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Category: ETL

Recursive Metadata Discovery in Azure Data Factory

Richard Swinbank gives us one method to perform recursive metadata discovery in Azure Data Factory:

Azure Data Factory’s Get Metadata activity returns metadata properties for a specified dataset. In the case of a blob storage or data lake folder, this can include childItems array – the list of files and folders contained in the required folder. If you want all the files contained at any level of a nested a folder subtree, Get Metadata won’t help you – it doesn’t support recursive tree traversal. In this post I try to build an alternative using just ADF.

But before you get too invested in this technique, please read Richard’s spoiler.

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Passing an Array of Arrays as a Parameter in Azure Data Factory

Rayis Imayev has a list for us:

In my previous blog post – Setting default values for Array parameters/variables in Azure Data Factory, I had helped myself to remember that arrays could be passed as parameters to my Azure Data Factory (ADF) pipelines. This time I’m helping myself to remember that an array of other arrays can also exist as ADF pipeline parameters’ values.

Read on for the example.

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Automation Tips for ETL

Richard Swinbank shares some tips around automating ETL processes:

I spent a good part of my career in the UK National Health Service (NHS). We often talk about data engineering problems in terms of handling large volumes of data, but the challenge in the NHS was frequently complexity – even a small acute hospital might have a dozen or more separate systems, running on various different DBMS backends, with many tables of interest for management or central reporting.

You might need to extract data from hundreds of (mostly small) tables to populate your data warehouse – my challenge was to make this as quick and easy to implement as possible.

Click through for the tips.

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Data Lineage and SSIS

Aveek Das has a two-parter. First up is a discussion of data lineage:

In this article, I am going to explain what Data Lineage in ETL is and how to implement the same. In this modern world, where companies are dealing with a humongous amount of data every day, there also lies a challenge to efficiently manage and monitor this data. There are systems that generate data every second and are being processed to a final reporting or monitoring tool for analysis. In order to process this data, we use a variety of ETL tools, which in turn makes the data transformation possible in a managed way.

While transforming the data in the ETL pipeline, it has to go through multiple steps of transformations in order to achieve the final result. For example, when the ETL receives the raw data from the source, there may be operations applied to it like filtering, sorting, merging, or splitting two columns, etc. There can also be aggregations or other calculations made on this raw data before finally moving into a data warehouse or preparing it for reporting. In order to be able to detect what the source of a particular record is, we need to implement something known as Data Lineage. It is a piece of simple metadata information that helps us detect gaps in the data processing pipeline and enables us to fix issues later.

Part two covers data lineage with SQL Server Integration Services:

In this article, I am going to discuss SSIS data lineage concepts, which are often used while designing ETL workloads on a data warehouse. Although this article is focused on implementing data lineage using SSIS, it does not only confine to SSIS but to any ETL tools in the market using which data is moved from one source to a destination. In my previous article, Understanding Data Lineage in ETL, I have already discussed the generic importance of data lineage concepts for any ETL tool. I would definitely suggest you have a look at it if you want to understand in general how data lineage helps to track the source of a single record in the warehouse.

If you’re fairly new to this world, it’s a good introduction to an important topic.

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Data Importation and Exportation with dbatools

Mikey Bronowski continues a series on dbatools functionality vis-a-vis SQL Server Management Studio:

The SSMS offers to script out lots of the SQL Server objects, however it can be limited in some areas. Using Get-Dba* commands and piping them into Export-DbaScript may add few more options. For example SQL Agent jobs:

Click through for just shy of a dozen cmdlets to help you run your data import-export business.

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ADF Data Flows and Joins Failing During Debugging

Mark Kromer clears up some issues around debugging in Azure Data Factory:

One of the important features built into ADF is the ability to quickly preview your data while designing your data flows and to execute the finished product against a sampling of data prior to finalizing and operationalizing your pipelines.

However, there are a few fundamentals relative to working with Joins that you should keep in mind and a few details below are important to understand at design time and while debugging / testing.

The answer makes sense but it would not have been the first thing to come to mind for me.

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Transforming JSON to CSV: ADF vs Databricks

Rayis Imayev compares two methods of transforming a JSON-structured data set into a CSV:

There is a well known and broadly advertised message from Microsoft that Azure Data Factory (ADF) is a code-free environment to help you to create your data integration solutions – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/videos/microsoft-azure-data-factory-code-free-cloud-data-integration-at-scale/. I agree and support this approach of using drag and drop visual UI to build and automate data pipelines without writing code. However, I’m also interested to try if I can recreate certain ADF operations by writing code, just out of my curiosity.

Rayis includes a link to the Azure Data Factory step-by-step demonstration and then kicks it up a notch with Databricks. Read on to see how the two compare.

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Incremental Loading in ETL

Tim Mitchell gives us the wherefore around incremental loads:

When moving data in an extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) process, the most efficient design pattern is to touch only the data you must, copying just the data that was newly added or modified since the last load was run. This pattern of incremental loads usually presents the least amount of risk, takes less time to run, and preserves the historical accuracy of the data.

In this post, I’ll share what an incremental load is and why it is the ideal design for most ETL processes.

“Move less data rather than more data” is how I’d put it, but Tim does a much better job of putting it.

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Using Dynamic Datasets in Power BI

Jose Mendes implements the screening pattern in Power BI:

I recently came across the need to build a screening pattern based on the Kimball “Screening” concept. One of the desired outputs was a Power BI report that allowed a data steward to easily identify the failed screen, drill down to the detail and show the row(s) rejected by the data quality rule. To achieve this goal, I had to mimic in Power BI an SSRS functionality called dynamic dataset, which allowed me to, using a single matrix, show different source columns based on a selected screen. Feeling curious already? Then, let’s dive into the details.

A screen is designed to operate on a single input file or database table and contains the data quality condition to check. For example, there could be a Missing Customer Postcode screen which would test for any customers who are missing a postcode.

Read on for an implementation.

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Azure Data Factory and Key Vault References

Gerhard Brueckl shows how we can get around a limitation in the Azure Data Factory user interface:

As You can see, the setting “AccessToken” can use a Key Vault reference whereas settings like “Databricks Workspace URL” and “Cluster” do not support them. This is usually fine because the guys at Microsoft also thought about this and support Key Vault references for the settings that are actually security relevant or sensitive. Also, providing the option to use Key Vault references everywhere would flood the GUI. So this is just fine.

But there can be good reasons where you want to get values from the Key Vault also for non-sensitive settings, especially when it comes to CI/CD and multiple environments. From my experience, when you implement a bigger ADF project, you will probably have a Key Vault for your sensitive settings and all other values are provided during the deployment via ARM parameters.

So you will end up with a mix of Key Vault references and ARM template parameters which very likely will be derived from the Key Vault at some point anyway. To solve this, you can modify the JSON of an ADF linked service directly and inject KeyVault references into almost every property!

Click through to see how that works, as well as the ramifications.

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