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What Data Pipeline Tool is Right for My Business in 2024?


What is a Data Pipeline?

A data pipeline is exactly what it sounds like - a way to transport information from one or more sources to a final destination. However, unlike pipelines in your house that transport water in the same form from start to finish, data pipelines have additional capabilities. Along with automating the movement of data, they can also transform the input data to the desired data type, add additional processing layers, and include integrated safety mechanisms. The architecture required can range from simple to very complex and can be optimized for different aspects depending on the business need. Data pipelines in healthcare that are transferring patient information need to prioritize security, while pipelines transferring real-time data need to be optimized for speed.



Questions to answer before researching tools

Selecting the right data pipeline tool for your organization can be difficult because there are so many to choose from and the differences can be unclear. Here are a few questions to help determine which tool is optimized for your use case:


What technical capability does my team have?


Some solutions are very out-of-the-box and require no programming knowledge (but also have limited customization) while others require technical expertise to integrate. If you have the talent in your organization or want to hire a contractor to set it up, numerous free platforms in the Apache space are great and extremely customizable.


What is my budget?


Some tools, like everything in the Apache ecosystem, are free while others vary in price. Vendors may offer pay-as-you-go models, subscription-based plans, or free trials with discounts for long-term commitments.


Where is my data stored and where do I want to move it to?


If your data is stored on an AWS server or within the Google workspace, it might make sense to use their pipeline for simplicity. Also, questions about the tool's compatibility with the data lake or data warehouse used in your organization should be considered.


How much data will be in the pipeline and will this need to scale?


Ensure the tool can handle the volume of data and the growth of your organization. Some pipelines are ideal to be incorporated within your organization's network while others are optimized to work on the cloud.


How fast does the data need to be processed?


Consider the speed at which the tool can process and deliver data. Different pipelines are designed with either batch processing or real-time processing in mind.


How much data transformation is required along the pipeline?


Certain tools are designed for adding additional processing steps along the pipeline. It is important to understand your data transformation needs and the tool's capabilities and customizations. Data security requirements should also be considered as data moves along the pipeline.


What form do you want the output data?

Additional questions along this vein: who is interacting with the output data? How many people need to access it? Will they need to access it only on the local network or remotely? And will they need to download the data and in what form?


8 Data Pipeline Tools


There are many great data pipeline tools available. Here are a few of the bigger players in the space - however, it might make sense to use a different pipeline that more specifically fits your use case.


Apache Airflow

Pros: Scalable, flexible, open-source

Cons: Complex to set up and maintain, requires servers

Overview: Apache Airflow is a powerful, open-source workflow management platform that allows users to create, schedule, and monitor complex workflows and data pipelines. It supports a wide range of operators and integrations, making it a versatile choice for various data processing tasks. It is easily integrated with other programs within the Apache suite and can easily be scaled. However, it can be challenging to set up and maintain due to its complexity.


AWS Glue

Pros:  Fully managed, serverless, and integrates with other AWS services

Cons: Limited support for custom Python libraries

Overview: AWS Glue is a fully managed, serverless data integration service that allows users to extract, transform, and load data from various sources to data stores. It is designed to work with other AWS services, allowing for simple development if your organization is using other programs in the AWS ecosystem. It provides both code and visual interfaces to simplify the pipeline creation. However, it has limited support for custom Python libraries, making it difficult to enable any integrations not already in the program.


AWS Data Pipeline

Pros:  Scalable, flexible, and integrates with other AWS services

Cons: Complex to set up and maintain

Overview: AWS Data Pipeline has most of the same upsides as AWS Glue. The biggest difference is in its customization capacity - this tool can be used to tailor the pipeline and its processes to meet very specific needs. Due to its complexity, configuring and sustaining the architecture can be challenging.


Google Cloud Dataflow

Pros:  Scalable, flexible, and fully managed

Cons: Limited support for custom Python libraries

Overview: Google Cloud Dataflow is a fully managed, serverless data processing service that is designed to handle large-scale data processing. All resources needed to run the service are managed by Google, allowing for automatic workload rebalancing. It is highly scalable and it is compatible with other Google services like BigQuery. It supports both batch and streaming data sources. However, like AWS Glue, it has limited support for custom Python libraries.


Estuary

Pros:  Scalable, flexible, real-time, change-triggered events

Cons: Not quite as feature-rich as some other competitors

Overview: Estuary is a startup that has developed a cloud-based data integration and transformation platform called Flow which allows teams to easily build real-time, data-intensive pipelines and applications without needing to manage underlying data infrastructure. Overall, Estuary aims to make real-time data more accessible while also providing powerful tooling for streaming data enthusiasts.


Fivetran

Pros:  Easy to use, supports a wide range of data sources, and offers real-time data syncing

Cons: Limited customization and transformation capabilities, very expensive at scale

Overview: Fivetran is a cloud-based data pipeline tool that allows users to connect data from databases like MySQL as well as SaaS apps like Salesforce and Zendesk. It offers real-time data syncing and supports a wide range of data sources. It has drawbacks if certain customization and transformation capabilities are needed as it lacks some of these capabilities.


Stitch Data

Pros:  Easy to use, supports a wide range of data sources, and offers real-time data syncing

Cons: Limited customization and transformation capabilities

Overview: Stitch Data is similar to FiveTran where the choice between the two depends on your specific requirements, such as the types of data sources you need to integrate, the amount and type of data transformation required, and your budget. Stitch Data offers a range of pricing plans, starting from $100 to $1,250 per month, depending on the scale. They also offer enterprise plans for larger organizations with custom features, data volumes, and service levels, which are priced individually. Fivetran does not disclose its pricing publicly, but it follows a consumption-based model concentrating on active rows. If in-tool data transformations are important for your specific use case, Fivetran may be a better choice, as Stitch Data lacks this feature.


Snowflake

Pros: Flexible architecture, supports a wide range of data sources, fully cloud-based

Cons: Complex to set up and maintain, and bulk load issues

Overview: Snowflake is a flexible, fully cloud-based pipeline that can be integrated with your organization's preferred cloud platform. It allows for a lot of customization as well as out-of-the-box solutions and is compatible with popular business intelligence tools such as PowerBI and Tableau. It can scale up and down easily based on current processing requirements. Its difficulties come in when being used with very large data sets and can have a high learning curve to set up depending on the use case.


Data Pipelines in Different Industries


E-commerce: A data pipeline can help an e-commerce company analyze customer behavior, sales trends, and inventory levels to optimize their marketing strategies and improve customer satisfaction.


Finance: Banks and financial institutions can use data pipelines to analyze transaction data, identify fraud, and improve risk management. Machine learning has been integral in the transformation of these types of analysis.


Healthcare: Hospitals and healthcare providers can use data pipelines to analyze patient data, monitor patient health, and improve patient care. Security is of the utmost importance in these data pipelines.


Manufacturing: Manufacturing companies can use data pipelines to analyze production data, optimize production processes, and reduce waste. Many pipelines are required to integrate with SQL servers or IoT devices. Depending on the size of your organization, information may need to be collected and organized from multiple manufacturing sites.


Transportation: Transportation companies can use data pipelines to analyze traffic data, optimize route planning, and improve fleet management. Real-time analysis is often required as transportation data is prone to variation and the requirement of mitigation.


Feel free to reach out!


If you're looking to implement data pipelines or infrastructure to give your organization an advantage, schedule time with us today for a free consultation.


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