance by minimizing scanned data.

By addressing these common challenges with targeted strategies, data engineers can enhance the efficiency and integrity of merge operations in Snowflake, setting the stage for the advanced optimization techniques discussed next.

Optimization Techniques for Merge Queries

Optimizing merge queries in Snowflake not only improves performance but also reduces computational costs. Here are several techniques designed to tackle the challenges previously discussed, enhancing the efficiency of your merge command in snowflake operations.

Indexing and Clustering

While Snowflake automatically manages clustering within its micro-partitions, explicitly defining clustering keys can guide this process more effectively, particularly for frequently merged columns. This reduces the scan scope during merge queries.

ALTER TABLE sales_data RECLUSTER BY (product_id);

This command advises Snowflake to organize data based on product_id, optimizing access patterns for merge queries involving product-specific updates.

Data Partitioning

Logical data partitioning involves structuring your data load processes and query patterns to minimize the volume of data scanned during merge operations. This can be conceptualized as creating separate tables for distinct time periods or product categories, depending on your use case.

Efficient Use of Temporary Tables

For complex merge operations, leveraging temporary tables can streamline the process. Load new or updated records into a temporary table first, then perform a merge operation between the temporary table and the target table. This approach minimizes direct manipulation of the main dataset, reducing potential performance impacts.

SELECT * FROM new_sales_data;
MERGE INTO sales_data
USING temp_sales_data
ON sales_data.product_id = temp_sales_data.product_id
WHEN MATCHED THEN UPDATE SET sales_data.sales = temp_sales_data.sales
WHEN NOT MATCHED THEN INSERT (product_id, sales) VALUES (temp_sales_data.product_id, temp_sales_data.sales);

Leveraging Snowflake Features

Materialized Views: For frequently accessed query patterns involving merge operations, materialized views can pre-compute and store results, significantly improving response times for those queries.

Variant Data Types: When dealing with semi-structured data, using variant data types and optimizing their use in merge operations can enhance performance.

Dynamic SQL for Conditional Merging

Dynamic SQL enables the construction of flexible merge statements based on runtime conditions. This reduces the need for multiple merge paths and simplifies logic.


Using stored procedures or scripting, you can build and execute merge statements dynamically, adjusting for different conditions such as date ranges or product categories.

By applying these optimization techniques, data engineers can significantly improve the performance and cost-efficiency of merge queries in Snowflake. Each strategy offers a way to address specific challenges, from reducing scanned data volumes to simplifying query.

Dynamic SQL for Conditional Merging

Dynamic SQL becomes particularly useful in scenarios where merge conditions or target columns vary based on specific criteria. Here’s an extended example using Snowflake’s scripting capabilities:

merge_sql STRING;
 IF (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM new_sales_data WHERE sale_date >= CURRENT_DATE()) > 0 THEN
SET merge_sql = ‘MERGE INTO sales_data USING new_sales_data ON sales_data.product_id = new_sales_data.product_id WHEN MATCHED AND new_sales_data.sale_date >= CURRENT_DATE() THEN UPDATE SET sales_data.sales = new_sales_data.sales WHEN NOT MATCHED THEN INSERT (product_id, sales, sale_date) VALUES (new_sales_data.product_id, new_sales_data.sales, new_sales_data.sale_date);’;
SET merge_sql = ‘MERGE INTO sales_data USING new_sales_data ON sales_data.product_id = new_sales_data.product_id WHEN MATCHED THEN UPDATE SET sales_data.sales = new_sales_data.sales WHEN NOT MATCHED THEN INSERT (product_id, sales, sale_date) VALUES (new_sales_data.product_id, new_sales_data.sales, new_sales_data.sale_date);’;

This script dynamically constructs a merge SQL statement based on whether the new_sales_data table contains rows with a sale_date equal to or later than the current date, demonstrating the flexibility of dynamic SQL in optimizing merge operations.

Materialized Views for Frequently Accessed Queries

When specific merge query patterns are executed frequently, materialized views can cache the result, speeding up response times. Here’s how you might set up a materialized view to optimize a common merge operation pattern:

SELECT product_id, SUM(sales) AS total_sales
FROM sales_data
GROUP BY product_id;

By pre-computing the sum of sales for each product, this materialized view can expedite queries that need to access total sales figures, thereby indirectly optimizing the snowflake merge performance of queries that update the sales_data table.

Leveraging Variant Data Types Efficiently

When merging semi-structured data, the efficient use of variant data types can reduce the complexity and improve the performance of your queries:

MERGE INTO products
USING updated_products
ON products.product_id = updated_products.product_id
UPDATE SET products.details = updated_products.details
INSERT (product_id, details)
VALUES (updated_products.product_id, updated_products.details);

In this example, details is a column of variant type that stores semi-structured data (e.g., JSON). This merge operation updates the details for existing products or inserts them for new products, demonstrating how variant data types can be effectively used in merge queries.

