We’re living in the age of Big Data.
Bursts of information inundate business IT ecosystems continuously from multiple sources, whether it’s a series of recent Tweets, log files from mobile web app activity, or measurement data from IoT sensors.
This information uncovers essential insights. But to harness analytics capabilities, organizations must overcome hurdles in capturing, processing, storing, and analyzing these always-moving, high-velocity data streams. At the core of everything is visibility.
Since data comes from so many different source systems, regulating its structure is impossible. In fact, 80 percent of data fed into enterprise systems is now unstructured. Another factor to consider is scalability—as companies grow, the volume of data streams they ingest expands, and the data architecture often can’t keep up.
Even if the architecture is robust and scalable, having so much data runs the risk of inaccuracies and shadow data issues, affecting compliance and regulatory requirements.
Giving your data teams a helping hand with automated tools can help you gain a competitive advantage, which we’ll discuss in this blog.
What is Data Streaming?
Data streaming is the process of collecting data as it’s generated, then moving it to a destination to leverage it for real-time intelligence. This contrasts with the traditional approach in which data engineers build pipelines and use solutions to ingest, process, and structure data in batches before it’s ready for analysis.
The latter approach is known as batch processing, and it involves processing data in intervals after a specific triggering event, such as collecting a sufficiently defined amount. Batch processing is suitable for historical analyses and yearly reviews where real-time processing and analysis are unnecessary. Otherwise, data streaming is the way to go.
Data streaming architecture combines various tools and frameworks. The need to architect a particular kind of solution reflects the complexity involved in consuming large volumes of data in flight. Typical architectural components of streaming data pipelines include:
- An event streaming tool that listens for events from various sources and streams them on an ongoing basis.
- Real-time ETL tools that process streaming data and prepare it for analysis.
- Streaming data analytics tools that enable businesses to uncover insights.
What are the Benefits of Data Streaming?
Gartner predicts that by 2025, more than 50% of enterprise-critical data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud, reflecting the popularity of streaming data. Businesses increasingly turn to dedicated tools to help query or analyze their continuous data flows for insights, and here are just a few ways these tools can be beneficial.
Improved Customer Experience
Having up-to-date insights into customers’ behaviors and preferences helps businesses rapidly adapt how they serve customers. These insights can come from analyzing website activity (e.g. blog post engagement, clicks, downloads) or social media mentions. You can offer more timely, targeted, and personalized interactions by tailoring customer experiences based on real-time insights.
Find and Fix Problems Faster
Real-time insights immediately warn businesses about impending or current systems issues. With these warnings, it’s possible to identify and fix problems faster to minimize downtime, remediate cyber threats, and control financial risks from sudden fluctuations.
Capture Instant Insights
There’s often a lack of visibility over business operations when data is spread over multiple sources, especially as your company manages increased data volumes through acquisitions, mergers, and growth. Data streaming access to real-time insights that you can use for monitoring capabilities, data-driven decisions, and replication scenarios.
Top 9 Real-Time Data Streaming Tools and Technologies
Here are nine top real-time data streaming tools and technologies to consider (listed in no particular order).
Hevo is a no-code platform for streamlining and automating data flows. It enables users to merge data from 150+ sources using plug-and-play integrations in near real-time.
One user describes their Hevo experience as, “Extremely easy to use and flexible – it has all the features you could want, including pre and post-load transformations.”
- Intuitive user interface.
- Generous free tier.
- Deduplication could be better.
- Replicating existing pipelines for re-use is time-consuming.
Equalum provides continuous data integration and real-time data streaming via a single, unified platform. It’s an end-to-end solution for data streaming tasks, enabling you to collect, transform, manipulate, and synchronize data from any data source to any target. Apart from its native data ingestion capabilities, Equalum also enables the move from on-prem to cloud-based by leveraging streaming ETL and built-in CDC capabilities.
One reviewer’s summary of Equalum noted that “Equalum is real-time. If you are moving from an overnight process to a real-time process, there is always a difference in what reports and analytics show compared to what our operational system shows. Some of our organizations, especially finance, don’t want those differences to be shown. Therefore, going to a real-time environment makes the data in one place match the data in another place. Data accuracy is almost instantaneous with this tool.”
