Introduction to BigLake tables

This document provides an overview of BigLake and assumes familiarity with database tables and Identity and Access Management (IAM). To query data stored in the supported data stores, you must first create BigLake tables and then query them using GoogleSQL syntax:

You can also upgrade an external table to BigLake. For more information, see Upgrade an external table to BigLake.

BigLake tables let you query structured data in external data stores with access delegation. Access delegation decouples access to the BigLake table from access to the underlying data store. An external connection associated with a service account is used to connect to the data store. Because the service account handles retrieving data from the data store, you only have to grant users access to the BigLake table. This lets you enforce fine-grained security at the table level, including row-level and column-level security. For BigLake tables based on Cloud Storage, you can also use dynamic data masking. To learn more about multi-cloud analytic solutions using BigLake tables with Amazon S3 or Blob Storage data, see BigQuery Omni.

Supported data stores

You can use BigLake tables with the following data stores:

Temporary table support

BigLake tables based on Cloud Storage can be temporary or permanent. BigLake tables based on Amazon S3 or Blob Storage must be permanent.

Multiple source files

You can create a BigLake table based on multiple external data sources, provided those data sources have the same schema.

Cross-cloud joins

Cross-cloud joins let you run queries that span both Google Cloud and BigQuery Omni regions. You can use GoogleSQL JOIN operations to analyze data across many different storage solutions, such as AWS, Azure, public datasets, and other Google Cloud services. Cross-cloud joins eliminate the need to copy data across sources before running queries.

You can reference BigLake tables anywhere in a SELECT statement as if they were standard BigQuery tables, including in data manipulation language (DML) and data definition language (DDL) statements that use subqueries to retrieve data. You can use multiple BigLake tables from different clouds and BigQuery tables in the same query. All BigQuery tables must be from the same region.

Cross-cloud join required permissions

To get the permissions that you need to run a cross-cloud join, ask your administrator to grant you the BigQuery Data Editor (roles/bigquery.dataEditor) IAM role on the project where the join is executed. For more information about granting roles, see Manage access.

This predefined role contains the permissions required to run a cross-cloud join. To see the exact permissions that are required, expand the Required permissions section:

Required permissions

The following permissions are required to run a cross-cloud join:

  • bigquery.datasets.create
  • bigquery.tables.create

You might also be able to get these permissions with custom roles or other predefined roles.

Cross-cloud joins create datasets with the __bigquery_xregion_sink_ prefix and temporary tables within these datasets, so to only grant access to resources created by cross-cloud joins, use the condition for Table and Dataset resource types.

For more information about IAM roles and permissions in BigQuery, see Introduction to IAM.

Cross-cloud join costs

When you run a cross-cloud join operation, BigQuery parses the query into local and remote parts. The local part is treated as a standard query in the BigQuery region. The remote part is converted into a CREATE TABLE AS SELECT (CTAS) operation on the referenced BigLake table in the BigQuery Omni region, which creates a temporary table in your BigQuery region. BigQuery then uses this temporary table to execute your cross-cloud join and deletes the table automatically after eight hours.

You incur data transfer costs for data in the referenced BigLake tables. However, BigQuery helps reduce these costs by only transferring columns and rows in the BigLake table that are referenced in the query, rather than the entire table. We recommend specifying a column filter that is as narrow as possible to further reduce transfer costs. The CTAS job appears in your job history and displays information such as the number of transferred bytes. Successful transfers incur costs even if the main query job fails. For more information, see BigQuery Omni pricing.

Consider the following query as an example:

FROM bigquery_dataset.bigquery_table AS clients
WHERE clients.sales_rep IN (
  FROM aws_dataset.aws_table1 AS employees
  INNER JOIN aws_dataset.aws_table2 AS active_employees
    ON =
  WHERE employees.level > 3

This example has two transfers: one from an employees table (with a level filter) and one from an active employees table. The join is performed in the BigQuery region after the transfer occurs. If one transfer fails and the other succeeds, data transfer charges are still applied for the successful transfer.

