We recently migrated Looker to a Databricks SQL Serverless, improving our infrastructure cost and reducing the footprint of infrastructure we need to worry about! “Databricks SQL” which provides a single load balanced Warehouse for executing Spark SQL queries across multiple Spark clusters behind the scenes. “Serverless” is an evolution of that concept, rather than running a SQL Warehouse in our AWS infrastructure, the entirety of execution happens on the Databricks side. With a much simpler and faster interface, queries executed in Looker now return results much faster to our users than ever before!

When we originally provisioned our “Databricks SQL” warehouses, we worked together with our colleagues at Databricks to ensure the terraform provider for Databricks is ready for production usage, which as of today is Generally Available. That original foundation in Terraform allowed us to more easily adopt SQL Serverless once it was made available to us.

resource "databricks_sql_warehouse" "warehouse" {
  name                      = "Looker Serverless"
  # ...
  enable_serverless_compute = true
  # ...

The feature was literally brand new so there were a few integration hurdles we had to work through with our colleagues at Databricks, but we got things up and running in short order. By adopting SQL Serverless, we could avoid setting up special networking, IAM roles, and other resources within our own AWS account, we can instead rely on pre-provisioned compute resources within Databricks’ own infrastructure. No more headache of ensuring all of the required infra is in place and setup correctly!

The switch to Serverless reduced our infra configuration and management footprint, which by itself is an improvement. We also noticed a significant reduction in cold start times for the SQL Serverless Warehouse compared to the standard SQL Warehouse. The faster start-up times meant we could configure even lower auto-terminate times on the warehouse, savings us even more on unproductive and idle cluster costs.

On the Looker side there really wasn’t any difference in the connection configuration other than a URL change. In the end, after some preparation work a simple 5 minute change in Looker, and a simple 5 minute change in Terraform switched everything over to Databricks SQL Serverless, and we were ready to rock! Our BI team is very happy with the performance, especially on cold start queries. Our CFO is happy about reducing infrastructure costs. And I’m happy about simpler infrastructure!