- Rapid deployment and end-to-end system monitoring with just a few clicks.
- Data streaming pipelines are fully orchestrated and managed for a true end-to-end solution.
- High levels of data accuracy.
- Offers unlimited scale to increase data volumes.
With Striim, you can monitor business events across any environment. The platform has sub-second latency from source to target and helps you make decisions in real time.
One user says of their Striim experience, “It’s easy to build apps and start moving data to cloud.”
- Wide range of target destinations available.
- Point and click wizard makes it straightforward to connect to data sources.
- The user interface is not the most intuitive.
4. IBM Stream Analytics
IBM Stream Analytics is a tool for the IBM cloud that enables users to evaluate a broad range of streaming data. Analysts can uncover opportunities in real-time thanks to the built-in domain analytics.
“Its capacity, flexibility, and scalability…is excellent and meets the business needs,” says one IBM customer.
- You can use existing code to build streaming applications without starting from scratch.
- Easily analyzes unstructured data.
- The quality of speech-to-text insights generated from the tools’ integration with IBM Watson is sometimes poor.
- The user community seems sparse and not actively encouraged.
Informatica provides a scalable architecture for streaming analytics with real-time data ingestion and management. The platform works in 3 stages: 1) ingesting the data, 2) enriching it, and 3) operationalizing it.
According to a review, “the platform accommodates large volumes of data…and we can extract a lot of data in a fraction of seconds.”
- Data enrichment features add more value to raw streams of data.
- Can process almost any data format and type you can think of.
- Lack of user community or forums makes it harder to discuss queries about the platform or find answers to common problems.
- The user interface can be sluggish at times.
Talend aims to make data streaming more accessible by letting users interact with many sources and target Big Data stores without needing to write complicated code. The application is more akin to middleware, making streaming data pipelines work faster and easier.
One user review pointed to Talend’s “easy integration with the cloud and quick manipulation of datasets”.
- Good connectivity to over 130 data sources.
- Good support and help are available.
- The user interface is somewhat clunky to navigate, and the platform runs slow compared to other similar tools.
- The documentation is below par and can result in much trial and error in finding out how to perform certain tasks.
Similar to Talend, Fivetran is a data streaming tool best described as middleware. Fivetran integrates events and files into a high-performance data warehouse in minutes by connecting with event streaming tools like Apache Kafka.
One reviewer’s opinion of Fivertran was that it’s “super easy and just a matter of a few clicks to create a connection between and traditional DB to Cloud. The loads are real-time and can be scheduled on a timely basis.”
- Easy to use and implement.
- Good metadata support.
- Costs can quickly add up even if you leave connectors open unintentionally.
- Support can be slow to respond to queries or issues.
StreamSets is a data integration tool that aims to provide a flexible and intuitive approach to build all kinds of data pipelines. You can build streaming, batch, and machine learning pipelines from a single user interface.
- Very user-friendly interface.
- Comprehensive user documentation enables self-service troubleshooting and learning.
- Latency can be an issue at times resulting in lag or data loss.
- Manually debugging errors can be tricky due to unclear logs.
Qlik’s data streaming capabilities come from its data integration, which efficiently delivers large volumes of real-time, analytics-ready data into streaming and cloud platforms, data warehouses, and data lakes.
An online reviewer said that Qlik “allowed us to ingest data in near real-time from our ERP landscape and use it for various data lake and data science initiatives.”
- Easy to use.
- Solid performance gives low latency and maintains data integrity.
- Initially setting up and configuring the tool can be time-consuming.
- Troubleshooting is difficult due to the complex documentation.
Better Accuracy, Visibility, and Scalability With Data Streaming
Real-time data streaming tools and technologies provide a useful foundation for deriving insights from high-velocity, continuous influxes of data. Improved data accuracy, real-time visibility, and the scalability to handle growing volumes of data are just some of the benefits you get from data streaming. The next step is to choose the tools that deliver these benefits.
With Equalum’s built-in CDC capabilities, you can continuously access real-time data, track changes, and apply transformations before ETL. Enjoy better visibility over your data with real-time decision-making and fast deployment.