Download lakehouse reference architectures

This article covers architectural guidance for the lakehouse in terms of data source, ingestion, transformation, querying and processing, serving, analysis/output, and storage.

Each reference architecture has a downloadable PDF in 11 x 17 (A3) format.

Organization of the reference architectures

The reference architecture is structured along the swim lanes Source, Ingest, Transform, Query and Process, Serve, Analysis, and Storage:

  • Source

    The architecture distinguishes between semi-structured and unstructured data (sensors and IoT, media, files/logs), and structured data (RDBMS, business applications). SQL sources (RDBMS) can also be integrated into the lakehouse and Unity Catalog without ETL through lakehouse federation. In addition, data might be loaded from other cloud providers.

  • Ingest

    Data can be ingested into the lakehouse via batch or streaming:

  • Storage

    Data is typically stored in the cloud storage system where the ETL pipelines use the medallion architecture to store data in a curated way as Delta files/tables.

  • Transform and Query and process

    The Databricks lakehouse uses its engines Apache Spark and Photon for all transformations and queries.

    Due to its simplicity, the declarative framework DLT (Delta Live Tables) is a good choice for building reliable, maintainable, and testable data processing pipelines.

    Powered by Apache Spark and Photon, the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform supports both types of workloads: SQL queries via SQL warehouses, and SQL, Python and Scala workloads via workspace clusters.

    For data science (ML Modeling and Gen AI), the Databricks AI and Machine Learning platform provides specialized ML runtimes for AutoML and for coding ML jobs. All data science and MLOps workflows are best supported by MLflow.

  • Serve

    For DWH and BI use cases, the Databricks lakehouse provides Databricks SQL, the data warehouse powered by SQL warehouses.

    Operational databases: External systems, such as operational databases, can be used to store and deliver final data products to user applications.

    Collaboration: Business partners get secure access to the data they need through Delta Sharing. Based on Delta Sharing, the Databricks Marketplace is an open forum for exchanging data products.

  • Analysis

    The final business applications are in this swim lane. Examples include custom clients that access data pushed from the lakehouse to an operational database.

    For BI use cases, analysts typically use BI tools to access the data warehouse. SQL developers can additionally use the Databricks SQL Editor (not shown in the diagram) for queries and dashboarding.

Capabilities for your workloads

In addition, the Databricks lakehouse comes with management capabilities that support all workloads:

  • Data and AI governance

    The central data and AI governance system in the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform is Unity Catalog. Unity Catalog provides a single place to manage data access policies that apply across all workspaces and supports all assets created or used in the lakehouse, such as tables, volumes, features (feature store), and models (model registry). Unity Catalog can also be used to capture runtime data lineage across queries run on Databricks.

  • Data intelligence engine

    The Databricks Data Intelligence Platform allows your entire organization to use data and AI. It is powered by DatabricksIQ and combines generative AI with the unification benefits of a lakehouse to understand the unique semantics of your data.

    The Databricks Assistant is available in Databricks notebooks, SQL editor, and file editor as a context-aware AI assistant for developers.

  • Orchestration

    Databricks Workflows orchestrate data processing, machine learning, and analytics pipelines in the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform. Workflows has fully managed orchestration services integrated into the Databricks platform, including Databricks Jobs to run non-interactive code in your Databricks workspace and Delta Live Tables to build reliable and maintainable ETL pipelines.

The Data Intelligence Platform reference architecture on Google Cloud

The GCP Reference Architecture is derived from the generic reference architecture by adding GCP-specific services for the Source, Ingest, Serve, Analysis/Output, and Storage elements.

Reference architecture for the Databricks lakehouse on Google Cloud

Download: Reference architecture for the Databricks lakehouse on GCP

The GCP reference architecture shows the following GCP-specific services for Ingest, Storage, Serve and Analysis/Output:

  • BigQuery as a source system for Lakehouse Federation

  • Pub/Sub and Datastream for streaming ingest

  • Cloud Fusion and Storage Transfer Service for batch ingest

  • Cloud Storage as the object storage

  • Cloud Big Table, Cloud SQL and Data Store as operational databases

  • Looker as BI tool


  • This view of the reference architecture focuses only on Google Cloud services and the Databricks lakehouse. The lakehouse on Databricks is an open platform that integrates with a large ecosystem of partner tools.

  • The cloud provider services shown are not exhaustive. They are selected to illustrate the concept.

Use case: Batch ETL

Reference architecture for batch ETL on Databricks on GCP

Download: Batch ETL reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Ingest tools use source-specific adapters to read data from the source and then either store it in the cloud storage from where Auto Loader can read it, or call Databricks directly (for example, with partner ingest tools integrated into the Databricks lakehouse). To load the data, the Databricks ETL and processing engine - via DLT - runs the queries. Single or multitask jobs can be orchestrated by Databricks workflows and governed by Unity Catalog (access control, audit, lineage, and so on). If low-latency operational systems require access to specific golden tables, they can be exported to an operational database such as an RDBMS or key-value store at the end of the ETL pipeline.

Use case: Streaming and change data capture (CDC)

Spark structured streaming architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Download: Spark structured streaming architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

The Databricks ETL engine uses Spark Structured Streaming to read from event queues such as Apache Kafka or Pub/Sub. The downstream steps follow the approach of the Batch use case above.

Real-time change data capture (CDC) typically uses an event queue to store the extracted events. From there, the use case follows the streaming use case.

If CDC is done in batch where the extracted records are stored in cloud storage first, then Databricks Autoloader can read them and the use case follows Batch ETL.

Use case: Machine learning and AI

Machine learning and AI reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Download: Machine learning and AI reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

For machine learning, the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform provides Mosaic AI, which comes with state-of-the-art machine and deep learning libraries. It provides capabilities such as Feature Store and model registry (both integrated into Unity Catalog), low-code features with AutoML, and MLflow integration into the data science lifecycle.

All data science-related assets (tables, features, and models) are governed by Unity Catalog and data scientists can use Databricks Workflows to orchestrate their jobs.

Use case: BI and SQL analytics

BI and SQL analytics reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Download: BI and SQL analytics reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

For BI use cases, business analysts can use either the Databricks SQL editor or specific BI tools such as Tableau or Looker. In both cases, the engine is Databricks SQL (serverless or non-serverless) and data discovery, exploration, and access control are provided by Unity Catalog.

Use case: Lakehouse federation

Lakehouse federation reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Download: Lakehouse federation reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Lakehouse federation allows external data SQL databases (such as MySQL or Postgres) to be integrated with Databricks.

All workloads (AI, DWH, and BI) can benefit from this without the need to ETL the data into object storage first. The external source catalog is mapped into the Unity catalog and fine-grained access control can be applied to access via the Databricks platform.

Use case: Enterprise data sharing

Enterprise data sharing reference architecture for Databricks on GCP

Download: Enterprise data sharing reference architecture for Databricks on Google Cloud

Enterprise-grade data sharing is provided by Delta Sharing. It provides direct access to data in the object store secured by Unity Catalog, and Databricks Marketplace is an open forum for exchanging data products.