What is ETL?
ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) is a process used to extract data from one or more data sources, transform the data to fit a desired format or structure, and then load the transformed data into a target database or data warehouse. ETL is typically used for batch processing and is most commonly associated with traditional data warehouses.
What is ELT?
More recently, ETL has been replaced by ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) which is a variation of ETL that automatically pulls data from even more heterogeneous data sources, loads that data into the target data repository - databases, data warehouses or data lakes - and then performs data transformations at the destination level. ELT provides significant benefits over ETL, such as:
- Faster processing times and loading speed
- Better scalability at a lower cost
- Support of more data sources (including Cloud apps), and of unstructured data
- Ability to have no-code data pipelines
- More flexibility and autonomy for data analysts with lower maintenance
- Better data integrity and reliability, easier identification of data inconsistencies
- Support of many more automations, including automatic schema change migration
Here is our recommendation for the criteria to consider:
- Connector need coverage: does the ETL tool extract data from all the multiple systems you need, should it be any cloud app or Rest API, relational databases or noSQL databases, csv files, etc.? Does it support the destinations you need to export data to - data warehouses, databases, or data lakes?
- Connector extensibility: for all those connectors, are you able to edit them easily in order to add a potentially missing endpoint, or to fix an issue on it if needed?
- Ability to build new connectors: all data integration solutions support a limited number of data sources.
- Support of change data capture: this is especially important for your databases.
- Data integration features and automations: including schema change migration, re-syncing of historical data when needed, scheduling feature
- Efficiency: how easy is the user interface (including graphical interface, API, and CLI if you need them)?
- Integration with the stack: do they integrate well with the other tools you might need - dbt, Airflow, Dagster, Prefect, etc. - ?
- Data transformation: Do they enable to easily transform data, and even support complex data transformations? Possibly through an integration with dbt
- Level of support and high availability: how responsive and helpful the support is, what are the average % successful syncs for the connectors you need. The whole point of using ETL solutions is to give back time to your data team.
- Data reliability and scalability: do they have recognizable brands using them? It also shows how scalable and reliable they might be for high-volume data replication.
- Security and trust: there is nothing worse than a data leak for your company, the fine can be astronomical, but the trust broken with your customers can even have more impact. So checking the level of certification (SOC2, ISO) of the tools is paramount. You might want to expand to Europe, so you would need them to be GDPR-compliant too.
Airbyte is the leading open-source ELT platform, created in July 2020. Airbyte offers the largest catalog of data connectors—350 and growing—and has 40,000 data engineers using it to transfer data, syncing several PBs per month, as of June 2023. Major users include brands such as Siemens, Calendly, Angellist, and more. Airbyte integrates with dbt for its data transformation, and Airflow/Prefect/Dagster for orchestration. It is also known for its easy-to-use user interface, and has an API and Terraform Provider available.
What's unique about Airbyte?
Their ambition is to commoditize data integration by addressing the long tail of connectors through their growing contributor community. All Airbyte connectors are open-source which makes them very easy to edit. Airbyte also provides a Connector Development Kit to build new connectors from scratch in less than 30 minutes, and a no-code connector builder UI that lets you build one in less than 10 minutes without help from any technical person or any local development environment required..
Airbyte also provides stream-level control and visibility. If a sync fails because of a stream, you can relaunch that stream only. This gives you great visibility and control over your data.
Data professionals can either deploy and self-host Airbyte Open Source, or leverage the cloud-hosted solution Airbyte Cloud where the new pricing model distinguishes databases from APIs and files. Airbyte offers a 99% SLA on Generally Available data pipelines tools, and a 99.9% SLA on the platform.
Fivetran is a closed-source, managed ELT service that was created in 2012. Fivetran has about 300 data connectors and over 5,000 customers.
Fivetran offers some ability to edit current connectors and create new ones with Fivetran Functions, but doesn't offer as much flexibility as an open-source tool would.
What's unique about Fivetran?
Being the first ELT solution in the market, they are considered a proven and reliable choice. However, Fivetran charges on monthly active rows (in other words, the number of rows that have been edited or added in a given month), and are often considered very expensive.
Here are more critical insights on the key differentiations between Airbyte and Fivetran
3. Stitch Data
Stitch is a cloud-based platform for ETL that was initially built on top of the open-source ETL tool Singer.io. More than 3,000 companies use it.
Stitch was acquired by Talend, which was acquired by the private equity firm Thoma Bravo, and then by Qlik. These successive acquisitions decreased market interest in the Singer.io open-source community, making most of their open-source data connectors obsolete. Only their top 30 connectors continue to be maintained by the open-source community.
What's unique about Stitch?
Given the lack of quality and reliability in their connectors, and poor support, Stitch has adopted a low-cost approach.
Other potential services
Matillion is a self-hosted ELT solution, created in 2011. It supports about 100 connectors and provides all extract, load and transform features. Matillion is used by 500+ companies across 40 countries.
What's unique about Matillion?
Being self-hosted means that Matillion ensures your data doesn’t leave your infrastructure and stays on premise. However, you might have to pay for several Matillion instances if you’re multi-cloud. Also, Matillion has verticalized its offer from offering all ELT and more. So Matillion doesn't integrate with other tools such as dbt, Airflow, and more.