Cross-cloud join limitations

  • Cross-cloud joins aren't supported in the BigQuery free tier and in the BigQuery sandbox.
  • Joins of multiple BigLake tables from the same region aren't pushed down to the BigQuery Omni region.
  • Aggregations might not be pushed down to the BigQuery Omni regions if the query contains JOIN statements.
  • Each temporary table is only used for a single cross-cloud query and is not reused even if the same query is repeated multiple times.
  • The transfer size limit for each transfer is 60 GB. Specifically, if you apply a filter on a BigLake table and load the result, it must be smaller than 60 GB. If needed, you can request a higher quota limit. There is no limit on scanned bytes.
  • Cross-cloud join queries employ an internal quota on the rate of queries. If the rate of queries exceeds the quota, you might receive an All our servers are busy processing data transferred between regions error. Retrying the query should work in most cases. Contact support to increase the internal quota to support a higher rate of queries.
  • Cross-cloud joins are only supported in colocated BigQuery regions with their corresponding BigQuery Omni regions and in the US and EU multi-regions. Cross-cloud joins that are run in the US or EU multi-regions can only access data in US or EU BigQuery Omni regions respectively.
  • If a cross-cloud join query references 10 or more datasets from BigQuery Omni regions, it might fail with an error Not found: Dataset <BigQuery dataset> was not found in location <BigQuery Omni region>. To avoid this issue, we recommend explicitly specifying a location when you run a cross-cloud join that references more than 10 datasets. Be aware that if you explicitly specify a BigQuery region and your query only contains BigLake tables, then your query is run as a cross-cloud query and incurs data transfer costs.
  • You can't query the _FILE_NAME pseudo-column with cross-cloud joins.
  • When you reference the columns of a BigLake table in a WHERE clause, you can't use NUMERIC, BIGNUMERIC, BYTES, TIME, or INTERVAL literals.
  • Cross-cloud join jobs don't report the number of bytes that are processed and transferred from other clouds. This information is available in the child CTAS jobs that are created as part of cross-cloud query execution.
  • Authorized views and authorized routines referencing BigQuery Omni tables or views are only supported in BigQuery Omni regions.

Cross-cloud join examples

The following query joins an orders table in a BigQuery region with a lineitem table in a BigQuery Omni region:

  count(l_linenumber) AS num_lineitems
FROM bigquery_dataset.orders
JOIN aws_dataset.lineitem
  ON orders.o_orderkey = lineitem.l_orderkey
  l_shipmode IN ('AIR', 'REG AIR')
  AND l_commitdate < l_receiptdate
  AND l_shipdate < l_commitdate
  AND l_receiptdate >= DATE '1997-01-01'
  AND l_receiptdate < DATE '1997-02-01'
GROUP BY l_shipmode, o_orderpriority
ORDER BY l_shipmode, o_orderpriority;

This query is broken into local and remote parts. The following query is sent to the BigQuery Omni region to execute first. The result is a temporary table in the BigQuery region. You can view this child CTAS job and its metadata in your job history.

AS (
  FROM aws_dataset.lineitem
    l_shipmode IN ('AIR', 'REG AIR')
    AND l_commitdate < l_receiptdate
    AND l_shipdate < l_commitdate
    AND l_receiptdate >= DATE '1997-01-01'
    AND l_receiptdate < DATE '1997-02-01'

After the temporary table is created, the JOIN operation completes, and the following query is run:

  count(l_linenumber) AS num_lineitems
FROM bigquery_dataset.orders
JOIN temp_table
  ON orders.o_orderkey = lineitem.l_orderkey
GROUP BY l_shipmode, o_orderpriority
ORDER BY l_shipmode, o_orderpriority;

As another example, consider the following cross-cloud join:

SELECT c_mktsegment, c_name
FROM bigquery_dataset.customer
WHERE c_mktsegment = 'BUILDING'
  SELECT c_mktsegment, c_name
  FROM aws_dataset.customer
  WHERE c_mktsegment = 'FURNITURE'
  LIMIT 10;

In this query, the LIMIT clause is not pushed down to the BigQuery Omni region. All customers in the FURNITURE market segment are transferred to the BigQuery region first, and then the limit of 10 is applied.


