ETL Automation: Tools & Techniques for Testing ETL Pipelines

Ethan
CEO, Portable

Why Is ETL Automation Necessary?

The ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) procedure is crucial to business intelligence and data warehousing. Data must be extracted from various sources, formatted consistently, and loaded into a data warehouse or another data storage system.

ETL automation is essential for many reasons, including time savings, error reduction, increased productivity, data quality assurance, scalability, and simplicity of data integration.

Benefits of Automation in ETL Testing 

Improved test coverage

Enhancing test coverage detects potential issues earlier in the development lifecycle. ETL testing automation evaluates regressions that would be difficult or time-consuming to discover by hand. This allows more exhaustive testing of the data migration process, resulting in better-quality data.

Increased efficiency

ETL automation shortens the time needed to ingest data from different sources and load it into a target system. Automated ETL testing halts further processing when data sets change until a DevOps engineer can address it.

Ensuring compliance with business rules

Automated ETL testing can check for fidelity to established business rules, ensuring the data is processed correctly. This advantage strengthens data security and privacy compliance.

Supporting modern data stack

ETL testing automation complements modern data stack technologies, such as cloud-based data warehouses, data lakes, and streaming data source APIs. Automated data processing enables businesses to scale their ETL processes to manage higher data volumes without adding more headcount.

Signs You Need Automated ETL Tools 

  • Time-consuming manual processes: If your data integration processes are manual and time-consuming, it's time to consider using automated ETL tools to speed up data merging and reduce the workload on your team.

  • Multiple, disparate data sources: When dealing with multiple data sources, ETL tools can help you integrate data more efficiently, ensuring accuracy and consistency across all your data.

  • Increasing data volume or complexity: Enterprise data volumes can be challenging for manual integration processes. By adopting automated ETL tools, you can quickly handle large data volumes.

  • Lack of scalability: If your current data integration procedures are not scalable, automated ETL tools can help you manage complex integration requirements, providing flexibility and scalability to your data integration lifecycle.

  • ETL testing process challenges: If maintaining and updating on-premises testing procedures requires a lot of resources, it's time to consider using automated ETL tools. By automating ETL testing, you can simplify the maintenance and updates required and reduce the resources needed for data testing.

Types of ETL Testing Methods 

Testing for Data Accuracy 

This type of data testing confirms that the data has been accurately transformed during the ETL process and fits the desired outcomes. This approach can use automated tests to verify the schema and data types and can use metadata, such as data dictionaries, to guarantee consistency across data sources.

Load Testing

Testing the API's capacity to manage high volumes of data, transactions, and concurrent users is known as load testing. The API can handle the anticipated load using this technique without crashing or going unresponsive.

Data Quality Testing

Data consistency, precision, and completeness are just a few examples of the quality standards checked during this testing to ensure the data is up to par.

By verifying data quality across dispersed data sources and utilizing data profiling tools to find data quality issues, this approach can be expanded to big data management.

Testing for Data Masking

This testing ensures that private and confidential data are protected while being transformed properly. When working with sensitive data during the transformation process, this is crucial.

Latency Testing

Testing for latency entails measuring how long it takes for data to pass through an API and looking for any lags or delays in the data transfer. This strategy ensures that the API works correctly and that data is transmitted promptly.

API Profiling Tests

Assessing the API's speed and identifying any potential bottlenecks involves profiling. For the best API performance, this technique aids in identifying areas that need to be improved and optimized.

Data Integration Testing

By conducting this type of testing, you can ensure that the ETL process integrates correctly with other parts and systems, such as databases, data warehouses, and reporting tools. This method can be validated by automated tests that look at data integration between different systems. Additionally, schema validation can be used to ensure data integrity across data sources.

Source-to-Target Testing

Comparing source data from the source system to target data in the target system after the ETL process ensures that the data has been correctly extracted, transformed, and loaded. ETL automation tools can be used to carry out this method, which offers excellent test coverage.

Error handling testing:

Testing for error handling ensures that the ETL process can deal with errors and exceptions, such as incomplete data, incorrect data, or system errors, and can recover and process. Automated tests that simulate various error scenarios and verify error-handling abilities can be used to test this technique.

Regression Testing 

This form of testing makes sure that changes to the ETL process don't affect current functionality or result in the appearance of new flaws or problems. Automated regression tests that verify ETL changes against pre-existing ETL processes can be used to test this technique.

