Amazon S3 CSV to Redshift

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Amazon S3 CSV and load it into Redshift. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Amazon S3?

Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) provides cloud-based object storage through a web service interface. You can use S3 to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. S3 objects, which may be structured in any way, are stored in resources called buckets. One common use is to store files in comma-separated values (CSV) format, in which each record consists of multiple values separated by commas.

Getting CSV data out of S3

AWS has both a REST API and command-line utilities that you can use to get at resources stored in the platform. To retrieve objects you need to know the object and host names, as well as your AWS authorization information.

Preparing CSV data

If you don't already have a data structure in which to store the data you retrieve, you'll have to create a schema for your data tables. Then, for each value in each table, you'll need to identify a predefined datatype (INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them.

Loading data into Redshift

Once you have identified all of the columns you will want to insert, you can use the CREATE TABLE statement in Redshift to create a table that can receive all of this data.

With a table built, it may seem like the easiest way to migrate your data (especially if there isn't much of it) is to build INSERT statements to add data to your Redshift table row by row. If you have any experience with SQL, this will be your gut reaction. But beware! Redshift isn't optimized for inserting data one row at a time. If you have a high volume of data to be inserted, you would be better off loading the data into Amazon S3 and then using the COPY command to load it into Redshift.

Other data warehouse options

Redshift is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL, Snowflake, or Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. Others choose a data lake, like Amazon S3. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To BigQuery, To Postgres, To Snowflake, To Panoply, To Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and To S3.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to move data from Amazon S3 CSV to Redshift automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Amazon S3 CSV data via the API, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Redshift data warehouse.