Chen Cuello
MAY 3, 2023
5 min read
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Data integration and management are essential components of modern businesses. In order to make informed decisions and gain insights into customer behavior, organizations need accurate and timely data. ETL and data pipelines are two commonly used methods to achieve this. They share a lot of similarities, as they both aim to integrate data from multiple sources and transform it into usable formats. 

However, despite their apparent similarities, data pipelines vs ETL have significant differences that can impact their usage and benefits. Both ETL and data pipelines are popular methods for data integration and management, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. 

In this article, we will explain the key differences between ETL vs data pipeline to help you choose the most suitable approach for your business needs.

What is a Data Pipeline?

A data pipeline is a process that moves data from one place to another while performing multiple operations and transformations on the data along the way. This process usually includes several steps, such as getting the data, changing it, checking it’s correct, storing it, and analyzing it. Different tools and technologies like Apache Kafka, AWS Data Pipeline, or Google Cloud Dataflow can be used to create data pipelines.

Example Use Cases for Data Pipelines

Different industries can leverage data pipelines to cater to a diverse range of use cases. Here are some examples:

  1. E-commerce: Data pipelines can be used in the field of e-commerce to gather and analyze customer data to learn about customer behavior and purchasing trends.
  2. Healthcare: In healthcare, data pipelines can be used to collect and process patient data to create personalized treatment plans, monitor patient health, and improve patient outcomes.
  3. Finance: In finance, data pipelines can be used to collect and analyze financial data to identify trends, forecast market movements, and manage risk.
  4. Internet of Things (IoT): Can be used to collect and process data from sensors, devices, and machines, monitor performance, detect anomalies, and optimize operations.
  5. Social media: In social media, data pipelines can be used to collect and analyze user-generated content.

Overall, data pipelines can be used in any industry that requires collecting, processing, and analyzing large volumes of data to optimize business processes.

Types of Data Pipelines

Data pipelines can take on many forms, depending on the type and size of data you’re working with, as well as the specific requirements of your pipeline. Let’s go over some of the most popular types of data pipelines:


Batch data pipelines process data in large volumes at regular intervals, typically once a day or once a week. These pipelines are used for processing large amounts of historical data, such as data warehousing and business intelligence applications.


Data pipelines that handle information as it is produced are referred to as real-time data pipelines. These pipelines are used for processing data streams that require immediate processing, such as financial transactions, IoT data, and social media feeds.


Cloud data pipelines use cloud-based services and resources to process data efficiently and cost-effectively. These pipelines are used to process large volumes of data that require a scalable and flexible infrastructure.


Data pipelines that are created and supported by a group of developers and distributed for free under an open-source license are known as open-source data pipelines. Open-source data pipelines provide an alternative to proprietary data processing systems, offering businesses a range of benefits.

What is ETL?

Now that we have gone over what Data Pipeline is, we also need to go over the ETL Pipeline meaning. To make it easier to analyze data from different places, organizations use the ETL process – Extract, Transform, Load. This process involves taking data from different sources, making it look the same, and putting it all in one place, usually a data warehouse or data lake. By doing this, organizations can get useful information from the data and create reports more easily.

Example Use Cases for ETL

ETL is a way of working with data that involves three steps: extracting data from different places, organizing it and preparing it for analysis, and putting it into a new place. ETL can be used in different situations, for example:

  1. Business Intelligence: In the realm of business intelligence (BI), ETL is widely utilized to acquire data from various sources, standardize it into a consistent format, and upload it into a data warehouse or data mart for analysis purposes.
  2. Data Integration: The application of ETL is not limited to a single data source, as it can be leveraged to integrate data from a range of systems and applications, including but not limited to CRM, ERP, and HR systems.
  3. Data Migration: ETL can include migrating data from legacy systems to modern platforms or from on-premise systems to the cloud.
  4. Data Cleansing: ETL can be used to clean and standardize data by removing duplicates, correcting errors, and normalizing data.
  5. Real-time Data Integration: ETL can also be used for real-time data integration, where data is extracted, transformed, and loaded in near real-time.

Overall, ETL is a versatile process that can be used in various use cases, from business intelligence and data integration to data migration and real-time data integration.

Types of ETL

The choice of ETL type depends on the organization’s specific requirements, such as the size of the data sets, the frequency of data updates, and the speed of processing required. There are several main types of ETL processes:


When ETL is used by an entire company to work with lots of data, it’s called enterprise ETL. This means taking data from many different places, consolidating it, and putting it all together in one place. Enterprise ETL usually involves working with a lot of data from different places, like databases, files, and cloud-based apps.


