A data pipeline is a collection of end-to-end operations, which comprises a series of steps aimed at collecting raw data from various sources and delivering insights to a target destination. Each step in the pipeline produces an output that serves as an input for the next step. The business use case and the final target destination determine data treatment across all pipeline stages.
The primary purpose of a data pipeline is to transform the data in a manner that is suitable for analysis and deriving valuable business insights. A well-organized data pipeline can provide the groundwork for a range of data engineering projects, including business intelligence (BI), machine learning (ML), data visualization, exploratory data analysis, predictive analysis, and others.
Designing a data pipeline architecture
From an architectural perspective, data pipeline architecture is an arrangement of tools and technologies that connects disparate data sources, data processing engines, storage layers, analytics tools, and other applications to deliver accurate, actionable business insights. Below is an example of a specific set of tools and frameworks for core steps that comprise the data pipeline architecture.
The initial phase entails gathering pertinent data from diverse sources, including remote devices, applications, and business systems, and subsequently providing access to it through an API. Concurrently, message bus systems, such as Apache Kafka, are employed to acquire event data and guarantee the accurate delivery of data whilst preventing any loss or duplication during transit to its intended destination.
In this context, data is collated and channeled into diverse entry points for conveyance to the storage or processing layer. This operation can be executed through two modes, namely batch blobs, and streams. Batch ingestion method loads and assimilates data into the repositories at predetermined intervals in batches, whereas the streaming ingestion technique captures data as soon as it is created at the source and processes it for immediate insights. Moreover, there might be tasks to import data from services like Google Analytics.
This process encompasses the manipulation of data to render it suitable for analysis. This manipulation may entail a series of procedures such as data cleansing, aggregation, transformation (including file format conversion), and compression for normalization purposes. Additionally, data blending may be conducted to extract only the most valuable portions of the data for the end-users, thereby facilitating swift and cost-effective queries.
The processed data is transferred to production systems to enable computing and querying operations, which facilitate analytics, business intelligence (BI), visualization, and other decision-making engines or user-facing applications. A host of additional tasks are also performed during the data transformation and processing phase. These tasks comprise data quality checks, automation for repetitive workstreams, and governance to ensure consistent data cleansing and transformation. Hence, the data pipeline encompasses several supplementary elements as follows:
Data quality check
It checks the statistical distribution, anomalies, outliers, or any other tests required at each fragment of the data pipeline.
Cataloging and search
It provides context for different data assets. For example, events in the data lake, tables in the data warehouse, topics in message queues, etc. Data is profiled and cataloged to provide better visibility into the schema, lineage describing, and statistics (such as cardinality and missing values) for data scientists and engineers.
Once collected, enterprises need to set up the discipline to organize data at a scale called data governance. It links raw data to business context, making it meaningful, and then controls data quality and security to organize it for mass consumption fully. Moreover, security and governance policies are followed throughout the data pipeline stages to ensure data is secure, accurate, available, and anonymized.
A robust data pipeline architecture is fundamental to any organization seeking to leverage their data assets effectively. An efficient pipeline enables the smooth transfer of data from source to destination and provides a foundation for analytics, business intelligence, visualization, and decision-making processes. By following best practices for each stage of the pipeline, including data ingestion, transformation, processing, and analysis, businesses can gain valuable insights and improve their operations, ultimately leading to increased success and competitiveness.
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