Here are more insights on the differentiations between Airbyte and Matillion.
Apache Airflow is an open-source workflow management tool. Airflow is not an ETL solution but you can use Airflow operators for data integration jobs. Airflow started in 2014 at Airbnb as a solution to manage the company's workflows. Airflow allows you to author, schedule and monitor workflows as DAG (directed acyclic graphs) written in Python.
What's unique about Airflow?
Airflow requires you to build data pipelines on top of its orchestration tool. You can leverage Airbyte for the data pipelines and orchestrate them with Airflow, significantly lowering the burden on your data engineering team.
Here are more insights on the differentiations between Airbyte and Airflow.
Talend is a data integration platform that offers a comprehensive solution for data integration, data management, data quality, and data governance.
What’s unique with Talend?
What sets Talend apart is its open-source architecture with Talend Open Studio, which allows for easy customization and integration with other systems and platforms. However, Talend is not an easy solution to implement and requires a lot of hand-holding, as it is an Enterprise product. Talend doesn't offer any self-serve option.
Pentaho is an ETL and business analytics software that offers a comprehensive platform for data integration, data mining, and business intelligence. It offers ETL, and not ELT and its benefits.
What is unique about Pentaho?
What sets Pentaho data integration apart is its original open-source architecture, which allows for easy customization and integration with other systems and platforms. Additionally, Pentaho provides advanced data analytics and reporting tools, including machine learning and predictive analytics capabilities, to help businesses gain insights and make data-driven decisions.
However, Pentaho is also an Enterprise product, so hard to implement without any self-serve option.
Informatica PowerCenter is an ETL tool that supported data profiling, in addition to data cleansing and data transformation processes. It was also implemented in their customers' infrastructure, and is also an Enterprise product, so hard to implement without any self-serve option.
Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
MS SQL Server Integration Services is the Microsoft alternative from within their Microsoft infrastructure. It offers ETL, and not ELT and its benefits.
Singer is also worth mentioning as the first open-source JSON-based ETL framework. It was introduced in 2017 by Stitch (which was acquired by Talend in 2018) as a way to offer extendibility to the connectors they had pre-built. Talend has unfortunately stopped investing in Singer’s community and providing maintenance for the Singer’s taps and targets, which are increasingly outdated, as mentioned above.
Rivery is another cloud-based ELT solution. Founded in 2018, it presents a verticalized solution by providing built-in data transformation, orchestration and activation capabilities. Rivery offers 150+ connectors, so a lot less than Airbyte. Its pricing approach is usage-based with Rivery pricing unit that are a proxy for platform usage. The pricing unit depends on the connectors you sync from, which makes it hard to estimate.
HevoData is another cloud-based ELT solution. Even if it was founded in 2017, it only supports 150 integrations, so a lot less than Airbyte. HevoData provides built-in data transformation capabilities, allowing users to apply transformations, mappings, and enrichments to the data before it reaches the destination. Hevo also provides data activation capabilities by syncing data back to the APIs.
Meltano is an open-source orchestrator dedicated to data integration, spined off from Gitlab on top of Singer’s taps and targets. Since 2019, they have been iterating on several approaches. Meltano distinguishes itself with its focus on DataOps and the CLI interface. They offer a SDK to build connectors, but it requires engineering skills and more time to build than Airbyte’s CDK. Meltano doesn’t invest in maintaining the connectors and leave it to the Singer community, and thus doesn’t provide support package with any SLA.
Unleash's API provides access to various types of data related to feature flags and experimentation. The following are the categories of data that can be accessed through the API:
1. Feature flags: The API provides access to all the feature flags created in the Unleash dashboard, including their names, descriptions, and configurations.
2. Metrics: The API provides access to various metrics related to feature flags, such as the number of times a feature flag was evaluated, the number of times it was enabled, and the percentage of users who saw the feature flag.
3. Events: The API provides access to events related to feature flags, such as when a feature flag was toggled on or off, when it was evaluated, and when it was enabled or disabled.
4. User targeting: The API provides access to user targeting information, such as the rules used to target specific users for a feature flag and the percentage of users who were targeted.
5. Experiments: The API provides access to information related to experiments, such as the name of the experiment, the variations being tested, and the metrics being tracked.
Overall, Unleash's API provides a comprehensive set of data related to feature flags and experimentation, allowing developers to gain insights into how their features are performing and make data-driven decisions.
1. First, navigate to the Airbyte website and create an account.
2. Once you have logged in, click on the ""Sources"" tab on the left-hand side of the screen.
3. Scroll down until you find the ""Unleash"" source connector and click on it.
4. Click on the ""Create Connection"" button to begin setting up your Unleash source connector.
5. Enter the necessary information, such as the name of your connection and your Unleash API key.
6. Choose the tables you want to sync from Unleash to Airbyte.
7. Test the connection to ensure that it is working properly.
8. Once you have successfully tested the connection, click on the ""Create Connection"" button to finalize the setup.
9. Your Unleash source connector is now connected to Airbyte and ready to start syncing data.
Once you've set up both the source and destination, you need to configure the connection. This includes selecting the data you want to extract - streams and columns, all are selected by default -, the sync frequency, where in the destination you want that data to be loaded, among other options.