By incorporating these Snowflake merge examples into your optimization strategies, you can further enhance the efficiency and performance of merge queries in Snowflake, ensuring that your

Advanced Strategies

After establishing foundational optimization techniques, advancing to more sophisticated strategies can further refine and enhance the performance of merge queries in Snowflake. This section delves into advanced methods that leverage Snowflake’s capabilities to streamline merge operations.

Restructuring merge queries can significantly impact their execution efficiency. This involves rewriting queries to exploit Snowflake’s performance optimization features, such as pushing down filter operations or splitting complex merges into simpler, sequential steps.


Consider a scenario where a complex merge operation can be decomposed into a series of simpler operations, improving readability and execution performance:

– Step 1: Temporarily store updates in a separate table
SELECT source.*
FROM new_sales_data source
JOIN sales_data target
ON source.product_id = target.product_id;
— Step 2: Perform update operation
UPDATE sales_data
SET sales = updates.sales
FROM updates
WHERE sales_data.product_id = updates.product_id;
— Step 3: Insert new records
INSERT INTO sales_data (product_id, sales)
SELECT source.product_id, source.sales
FROM new_sales_data source
LEFT JOIN sales_data target ON source.product_id = target.product_id
WHERE target.product_id IS NULL;

Dynamic SQL for Conditional Merging

Utilizing dynamic SQL to create adaptive merge statements can cater to varying runtime conditions, offering a more flexible approach to data merging.

condition VARCHAR;
 — Determine the merge condition dynamically
 condition := ‘product_id = source.product_id AND source.sales_date > CURRENT_DATE’;
MERGE INTO sales_data
USING (SELECT * FROM new_sales_data WHERE ‘ || condition || ‘) source
ON sales_data.product_id = source.product_id
WHEN MATCHED THEN UPDATE SET sales = source.sales
WHEN NOT MATCHED THEN INSERT (product_id, sales) VALUES (source.product_id, source.sales);

Automation with Streams and Tasks

Automating data ingestion and processing in real-time can significantly enhance data pipeline efficiency. Snowflake’s Streams and Tasks can be orchestrated to automate merge operations based on data arrival, ensuring timely and efficient data updates.


Setting up a stream to monitor changes in the new_sales_data table and a task to perform merge operations automatically:

CREATE OR REPLACE STREAM sales_data_stream ON TABLE new_sales_data;
CREATE OR REPLACE TASK merge_sales_task
WAREHOUSE = my_warehouse
MERGE INTO sales_data
USING sales_data_stream
ON sales_data.product_id = sales_data_stream.product_id
WHEN MATCHED THEN UPDATE SET sales = sales_data_stream.sales
WHEN NOT MATCHED THEN INSERT (product_id, sales) VALUES (sales_data_stream.product_id, sales_data_stream.sales);

Implementing these advanced strategies requires a deep understanding of Snowflake’s architecture and features but can lead to significant improvements in merge query performance and overall data processing efficiency.

Optimization Prioritization

When it comes to optimizing merge queries in Snowflake, not all improvements are created equal. Prioritizing optimization efforts is essential for maximizing impact with minimal resource expenditure. This section outlines a strategic approach to identifying and implementing optimizations that provide the greatest benefit to your Snowflake operations.

Identify High-Impact Areas

Start by analyzing your merge query patterns and identifying those that are run most frequently or consume the most resources. Focus on optimizations that can significantly reduce runtime or resource usage for these queries.

  • Use Snowflake’s QUERY_HISTORY view to pinpoint queries that frequently run longer than expected or have high resource consumption.
  • Consider the broader impact of optimizing these queries on your data pipeline and overall system performance.

Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

Evaluate the potential cost savings or performance improvements from each optimization against the effort required to implement it. Prioritize optimizations with the highest return on investment (ROI).

  • Estimate the time and resources needed for implementing each optimization.
  • Calculate potential savings in terms of compute resources and time, considering both immediate gains and long-term benefits.

Incremental Implementation

Implement optimizations in phases, starting with those that are expected to provide the most significant benefits. This phased approach allows for continuous improvement and makes it easier to measure the impact of each optimization.

  • Begin with optimizations that are easiest to implement and have a clear, measurable impact.
  • Use A/B testing or before-and-after analysis to measure the effectiveness of each optimization.

Regular Review and Adjustment

Optimization is an ongoing process. Regularly review the performance of your merge queries and the impact of implemented optimizations. Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on new insights and changing data patterns.