You can access data in BigLake tables based on Cloud Storage from other data processing tools by using BigQuery connectors. For example, you could access data in BigLake tables from Apache Spark, Apache Hive, TensorFlow, Trino, or Presto. The BigQuery Storage API enforces row- and column-level governance policies on all data access to BigLake tables, including through connectors.

For example, the following diagram demonstrates how the BigQuery Storage API lets users access authorized data using open source query engines such as Apache Spark:

BigLake architecture.

For more information about connectors supported by BigQuery, see BigQuery connectors.

BigLake tables on object stores

For data lake administrators, BigLake lets you set access controls on tables rather than files, which gives you finer-grained options when setting user access to data in the data lake.

Because BigLake tables simplifies access control in this way, we recommend using BigLake tables to build and maintain connections to external object stores.

You can use external tables in cases where governance is not a requirement, or for ad hoc data discovery and manipulation.


  • All limitations for external tables apply to BigLake tables.
  • BigLake tables on object stores are subject to the same limitations as BigQuery tables. For more information, see Quotas.
  • BigLake does not support downscoped credentials from Dataproc Personal Cluster Authentication. As a workaround, to use clusters with Personal Cluster Authentication, you must inject your credentials using an empty Credential Access Boundary with the --access-boundary=<(echo -n "{}") flag. For example, the following command enables a credential propagation session in a project named myproject for the cluster named mycluster:

    gcloud dataproc clusters enable-personal-auth-session \
        --region=us \
        --project=myproject \
        --access-boundary=<(echo -n "{}") \

  • BigLake tables are read-only. You cannot modify BigLake tables using DML statements or other methods.

  • BigLake tables support the following formats:

  • You can't use cached metadata with Apache Iceberg BigLake tables; BigQuery already uses the metadata that Iceberg captures in manifest files.

  • The BigQuery Storage API is not available in other cloud environments, such as AWS and Azure.

  • If you use cached metadata, then the following limitations apply:

    • You can only use cached metadata with BigLake tables that use Avro, ORC, Parquet, JSON, and CSV formats.
    • If you create, update, or delete files in Amazon S3, then querying the files does not return the updated data until the next refresh of the metadata cache. This can lead to unexpected results. For example, if you delete a file and write a new file, your query results may exclude both the old and the new files depending on when cached metadata was last updated.
    • Using customer-managed encryption keys (CMEK) with cached metadata is not supported for BigLake tables that reference Amazon S3 or Blob Storage data.

Security model

The following organizational roles are typically involved in managing and using BigLake tables:

  • Data lake administrators. These administrators typically manage Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies on Cloud Storage buckets and objects.
  • Data warehouse administrators. These administrators typically create, delete, and update tables.
  • Data analysts. Analysts typically read data and run queries.

Data lake administrators are responsible for creating connections and sharing them with data warehouse administrators. In turn, data warehouse administrators create tables, set appropriate access controls, and share the tables with data analysts.

Metadata caching for performance

You can use cached metadata to improve query performance on some types of BigLake tables. Metadata caching is especially helpful in cases where you are working with large numbers of files or if the data is hive partitioned. The following types of BigLake tables support metadata caching:

  • Amazon S3 BigLake tables
  • Cloud Storage BigLake tables
The metadata includes file names, partitioning information, and physical metadata from files such as row counts. You can choose whether or not to enable metadata caching on a table. Queries with a large number of files and with Hive partition filters benefit the most from metadata caching.

If you don't enable metadata caching, queries on the table must read the external data source to get object metadata which increases the query latency; listing millions of files from the external data source can take several minutes. If you enable metadata caching, queries can avoid listing files from the external data source and achieve faster partition and file pruning.

There are two properties that control this feature:

  • Maximum staleness, which controls when queries use cached metadata.
  • Metadata cache mode, which controls how the metadata is collected.

