The Shift From Data Pipelines to Data Products

Simon Späti
14 min readJun 20, 2022
The Shift From Data Pipelines to Data Products

Data consumers, such as data analysts, and business users, care mostly about the production of data assets. On the other hand, data engineers have historically focused on modeling the dependencies between tasks (instead of data assets) with an orchestrator tool. How can we reconcile both worlds?

This article reviews open-source data orchestration tools (Airflow, Prefect, Dagster) and discusses how data orchestration tools introduce data assets as first-class objects. We also cover why a declarative approach with higher-level abstractions helps with faster developer cycles, stability, and a better understanding of what’s going on pre-runtime. We explore five different abstractions (jobs, tasks, resources, triggers, and data products) and see if it all helps to build a Data Mesh.

What Is a Data Orchestrator?

A Data Orchestrator models dependencies between different tasks in heterogeneous environments end-to-end. It handles integrations with legacy systems, cloud-based tools, data lakes, and data warehouses. It invokes computation, such as wrangling your business logic in SQL and Python and applying ML models at the right time based on a time-based trigger or by custom-defined logic.

What makes an orchestrator an expert is that it lets you find when things are happening (monitoring with lots of metadata), what is going wrong and how to fix the wrong state with integrated features such as backfills.

When discussing complex open-source cloud environments, it’s crucial to integrate and orchestrate various tools from the Modern Data Stack (MDS) and automate them as much as possible as companies grow their need for orchestration. With ELT getting more popular, data orchestration is less about data integration but more about wrangling datawith assuring quality and usefulness. Previously, it was common among data engineers to implement all ETL parts in the orchestrator, typically with Airflow. On top, monitoring, troubleshooting, and maintenance become more apparent, and the need for a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) of all your tasks arises. DAGs allow us to describe more complex workflows safely.

In the end, an orchestrator must activate Business Intelligence, Analytics, and Machine Learning. These are…

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Simon Späti

Data Engineer & Technical Author with 15+ years of experience. I enjoy maintaining awareness of new innovative and emerging open-source technologies.