  • Schedule periodic reviews of merge query performance and optimization outcomes.
  • Stay updated on Snowflake features and best practices that could influence your optimization strategy.

Example Scenario:

Consider a scenario where analysis of QUERY_HISTORY reveals that merge queries updating a large dataset based on a date range are particularly resource-intensive. An initial optimization might involve adding a clustering key to organize the data by date, potentially reducing query runtime and resource usage.

— Example query to analyze costly merge operations
SELECT query_id, query_text, execution_time, scan_bytes
WHERE query_type = ‘MERGE’ AND execution_time > 60
ORDER BY execution_time DESC;

After implementing the clustering key, monitor the performance impact using a similar query. If successful, consider further optimizations, such as refining the merge condition or using temporary tables for complex updates.

By prioritizing optimizations that offer the most significant improvements in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, data engineers can ensure their Snowflake environment remains optimized for the demands of their data workloads.

Best Practices and Recommendations

To ensure optimal performance and efficiency in Snowflake, particularly when working with merge queries, it’s important to adhere to a set of best practices and recommendations. These guidelines are geared towards not just achieving immediate improvements but also sustaining high performance and cost-efficiency over time.

Continuous Monitoring for Proactive Optimization

Continuous monitoring of merge query performance is critical. It enables early detection of inefficiencies or performance issues, allowing for timely adjustments. Snowflake offers various tools and views, such as QUERY_HISTORY, that facilitate detailed monitoring of query executions.

  • Implement automated alerts for unusual query execution times or resource usage spikes.
  • Regularly review execution plans and performance metrics to identify bottlenecks.

Emphasizing Cost Control

Effective cost control is an integral part of optimization, especially in cloud-based platforms like Snowflake where resource usage directly impacts expenses.

  • Utilize Snowflake’s Resource Monitors to set thresholds on compute usage and costs, ensuring you stay within budget.
  • Evaluate the cost-benefit of different warehouse sizes and choose the one that offers the best balance between performance and expense for your specific use case.
  • Consider using Snowflake’s automatic scaling capabilities judiciously, as they can significantly affect costs.

Optimization Prioritization

With myriad potential optimizations, focusing on those with the highest impact is key.

  • Prioritize optimizations that significantly reduce query execution times and resource consumption. Use historical data to identify patterns or queries that are frequent candidates for optimization.
  • Tackle optimizations that can improve data loading efficiency, as they often have a cascading positive effect on downstream processes.

Leveraging Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) for Optimization

Incorporating optimization into your CI/CD pipeline can streamline the process of implementing, testing, and deploying enhancements to your data platform.

  • Automate the deployment of optimization changes to ensure consistency and reduce manual overhead.
  • Use version control for your SQL and script changes to track the impact of optimizations over time.

Regular Audits and Refinement

Establishing a routine for auditing and refining merge strategies and implementations ensures that your Snowflake environment remains efficient as data volumes and business requirements evolve.

  • Schedule regular review sessions focused on examining the performance of merge queries, looking out for new optimization opportunities.
  • Keep documentation up to date on optimization strategies and their outcomes, creating a knowledge base for future reference.

Cost Control and Continuous Monitoring Example

Setting up a weekly review process using a query like the one below can help maintain oversight on merge query performance and costs:

total_cost AS estimated_cost
WHERE query_type = ‘MERGE’ AND DATE_PART(‘week’, start_time) = DATE_PART(‘week’, CURRENT_TIMESTAMP())
ORDER BY estimated_cost DESC

This SQL snippet is designed to identify the top 10 most costly merge queries run by a data engineer in the current week, highlighting opportunities for cost optimization and performance tuning.

By implementing these best practices, including a strong emphasis on continuous monitoring, cost control, and prioritization of high-impact optimizations, data engineers can maintain an efficient, scalable, and cost-effective data platform in Snowflake.

Optimizing Merge Queries is Essential to Empower Your Snowflake Environment

Let’s cut to the chase. Optimizing merge queries in Snowflake is like untangling headphones that got jumbled in your pocket — necessary, occasionally frustrating, but immensely satisfying once done right. Because let’s face it, in our world, keeping the budgets in check is not just nice, it’s essential. So, here’s to empowering your Snowflake environment to perform at its peak without sending your finance team into a frenzy.



How to Master Snowflake's Micro-Partitions
10 min read

How to Master Snowflake’s Micro-Partitions

How to Master Snowflake Tasks
12 min read

How to Master Snowflake Tasks

6 min read

Comprehensive Guide to Mastering the Snowflake Query Profile

Ready to start seeing more data ROI?

data ROI