11 Tools for ETL Test Automation

Name of ToolOverviewPricing
Apache AirflowApache Airflow is an open-source platform that offers rigidity and scalability. It allows for the dynamic generation of directed acyclic networks and has a built-in system for sending alert emails when activities fail. Additionally, it provides a web-based user interface for tracking the progress of workflows and tasks.Under the terms of the Apache License 2.0, Airflow is a free and open-source piece of software.
PrefectPrefect is a tool that offers code-driven workflows for task scheduling, error handling, data validation, and monitoring and tracking. It allows users to automate their data workflows and manage them efficiently. With Prefect, users can easily create and manage complex data pipelines.A personal account costs nothing per month. An organization package costs $450 per month. Contact the sales staff for the Enterprise plan.
Python PysparkPython Pyspark is effective with RDDs and supports multiple programming languages. It offers caching and disk persistence for faster processing and real-time computations. Overall, it is a powerful tool for big data processing.PySpark has no upfront expenses or license fees, and it is free to use.
Apache SparkApache Spark is a memory-based computing system that supports real-time stream processing and is dynamic in nature. It uses lazy evaluation and supports multiple languages. It is also integrated with Hadoop and is cost-efficient.As an open-source product, Spark has no usage fees.
MageMage is a tool used for scheduling and controlling data pipelines. It offers an interactive editor for writing pipelines using Python, SQL, and R. It also allows for synchronization of external data sources with internal targets and supports real-time data ingestion and transformation. Additionally, Mage can be used to create, run, and administer DBT models.As long as you are self-hosted, Mage is free (AWS, GCP, Azure, or Digital Ocean).
QuerySurgeQuerySurge offers smart query wizards for creating custom tests and scheduling them for DevOps for data. The platform also provides a run dashboard for data analytics and intelligence, as well as integration for test management.Prices range from $885 to $20,687 per user depending on the user role and payment method.
Great ExpectationsGreat Expectations offers essential security and governance for data. It seamlessly fits with existing data stacks and accelerates data discovery. It also promotes a shared understanding of data.No price information is available. Get a quote from the sales staff.
Pentaho Data IntegrationPentaho Data Integration offers features for managing errors and recovering from them. It also includes batch scheduling and monitoring capabilities. Additionally, it allows for job and transformation design.Currently, Pentaho offers a 30-day free trial period. Pricing information is not provided.
DatagapsDatagaps focuses on the End-to-End data journey from the point of ingestion through to consumption in your data analytics platform. This takes the shape of observing the quality of data in motion or at rest, validating your ETL and Data Analytics processes to ensure that decisions are made on trustworthy data.No price information is available. You can ask for a demo and get a quote from the sales staff.
RedwoodRedwood offers cloud-native data management solutions that accelerate digital transformation and simplify data security. Their low-code data integration tools make it easy for businesses to manage their data effectively.Pricing information is not provided.
InformaticaInformatica is a software development company that specializes in data integration products. Their products include ETL, data masking, data quality, data replica, data virtualization, and master data management. The most widely used tool is Informatica Powercenter ETL/Data Integration tool.Professional Edition - This expensive model, charges $8000 annually for each user, necessitating a license. Personal Edition: You are free to use it whenever you need to.

Prerequisite ETL Automation Tester Skills 

  • Knowledge of SQL is vital for ETL automation testers. Mastery of relational databases is also necessary since ETL testing necessitates using SQL to access and control data in databases and data warehouses.

  • Strategies to aggregate various data sources with ELT. Scheduled ETL testing demands a deep understanding of the distinctions between ELT and ETL and the stages that make up the process.

  • Modern data components such as data lakes and data pipeline APIs. They must know about the extraction, transformation, and loading of data into various data storage systems.

  • Data warehousing experience with Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, BigQuery, or Microsoft Azure. They must know how these systems function, the pros and cons of each, including data integration processes. Of course, only if it's relevant to your tech stack.

  • Awareness of business intelligence needs, including data validation, dashboards, and data analytics for data accuracy. They should be able to verify data, develop and test cases, and assess results.

  • Expertise in writing automated test cases using flat files and XML. They must be able to create and test cases to detect problems and ensure that data is properly integrated.

  • As a plus, ETL testers should be familiar with the following topics: Portable, Oracle relational databases, Hadoop/Spark, Airflow, Snowflake, and differences between ETL and ELT.

Data Quality Best Practices for Data Warehouses 

Effective data management is essential for businesses to maintain data accuracy, consistency, completeness, and timeliness. Here are some best practices for data management in data warehouses:

Utilize Data Profiling

Before starting data processing, perform data profiling to identify data quality issues like missing numbers, duplicates, and other inconsistencies. By analyzing the data, you can gain insights into trends and patterns and detect data quality problems early in the process.

Define Data Quality Requirements

Define the data quality requirements based on data accuracy, completeness, uniformity, and latency standards based on business requirements.

Implement Data Quality Monitoring

Monitor the data quality in real-time to detect potential issues and ensure data integrity. This ensures that any data quality problems are resolved quickly and effectively.

Implement Data Validation Rules

Ensure that the data complies with specific business requirements by utilizing data validation standards. This helps to improve the data's accuracy and completeness.

Use a Cloud-Based ETL Testing Data Platform

Utilize an ETL testing data platform with a sandbox setting to test ETL procedures before deploying to production. This ensures that data sets are correctly extracted, transformed, and loaded into the data warehouse.

Battle-Test Your Data Pipelines

Stress-test your data flow pipelines to ensure they can handle large volumes of data and expand to meet demand. This will uphold the dependability and capacity of your data pipeline.

Alert DevOps Teams from ETL Testing Tools

Use ETL testing tools to monitor the data pipeline's condition and alert DevOps teams to any critical errors in production. This ensures that information is moving smoothly without negative customer impact.

Keep Original Data Sources in Data Transformation Workflows

Maintain copies of the original data sources so that if the data transformation process encounters any errors, you can go back and compare the raw data sets with the transformed data sets.

Segment Access Between Staging & Production Data

Segment access to the data warehouse between production data (where the processed data is stored) and data lakes (where raw data is kept). This ensures that sensitive data is protected and only authorized employees can access it.

Helpful Automated ETL Testing Tutorials To Get Started

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