Extract Transform Load




ETL - Extract Transform Load



In computing, extract, transform, load (ETL) is the general procedure of copying data from one or more sources into a destination system which represents the data differently from the source(s) or in a different context than the source(s). The ETL process became a popular concept in the 1970s and is often used in data warehousing.

Data extraction involves extracting data from homogeneous or heterogeneous sources; data transformation processes data by data cleansing and transforming them into a proper storage format/structure for the purposes of querying and analysis; finally, data loading describes the insertion of data into the final target database such as an operational data store, a data mart, data lake or a data warehouse.

A properly designed ETL system extracts data from the source systems, enforces data quality and consistency standards, conforms data so that separate sources can be used together, and finally delivers data in a presentation-ready format so that application developers can build applications and end users can make decisions.

Since the data extraction takes time, it is common to execute the three phases in parallel. While the data is being extracted, another transformation process executes while processing the data already received and prepares it for loading while the data loading begins without waiting for the completion of the previous phases.

ETL systems commonly integrate data from multiple applications (systems), typically developed and supported by different vendors or hosted on separate computer hardware. The separate systems containing the original data are frequently managed and operated by different employees. For example, a cost accounting system may combine data from payroll, sales, and purchasing.


Extract



The first part of an ETL process involves extracting the data from the source system(s). In many cases, this represents the most important aspect of ETL, since extracting data correctly sets the stage for the success of subsequent processes. Most data-warehousing projects combine data from different source systems. Each separate system may also use a different data organization and/or format. Common data-source formats include relational databases, XML, JSON and flat files, but may also include non-relational database structures such as Information Management System (IMS) or other data structures such as Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM) or Indexed Sequential Access Method (ISAM), or even formats fetched from outside sources by means such as web spidering or screen-scraping. The streaming of the extracted data source and loading on-the-fly to the destination database is another way of performing ETL when no intermediate data storage is required. In general, the extraction phase aims to convert the data into a single format appropriate for transformation processing.

An intrinsic part of the extraction involves data validation to confirm whether the data pulled from the sources has the correct/expected values in a given domain (such as a pattern/default or list of values). If the data fails the validation rules, it is rejected entirely or in part. The rejected data is ideally reported back to the source system for further analysis to identify and to rectify the incorrect records.


Transform



The first part of an ETL process involves extracting the data from the source system(s). In many cases, this represents the most important aspect of ETL, since extracting data correctly sets the stage for the success of subsequent processes. Most data-warehousing projects combine data from different source systems. Each separate system may also use a different data organization and/or format. Common data-source formats include relational databases, XML, JSON and flat files, but may also include non-relational database structures such as Information Management System (IMS) or other data structures such as Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM) or Indexed Sequential Access Method (ISAM), or even formats fetched from outside sources by means such as web spidering or screen-scraping. The streaming of the extracted data source and loading on-the-fly to the destination database is another way of performing ETL when no intermediate data storage is required. In general, the extraction phase aims to convert the data into a single format appropriate for transformation processing.

An intrinsic part of the extraction involves data validation to confirm whether the data pulled from the sources has the correct/expected values in a given domain (such as a pattern/default or list of values). If the data fails the validation rules, it is rejected entirely or in part. The rejected data is ideally reported back to the source system for further analysis to identify and to rectify the incorrect records.


  • Selecting only certain columns to load: (or selecting null columns not to load). For example, if the source data has three columns (aka "attributes"), roll_no, age, and salary, then the selection may take only roll_no and salary. Or, the selection mechanism may ignore all those records where salary is not present (salary = null).
  • Translating coded values: (e.g., if the source system codes male as "1" and female as "2", but the warehouse codes male as "M" and female as "F")/li>
  • Encoding free-form values: (e.g., mapping "Male" to "M")
  • Deriving a new calculated value: (e.g., sale_amount = qty * unit_price)
  • Sorting or ordering the data based on a list of columns to improve search performanc
  • Joining data from multiple sources (e.g., lookup, merge) and deduplicating the data
  • Aggregating (for example, rollup — summarizing multiple rows of data — total sales for each store, and for each region, etc.)
  • Generating surrogate-key values
  • Transposing or pivoting (turning multiple columns into multiple rows or vice versa)
  • Splitting a column into multiple columns (e.g., converting a comma-separated list, specified as a string in one column, into individual values in different columns)
  • Disaggregating repeating columns
  • Looking up and validating the relevant data from tables or referential files
  • Applying any form of data validation; failed validation may result in a full rejection of the data, partial rejection, or no rejection at all, and thus none, some, or all of the data is handed over to the next step depending on the rule design and exception handling; many of the above transformations may result in exceptions, e.g., when a code translation parses an unknown code in the extracted data

Load



The load phase loads the data into the end target, which can be any data store including a simple delimited flat file or a data warehouse[6]. Depending on the requirements of the organization, this process varies widely. Some data warehouses may overwrite existing information with cumulative information; updating extracted data is frequently done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Other data warehouses (or even other parts of the same data warehouse) may add new data in a historical form at regular intervals — for example, hourly. To understand this, consider a data warehouse that is required to maintain sales records of the last year. This data warehouse overwrites any data older than a year with newer data. However, the entry of data for any one year window is made in a historical manner. The timing and scope to replace or append are strategic design choices dependent on the time available and the business needs. More complex systems can maintain a history and audit trail of all changes to the data loaded in the data warehouse.

As the load phase interacts with a database, the constraints defined in the database schema — as well as in triggers activated upon data load — apply (for example, uniqueness, referential integrity, mandatory fields), which also contribute to the overall data quality performance of the ETL process.




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