Extract, transform, load (ETL) is one of the most critical parts of data integration. The process can be quite difficult if you are writing your code for the data ETL pipeline. Most data professionals acknowledge that the manual ETL process is very cumbersome and requires advanced expertise to execute correctly.
However, what if there was a zero-code ETL solution that could automate all this manual work? This is what ETL tools, such as Astera Centerprise offer. They allow you to prepare production-ready ETL pipelines without having to write even a single line of code. This makes sure that you can focus on perfecting your workflow for the data ETL pipeline rather than having to deal with nitty-gritty details of the underlying code.
So, what is zero-code ETL? And what benefits does it offer as compared to writing your own ETL code, i.e. manual ETL? In this blog post, we present an introduction to no-code ETL and how you can use it to develop complex data pipelines for your business.
Differences Between Manual ETL And Zero-Code ETL
Manual ETL refers to writing ETL code using one or more programming languages. It is the traditional method of performing ETL, but it requires a wide range of skills, including the ability to write error-free code, the expertise of documenting and outlining the entire ETL process, and a deep understanding of the data architecture.
Zero-code or no-code ETL, on the other hand, is performed using software that has automation features and visual UI that eliminates the need for coding skills. The software enables you to prepare a codeless ETL pipeline and move data with minimal IT intervention.
Given below is a comparison of manual ETL and zero-code ETL based on 3 determining factors:
- Ease of use: Even if you are an experienced developer, writing an ETL process from scratch can be a difficult task. Moreover, modifying the process may require scratching off the old code and rewriting a new one. With zero-code or no-code ETL tools, you can easily and conveniently develop ETL pipelines in lesser time. In addition, making changes is comparatively easy as the basic framework is present within the software.
- Maintenance: ETL code can be written in Java, Python, SQL, or a variety of other languages. Maintaining this code would require you to have a team that not only understands the code but has a strong background in working with these programming languages. This makes the set of processes for manual ETL maintenance difficult and expensive. As opposed to this, pipelines created with zero-code ETL tools are easier to maintain and manage because they identify and explain errors. Hence, you only need to make minor changes yourself.
- Cost: A zero-code ETL software, such as Astera Centerprise, is a one-time investment that incurs an upfront cost but reduces your data integration costs in the long run. This is because you no longer have to pay the salary for an entire team of developers (for manual ETL) who develop, maintain, and test your ETL pipelines.
How to Build Complex Data Pipelines with Zero-Code ETL
To illustrate the convenience of no-code ETL platforms, let us take the example of XYZ Healthcare. XYZ is a leading healthcare provider that has recently witnessed a sharp rise in demand for their services. To ensure consistent availability and improve their service quality, XYZ wants to build a consolidated database from its various data stores. This will allow them to get a 360-degree view of their resources and make informed decisions about how to expand their business to accommodate this increased demand using a code-free solution.
Here is how XYZ Healthcare can use the utilities available in a zero-code ETL software to build the data pipeline for their enterprise database quickly:
- Connectors: XYZ stores its customer information in an SQL Server database, appointment schedules are stored in an Excel file, and financial information is stored in Oracle ERP. Using a code-free ETL tool, XYZ can quickly connect to all these source systems for extracting data using pre-built connectors by just defining connection parameters. On the contrary, if they were to write a code for their ETL pipeline, their developers would have to create custom connectors for these different data sources. Moreover, they would also have to define various methods for loading the data from these source systems to the target system, which in itself is a significant task that can take weeks.
- Data Profiling: To design the structure for their database, the ETL team at XYZ would like to understand the structure and quality of the source data. Several zero-code platforms come with data profiling features that provide a detailed breakdown of the source system, including data types, integrity, and quality. You can even define custom validation rules to filter out ‘dirty’ or ‘unwanted’ data. In contrast, the developers would have to manually curate and examine the source data during the manual ETL process.
- Pre-built Transformations: To better assess their capacity, XYZ would like to aggregate the number of appointments each department has and within those departments, breakdown those appointments across various dimensions such as time, doctor, and service being offered. With no-code ETL, data transformations are pre-built within the software and can be applied to the raw data directly by simply dragging and dropping them to the ETL pipeline. You can perform a variety of aggregations and transformations on the source databases for data analysis.
- Workflow Automation: Scheduling the ETL pipeline to run based on triggers is what makes them efficient. With manual ETL, you would typically have to write a separate script or use a third-party utility to schedule your code to run automatically. With no-code ETL software, you get a built-in job scheduler that automates ETL pipelines. You can even schedule sub-flows of your ETL workflow to run separately as and when needed.
With manual ETL, a single data process can take years to develop and this can be quite expensive for a business. On the other hand, XYZ can achieve the same results in less than six months and at a lower cost using a no-code ETL tool.
No code ETL solutions offer a range of benefits, which include increased efficiency of business processes, lower costs and in-depth data insights. With no-code ETL solutions, you can build complex data pipelines within a matter of days, without requiring extensive knowledge of coding and data engineering. If you are looking to transition from the traditional manual ETL process to zero-code ETL, then consider giving Astera Centerprise a try.
Astera Centerprise is a zero-code platform that integrates data from diverse sources in a visual, drag-and-drop UI. It requires no coding knowledge and you can access, clean, and view your data with utmost convenience and ease.