In the world of data warehousing and large-scale data analysis, table formats like Apache Iceberg play a pivotal role in managing massive datasets. If you're dealing with Iceberg tables, maintaining and optimizing them can lead to significant performance improvements. Let's delve into the three key ways to maintain Iceberg tables for optimized performance and data management.


Partitioning your Iceberg tables is one of the simplest and most effective methods to boost performance. It involves grouping data based on the values of specific columns, essentially creating ‘virtual columns’ that can expedite query times by minimizing the data scanned when filters include these partition columns.

Here's how you can create a partitioned Iceberg table using both SQL queries and Dynamic Frames:

# Assuming we have a PySpark context and glue context created
CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS glue_catalog.example_db.iceberg_example_table (
    date DATE,
    location STRING,
    color STRING,
    number INT
USING iceberg
LOCATION 's3://example-bucket/raw/'
# This requires the pyspark.sql library and a spark session
schema = StructType([
    StructField("date", DateType(), True),
    StructField("location", StringType(), True),
    StructField("color", StringType(), True),
    StructField("number", IntegerType(), True)
df = spark.createDataFrame([], schema)
    .tableProperty("location", "s3://example-bucket/raw/")\
    .tableProperty("write.format.default", "parquet")\


Optimization is key to enhancing table performance. The OPTIMIZE statement in Iceberg is used to rewrite data files to improve efficiency, either by compacting small files or splitting larger ones, simplifying the management and retrieval of data and metadata files.

Note: The OPTIMIZE command reorganizes data; it doesn't delete it.

Here's how you can optimize an existing Iceberg table via SQL:

OPTIMIZE "example_db"."iceberg_example_table" REWRITE DATA USING BIN_PACK;

You can select specific files for optimization by adding a WHERE clause to your OPTIMIZE statement.

To perform optimization, you can run this SQL command directly in AWS Athena or in a Glue job like so:

# This requires the boto3 client to interact with Athena
client = boto3.client("athena")
    QueryString=f"OPTIMIZE 'glue_catalog.example_db.iceberg_example_table' REWRITE DATA USING BIN_PACK",
        'OutputLocation': 's3://example-bucket/temp/'


Vacuuming is another essential method to boost performance and manage the data volume of an Iceberg table. The VACUUM statement purges obsolete data by deleting stale snapshots and their associated data and metadata files.

Snapshots removed via VACUUM are permanently deleted and can no longer be used for time travel (accessing historical data).

This snippet demonstrates how to vacuum an Iceberg table using Athena:

VACUUM "example_db"."iceberg_example_table";

By default, VACUUM targets snapshots older than 5 days, but these settings can be modified during table creation or altered later as shown below:

ALTER TABLE "example_db"."iceberg_example_table"
    'vacuum_max_snapshot_age_seconds' = '3600',  # 1 hour
    'vacuum_min_snapshots_to_keep' = '3'

Discovering existing snapshots is possible with this query:

# Snapshots can be queried in a spark session
snapshots = spark.sql(
    SELECT * FROM "glue_catalog.example_db.iceberg_example_table".snapshots;

Executing the VACUUM operation via a Glue job can be handled similarly to the optimization method:

# Requires boto3
client = boto3.client("athena")
    QueryString=f"VACUUM 'glue_catalog.example_db.iceberg_example_table'",
        'OutputLocation': 's3://example-bucket/temp/'

Maintenance practices such as partitioning, optimizing, and vacuuming are crucial for managing the health of your Apache Iceberg tables. Whether it's about speeding up queries with strategic partitioning, compacting files for better read performance, or cleaning out obsolete data with vacuuming, these methods ensure your Iceberg tables remain efficient and manageable as they scale.

Remember, taking the time to regularly maintain your Iceberg tables will pay dividends in the form of faster queries and reduced storage costs, keeping your data platform agile and cost-effective.