It’s important to note that Athena is not a general purpose database. Under the hood is Presto, a query execution engine that runs on top of the Hadoop stack. Athena’s purpose is to ask questions rather than insert records quickly or update random records with low latency.
That being said, Presto’s performance, given it can work on some of the world’s largest datasets, is impressive. Presto is used daily by analysts at Facebook on their multi-petabyte data warehouse so the fact that such a powerful tool is available via a simple web interface with no servers to manage is pretty amazing to say the least.
Athena is Amazon’s response to Azure Data Lake Analytics. Check out Mark’s blog post for a good way of getting started with Athena.