When you have metadata caching enabled, you specify the maximum interval of metadata staleness that is acceptable for operations against the table. For example, if you specify an interval of 1 hour, then operations against the table use cached metadata if it has been refreshed within the past hour. If the cached metadata is older than that, the operation falls back to retrieving metadata from the datastore (Amazon S3 or Cloud Storage) instead. You can specify a staleness interval between 30 minutes and 7 days.

You can choose to refresh the cache either automatically or manually:

  • For automatic refreshes, the cache is refreshed at a system defined interval, usually somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes. Refreshing the cache automatically is a good approach if the files in the datastore are added, deleted, or modified at random intervals. If you need to control the timing of the refresh, for example to trigger the refresh at the end of an extract-transform-load job, use manual refresh.
  • For manual refreshes, you run the BQ.REFRESH_EXTERNAL_METADATA_CACHE system procedure to refresh the metadata cache on a schedule that meets your requirements. If you want to refresh the metadata selectively, you can provide subdirectories of the table data directory to avoid unnecessary metadata processing. Refreshing the cache manually is a good approach if the files in the datastore are added, deleted, or modified at known intervals, for example as the output of a pipeline.

    If you issue multiple concurrent manual refreshes, only one will succeed.

The metadata cache expires after 7 days if it isn't refreshed.

You should consider how the staleness interval and metadata caching mode values will interact before you set them. Consider the following examples:

  • If you are manually refreshing the metadata cache for a table, and you set the staleness interval to 2 days, you must run the BQ.REFRESH_EXTERNAL_METADATA_CACHE system procedure every 2 days or less if you want operations against the table to use cached metadata.
  • If you are automatically refreshing the metadata cache for a table, and you set the staleness interval to 30 minutes, it is possible that some of your operations against the table will read from the datastore if the metadata cache refresh takes on the longer side of the usual 30 to 60 minute window.

To find information about metadata refresh jobs, query the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.JOBS view, as shown in the following example:

WHERE job_id LIKE '%metadata_cache_refresh%'
ORDER BY start_time DESC

For Cloud Storage BigLake tables that are based on Parquet files, table statistics are collected during the metadata cache refresh and used to improve query plans.

To learn more, see Metadata caching.

For more information on setting metadata caching options, see Create Amazon S3 BigLake tables or Create Cloud Storage BigLake tables.

Cache-enabled tables with materialized views

You can use materialized views over BigLake metadata cache-enabled tables to improve performance and efficiency when querying structured data stored in Cloud Storage or Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). These materialized views function like materialized views over BigQuery-managed storage tables, including the benefits of automatic refresh and smart tuning.


BigLake tables are accessible from a number of other BigQuery features and gcloud CLI services, including the following, highlighted services.

Analytics Hub

BigLake tables are compatible with Analytics Hub. Datasets containing BigLake tables can be published as Analytics Hub listings. Analytics Hub subscribers can subscribe to these listings, which provision a read-only dataset, called a linked dataset, in their project. Subscribers can query all tables in the linked dataset, including all BigLake tables. For more information, see Subscribe to a listing.

BigQuery ML

You can use BigQuery ML to train and run models on BigLake in Cloud Storage.

Sensitive Data Protection

Sensitive Data Protection scans your BigLake tables to identify and classify sensitive data. If sensitive data is detected, Sensitive Data Protection de-identification transformations can mask, delete, or otherwise obscure that data.


Costs are associated with the following aspects of BigLake tables:

If you have slot reservations, you are not charged for querying external tables. Instead, slots are consumed for these queries.

The following table shows how your pricing model affects how these costs are applied:

On-demand pricing

Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus editions


You are billed for the bytes processed by user queries.

Slots in reservation assignments with a QUERY job type are consumed during query time.

Manually refreshing the metadata cache.

You are billed for the bytes processed to refresh the cache.

Slots in reservation assignments with a QUERY job type are consumed during cache refresh.

Automatically refreshing the metadata cache.

You are billed for the bytes processed to refresh the cache.

Slots in reservation assignments with a BACKGROUND job type are consumed during cache refresh.

If there are no BACKGROUND reservations available for refreshing the metadata cache, BigQuery automatically uses slots in QUERY reservations instead if you are using the Enterprise or Enterprise Plus edition.

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