Open-source ETL means using ETL software tools that are free and available for everyone to use. This allows organizations to do ETL without paying for special software. Some popular open-source ETL tools are Apache NiFi, Talend Open Studio, Apache Airflow, Pentaho Data Integration, and CloverETL.


Cloud-based ETL means using ETL software tools that are stored and operated in the cloud. This means you can use them from anywhere with a stable internet connection. Cloud-based ETL is an alternative to using ETL tools on your own computers or servers, so you don’t need special hardware or IT resources. Some popular cloud-based ETL tools are AWS Glue, Azure Data Factory, Google Cloud Dataflow, and Informatica Cloud.


Custom ETL means creating a special way of working with data to fit the specific needs of an organization. This is done when the regular ETL tools don’t work for what the organization needs. Creating a custom ETL process involves several steps, including figuring out what’s needed, deciding how the data should look, creating a special way of working with data, testing it, and making it work for everyone who needs it.


Data Pipeline vs ETL Pipeline: 3 Key Differences

Data PipelineETL Pipeline
Designed to handle streaming data and process it in real time.Generally operate on batch data and run at scheduled intervals.
Generally simpler and more straightforward.Require more extensive data transformations, data cleaning, and data mapping, making them more complex to design and implement.
The emphasis is on transferring data from one system to another with minimal modifications or changes.Focus on transforming data from one format to another, and they often require specialized tools for data cleansing and integration.


Choosing The Right Pipelines for Your Customer Data

When managing customer data, it’s important to choose the right method for transferring it to a designated data repository, like using data pipelines or other ETL methods. To start, figure out where your customer data is coming from. Look for software tools that can help with data cleaning, transformation, and conversion. 

Use the ETL tools you’ve chosen to create your pipelines, then test them thoroughly to make sure they work well. Keep an eye on your pipelines to ensure they’re performing at their best, and make any adjustments needed to improve speed and reduce errors. By following these steps, you can make sure your customer data is accurate, consistent, and useful for making informed decisions.

Why Use ETL Pipelines

The ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) process is employed to extract data from diverse sources, transform it into a format that is easy to analyze, and then load it into a specific data storage system, such as a data warehouse. Below are some of the reasons why one may opt to use ETL pipelines:

  • Data integration: The use of ETL pipelines enables the amalgamation of data from numerous sources into a solitary repository, resulting in enhanced data consistency and accuracy.
  • Data quality: Data cleaning and enrichment can be accomplished by using ETL pipelines to enhance data quality. This process may require eliminating duplicates, rectifying errors, and standardizing data formats.
  • Scalability: The utilization of ETL pipelines enables the processing of substantial quantities of data rapidly and proficiently. This is important when dealing with big data or real-time data processing.
  • Automation: ETL pipelines can be automated, which means that data can be processed and loaded into a data warehouse without human intervention. This can save time and reduce errors.
  • Business intelligence: By offering precise and prompt data that can be used for analysis, reporting, and decision making, ETL pipelines can aid in promoting business intelligence efforts.

Overall, ETL pipelines can help organizations streamline data integration and improve data quality, scalability, and automation, ultimately leading to better business outcomes.

How Rivery Can Help 

Rivery is a cloud-based data integration platform that can help organizations build, schedule, and manage ETL pipelines. The following are several manners in which Rivery can provide assistance:


Easy setupRivery provides a user-friendly interface that allows users to set up data connections and transformations without any coding knowledge.
Pre-built integrationsRivery offers pre-built connectors to various data sources, including databases, cloud applications, and APIs, making it easy to extract data from various sources.
Automated workflowsRivery can automate ETL workflows, including data transformations and loading, which can save time and reduce errors.
Data transformationRivery provides a range of data transformation capabilities, including cleansing, aggregation, and enrichment, allowing users to transform raw data into a format that is easily digestible.
ScalabilityRivery can process large volumes of data quickly and efficiently, making it suitable for big data processing.
Data governanceRivery offers extensive security and data governance functionalities, such as encryption, role-based access control, and audit trails, which guarantee the safeguarding of sensitive data.

Overall, Rivery can help organizations build, schedule, and manage ETL pipelines with ease, allowing businesses to focus on analyzing data rather than worrying about data integration and transformation.

Minimize the firefighting.
Maximize ROI on pipelines.

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