Eddie & Co., a retail store chain, is planning to modernize its legacy systems. That would mean extracting gigabytes of data from disconnected legacy systems and then merging it with modern infrastructure, which is a big hassle and would require hundreds of man-hours. But Eddie & Co. only has a few days to get all this done. It is searching for a solution that can complete the transformation process within the desired deadline. The organization’s best bet would be an automated Extract, transform, load (ETL) tool that can accelerate the legacy system modernization process. However, it is essential to know what features it would need to ensure smooth and streamlined data integration across systems.
At a time, when data has become so widespread, Eddie & Co is not alone in finding the right ETL tool. Indeed, almost every other business looking to transform their systems, switch to automated business analysis or bring together departments are considering investing in such solutions.
What features should these companies look for when evaluating an ETL process and tool to improve their data infrastructure?
This article answers this question and will help you ascertain if the solution will be the right fit for your organization.
What is ETL Software?
An ETL software lets you easily extract data from legacy or modern systems that are not compatible with your infrastructure, transform it into a compatible format, and load it to the destination system.
With ETL tools, business users can quickly access large amounts of integrated and transformed information to make an educated decision. The insights are valuable for various industries and businesses as demonstrated by the high-value ETL use cases.
Research reports have revealed that data helps organizations enhance key strategic relationships and improve relationships with stakeholders and customers. Through ETL, businesses can get better insights and a 360 view of what is happening in their organization. ETL tools serve multiple purposes, from making data compatible to helping create OLAP reports for business forecasting. As a result, business processes become efficient and decision-makers gain accurate foresight to react to the evolving consumer needs.
ETL has been a preferred approach for data integration for businesses of every size. In fact, it is the way businesses have moved data across organization(s) for the past two decades. However, two new features have emerged and evolved, which are no-code or code-less integration and job scheduling/data automation. Today, almost all modern ETL software has these two prominent features available.
With modern no-code ETL tools, business users don’t have to learn programming languages like Python, PHP, Java, or any other scripting language. Instead, they can create a set of rules and leverage the drag-and-drop interface to develop dataflows in a matter of minutes. By having complete visibility to view each step between data sources and the data warehouse, ETL provides you with a greater understanding of the logic behind the data flow.
Essential ETL Tool Features You Need for Integrating Disparate Sources
Let’s see the complete list of features that are essential for the smooth working of the ETL process.
Your data warehouse should empower analysts to collect insights and query data easily. The data mapping feature allows you to create a graphical view for integrating source data to the target destination. Further, it enables the transformation of data in the staging area before loading to the destination.
Analysts can only ensure accurate data analysis when they completely understand the relationship between different data points and how they flow into the system. In a nutshell, data mapping is the graphical representation of sources, data sets, destinations, and their relationships.
The data mapping feature allows connections to be built among data sources through primary and foreign keys. These keys ensure data accuracy and integrity throughout its journey to the destination. Most data mapping and visualization tools allow transformation features such as filter, join, merge, normalize, and even business intelligence functions to visualize data in the form of tables, graphs, and charts.
Best ETL tools provide automated data mapping capabilities that enable users to create relationships between sources and destinations with just a few clicks.
Integration ensures that data from multiple sources can be ingested into a data warehouse seamlessly with the help of third-party connectors. It helps create a communication channel between multiple siloed systems and data marts and warehouses, facilitating two-way data sharing.
During the data integration process, make sure that all the data from the source system(s) is ready for extraction. If the data integration process is being performed in batches, the first batch should be ready for transformation and loading.
The data to be integrated can be from departments of the same or different organizations, or from a vendor that is trying to onboard a customer.
Data integration tools include merge, join, normalize, and many other transformations that convert the data from one format to another. Since data integration tools are the lifeblood of an ETL project, make sure to check all the integration features that the ETL tool has to offer when purchasing one.
Since ETL tools don’t serve only the purpose of integration and transformation, one of their functions is to ensure consistency among related systems across the organization. This process is known as data synchronization.
Data synchronization is the ongoing process of synchronizing data between two or more systems and updating changes automatically between them while ensuring data quality. Users can perform this process through data stream, batch processing, or real-time data integration.
Data synchronization empowers organizations with disconnected departments to have their own data marts to work conjointly as and where needed. Through data synchronization, each department can share data in real-time on their respective projects, reduce errors, and ensure overall process improvement.
Workflow Job Scheduling & Automation
ETL software has another important feature called workflow/job scheduling that allows users to automate their processes easily. Without job scheduling and automation, ETL teams or data analysts working on a project will have to map the data and then run the complete workflow on a regular basis manually. But with automation, they can just create a workflow once and schedule it to run at a specific time or predefined intervals to update the tables. ETL developers can also create sequences for transformation jobs in both serial and parallel on multiple servers. Further, the ETL job scheduling feature also supports SQL execution, outside program execution, FTP uploads/downloads, and email data extraction.
Furthermore, ETL solutions support both ETL and pushdown optimization modes (ELT) to move data from the source systems to the destination databases in a completely automated way.
Business Analysis & Reporting
The sole purpose of extracting, transforming, and loading data to a data warehouse is to gather relevant insights. ETL tools offer report generation and visualization functionality that provide a top-down view of the organization to stakeholders about the progress on different projects, ranging from finance to development to marketing to sales.
Most modern ETL tools like Astera Centerprise offer a single version of truth (SVOT) through their robust data integration and consolidation features. They can be used to load data into a data warehouse which can then be used for OLAP and BI purposes, delivering a deep understanding of daily activities, instant visibility into the root causes of congestion points, and efficient prioritization.
All in all, the best ETL tools offer a bird’s-eye view of the consolidated information available to businesses. It saves business analysts a lot of time that would have been otherwise spent in manually filtering and transforming data and then translating it into relevant insights.
Since modern ETL tools offer access control, teams working on various projects throughout the organization can get business insights faster that directly impact their efficiency. They can view summaries of actionable and critical information across safety, quality, and project controls workflows to make more informed decisions and gain visibility into project risks.
Finally, reports generated after ETL operations can also provide important details to develop future forecasts, guide budget planning, and identify trends or irregularities that may need further diagnosis. It helps satisfy stakeholders and put questions to bed before they arise while simultaneously saving a considerable amount of time towards completing the operation.
Choosing the Right Enterprise ETL Solution
Finding the right solution for your business operations is often a challenge because ETL requirements vary from one project to another. Therefore, organizations must look for a general-purpose ETL solution that can be molded to satisfy each business use case.
It would also help if you also choose a vendor that has a plethora of support options to get help when integrating disparate data to new systems quickly.
Astera Centerprise is an enterprise data integration solution that enables you to automate integration, transformation, and consolidation tasks in a code-free environment. It leverages a parallel processing engine to deliver the scale and performance needed to tackle the most complex data integration and transformation projects at the speed of business.
Centerprise also automates routine data integration tasks with event-based triggers, job scheduling, time-based triggers, and workflow automation to offer maximum time and cost savings.
Check out Astera Centerprise demo here.