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AWS Athena (Trino) in the cybersecurity space

Arctic Wolf Networks, a cybersecurity company that provides security monitoring to cyber threats, is one of the companies that have recently switched to using AWS Athena as a new and efficient service to query their data using Trino. AWS Athena is a serverless, interactive analytics service built on open-source frameworks that runs on Trino, supporting open table and file formats and providing a simplified, flexible way to analyze petabytes of data where it lives. Senior software developer Anas Shakra from Arctic Wolf Networks gave a talk at Trino Fest 2023 detailing their switch to AWS Athena and how “queries that took hours with old solution now take around a minute today”. Tune in to the talk or you can read the recap!


At Arctic Wolf, data access use-cases fall under three categories: investigations, compliance, and customer self-serve platform. The process of preparing the data follows an established pattern of starting with datastore, performing an operation to filter or transform the data, and then outputting the data in some format like a CSV or JSON, depending on the client needs. Arctic Wolf’s custom legacy service was unable to match the growing service demand and had four main problems:

  • Optimized for breadth over depth
  • Struggles to handle growing service demand
  • Proprietary query language
  • Complicated design

This compelled Anas’ team to find a different and improved service: Trino as provided by AWS Athena.

They had four main objectives for the new service: defined access patterns, performant at scale, user-friendly, and deterministic pricing. AWS Athena satisfied these objectives, while also providing numerous benefits such as using a powerful query engine, being purposefully built for large datasets, using SQL syntax, and having a clear pricing structure. However, with these benefits come some drawbacks for Athena. These includes being subject to quota limits, having suboptimal file sizes for their system, and being unable to control access sufficiently. Anas addresses this by using log queries that resolves these three main impediments. As next step, Anas is considering switching to a self-managed Trino deployment for more control with the same performance gains.

Want to learn more about log queries that they use? Check out Anas’ explanation in the video!

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