Amazon Redshift course for absolute beginners

Welcome to the Amazon Redshift course for absolute beginners. I am so happy that you have decided and taken first step to learn Redshift.

In this course, we will start from the basics. We will talk about the core architecture and salient features. Moreover we will discuss important topics like Distribution Style & Sort keys to consider while learning or working on Redshift.

Since this is Amazon Redshift absolute beginner course I have not included any labs however there will be quizzes at the end of each module.

This will further strengthen your knowledge and understanding at every step.
If you are absolute beginner then this course will give a good overview of the Amazon Redshift.

The goal is that after taking this course you should be comfortable in talking about Redshift. You should be able to participate in group discussions at your work place and understand solutions concerning Amazon Redshift.

We will start with the fundamentals :

  • Data Warehouse
  • MPP System
  • Columnar Database

Then we will see how these fundamentals are applicable to Amazon Redshift.
We will see how parallelism is built as part of the core architecture in Redshift.

Fundamental Concepts

Fundamental Concepts
Fundamental Concepts

Data Warehouse

Amazon Redshift is a data warehouse offering by AWS (Amazon Web Services).

So what is a Data Warehouse ?

Fundamental – Data Warehouse

Data Warehouse is a system that allow users to complete 3 main tasks:

  1. Mechanism to gather data from various sources
  2. Provide tools to transform data and apply business logic on it
  3. Enable business to take decisions by supporting Reports & Visualisations.

The Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) system

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) system are built on mechanism of DIVIDE & CONQUER. The task is divided into multiple smaller & similar tasks by main node. The tasks are further given to delegates to complete. Once the delegates complete their tasks, they share the result with main node.

Fundamental - MPP System
Fundamental – MPP System


  1. Divide the work into smaller 'similar' tasks 
  2. individual teams work in silo to complete the task
  3. "Main node" collate the tasks back into one output

The Columnar Database

Columnar database use different method of storing data in blocks when compared to traditional row-based storage databases. The columns are stored in same/adjacent storage blocks. This facilitates quick retrieval of data as only the blocks that store required columns are scanned and not all the blocks.

Fundamental - Columnar Database
Fundamental – Columnar Database


  1. Columns are stored in same/adjacent block
  2. Efficient read when few columns are required
  3. Better compression at column level

Amazon Redshift – The cloud Data Warehouse

In this lesson , we will see how Amazon Redshift work as the data warehouse.

Amazon Redshift - The cloud data warehouse
Amazon Redshift – The cloud data warehouse

Gather data from various sources:

  • Export to S3 and run COPY command
  • JDBC connection to Source & load data into table
  • Amazon DataShare to bring data from another Redshift cluster
  • Use other services – Glue/Lambda/EMR to process and load data into Redshift
  • Use Lakeformation table as external table in Redshift 

Apply business transformations

  • Allows you to run SQL on data in the tables
  • Can connect other AWS services like GLUE/EMR to process
  • Let you connect ETL tools to process data

Enable business to take decisions

  • Unload data into S3 bucket for downstream applications
  • Quicksight and other Reporting tools can connect for visualisation
  • Can share data via Datashare with other Redshift cluster. 

Amazon Redshift – The MPP system

Amazon Redshift architecture consists of 2 types of Nodes:

  1. Leader Node
  2. Compute Node

*There is a third type of node which is Spectrum Node which I will not cover as part of this beginners course.

Amazon Redshift - The MPP System
Amazon Redshift – The MPP System

The end-user will submit request to the Leader Node. There is one and only one leader node in the Amazon Redshift cluster. Leader node will break the task into smaller-similar tasks. These small tasks are passed to compute nodes for processing.

The compute nodes have their own memory & storage portion to complete the task. The compute nodes are divided into slices which are like "mini-computers" that actually process the data. Each compute node has at-least 1 slice depending on the node type in the redshift cluster.

Once the task is complete compute nodes sends the result back to leader node which collates all the result from different compute nodes. Once done, it passes the output to end users.

Amazon Redshift – The columnar database

Amazon Redshift is a columnar database hence it is logically faster than many traditional RDBMS which are row-oriented for data analytics.

Amazon Redshift - The columnar database
Amazon Redshift – The columnar database
  • Stores data in columnar format
  • Redshift storage blocks are of 1 MB size
  • Multiple encoding algorithms are available like AZ64, LZO, ZSTD and more.

Amazon Redshift – Distribution Style

We now know that Amazon Redshift is a columnar database. However there is a standard manner which determines how table data is stored in the database.

This brings us to the distribution style specified when creating a table in Amazon Redshift.

Amazon Redshift - Distribution Style
Amazon Redshift – Distribution Style

There are 4 types of DISTRIBUTION style available in Amazon Redshift:

  1. EVEN : The table rows are evenly distributed among the slices in round-robin manner.
  2. ALL : All the table rows are stored in all the slices. This is only idle for small tables as it takes more storage space.
  3. KEY: The user specifies a column which is treated as DISTKEY. The column hash value will determine which slice will store that row value.
  4. AUTO (Default): When the table is created without explicitly specifying any distribution style then the table is created as AUTO. If the table row is less then table is treated as ALL. Once data increases in the table style is switched to EVEN.
Amazon Redshift - DIST STYLE syntax
Amazon Redshift – DIST STYLE syntax

Note: A table can have only one column as DISTRIBUTION KEY.

Amazon Redshift – Sort Keys

The user can specify one or more column as SORT KEY/s. This will store rows in the sorted order of the column values. This speeds up the read process when you use SORT KEY columns in the filter conditions.

Amazon Redshift - Sort Keys
Amazon Redshift – Sort Keys

There are two types of sort key in Amazon Redshift:

  1. Compound Sort keys (default): The sorted order of row is determined in the same order as it is defined in the table definition. First column gets the highest priority than second and so on.
  2. Interleaved Sort keys: All the columns in the sort key definition are given equal priority. This adds operation & maintenance overhead and should only be used when really required.

Wish to attempt quiz also ? Click the button to enrol for the course

Limited time offer: 100% discount on the course.

We have reached the end of this Amazon Redshift absolute beginner course. I am so proud of you for completing this course. I hope this course must have given you a good insight into the Amazon Redshift – its salient features and important topics.

As a next step, I will propose you to dive deep into all these topics one-by-one.
You may also reach out to me for 1-1 coaching on Amazon Redshift.
Again I wish that you learn about Amazon Redshift smoothly.

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