Adventures in Machine Learning

Mastering Data Engineering: From Relational Databases to Big Data

Data Engineering: The Foundation of Big Data

As we continue to generate and consume more data than ever before, the importance of Data Engineering has become increasingly significant in ensuring that data is managed correctly. The main role of data engineering is to collect, organize and transform data in a way that can be used with a variety of tools, allowing organizations to make better business decisions.

In this article, we’ll look at how data engineering has evolved over the years and the critical role it plays in Big Data.

Evolution of Data Storage and the Need for Data Engineering

Data storage and organization have changed a lot over the past few decades. It wasn’t that long ago when everything was managed on paper.

However, as technology advanced, the use of computers became common, and data storage and processing evolved alongside it. Initially, data was stored on hierarchical and network databases, but these proved to be quite inflexible and expensive to maintain.

As a result, Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) emerged, which were more flexible and cost-effective. These RDBMS allowed data to be stored in a tabular format, making it easier to access and analyze.

With this new storage model, new tools were developed to help with query writing and management, which gave rise to Structured Query Language (SQL). Fast forward to the digital age, and it’s hard to imagine a world without sophisticated, data-driven technologies.

Today, advancements in storage technology, such as the cloud, have made scaling much easier and more cost-effective. However, the sheer volume of data being generated by businesses calls for a more complex approach.

This is where data engineering comes in.

Data Engineering and Big Data

Big Data is a term used to describe vast collections of data, which are too big and too complicated to manage using traditional RDBMS. Big data is typically characterized by volume, velocity, and variety.

In other words, it’s data that’s too massive, moves too fast, or is too diverse to be managed using traditional approaches. To handle big data, we’ve seen the emergence of new tools like Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, and Apache Cassandra.

These tools enable us to store, process and analyze vast amounts of unstructured data.

Hadoop is one of the most popular tools for big data processing.

It works by breaking a large dataset into multiple, smaller chunks and processing them on a cluster of computers, which are connected together. Hadoop’s distributed architecture makes it a reliable, scalable, and fault-tolerant solution for managing large datasets.

Apache Spark is another popular tool that’s often used in conjunction with Hadoop. Spark is an open-source, distributed computing system that can process data at lightening speeds.

Spark’s resilience and optimized performance make it ideal for processing massive data sets. Apache Cassandra is a highly scalable, distributed database system designed to handle large amounts of structured and unstructured data.

It provides high availability with no single point of failure, and its unique distributed architecture enables rapid scaling on commodity hardware.


We’ve seen the evolution of data storage and processing from paper to digital, and the emergence of technologies such as Hadoop, Spark, and Cassandra, to help us handle the big volumes of data we generate today. Despite the presence of these tools, the real foundation of big data lies in the practice of data engineering.

By using data engineering principles, businesses can manage data in a way that can be used to gain better insights which, in turn, can lead to better decision making. As more data continues to be generated, Data Engineering will continue to be a critical component of a successful business strategy.

3) Data Engineering vs. Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

Data Engineering, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning – these are all terms we hear frequently in the world of data management, but their precise meanings can be less clear.

While they may all be interrelated to a certain extent, they are fundamentally different disciplines with their unique characteristics. Data Science refers to the scientific approach of collecting, processing, and analyzing data.

It is a multidisciplinary field that combines statistical analysis, machine learning, and various other analytical techniques to uncover meaningful insights from large amounts of data. While data science is more focused on the analysis and interpretation of data, data engineering is mainly concerned with designing, building, and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to support those analyses.

In other words, data engineering is responsible for collecting, storing, and processing raw data so that it can be used by data scientists or other downstream consumers like data analysts or business leaders. Another buzzword that is often associated with data is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI is concerned with building intelligent machines that can perform human-like tasks such as reasoning, learning, and problem-solving. AI utilizes algorithms that can learn from data to improve their performance over time.

Data engineering is especially important in the development of AI systems. This is because these systems require vast amounts of data that must be stored and processed correctly to ensure their optimal functioning.

Data engineering is responsible for building the pipelines and infrastructure that enable systems to collect, store, and process large volumes of data that support these AI systems. Machine Learning (ML) is another term that often gets thrown around when talking about data.

ML is a subset of AI that involves building algorithms that can learn from data to make predictions or decisions based on new data inputs. Successful machine learning models require vast quantities of high-quality data, which must be processed and cleaned to be used in the training of these algorithms.

The job of data engineering in the context of ML is to ensure the intake of high-quality data to the data pipeline, train the algorithm effectively, and deploy a stable model that is scalable in production. In summary, while data science, AI, and ML are all related to data management, they differ significantly from data engineering in the roles they play in the data management process.

Data engineering is responsible for building, maintaining, and improving data infrastructure to ensure that these related fields can perform adequately.

4) Relational Databases and Data Engineering

Relational databases are one of the most popular types of databases used in data management. A relational database is a data management system that stores data in tables, where each table represents a collection of related data points, drawn together into rows and columns.

The most popular language used to manage relational databases is SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language. SQL is a domain-specific language that is used to manage and access the data stored in relational databases.

SQL employs a query-based model where users can write a query to extract the required data from the database. In data engineering, SQL is the primary language used for building and managing relational databases.

Engineers employ SQL throughout the various stages of the data pipeline, from designing tables and schema to performing filtering, aggregation, and other data transformations. NoSQL is another type of database that is relatively new and has increased in popularity over the past decade.

NoSQL is a data management system that deviates from the traditional relational tabular model of data storage. Instead, NoSQL uses a non-tabular schema-less data model.

There are several categories of NoSQL databases that serve different purposes, such as key-value stores, document databases, graph databases, and column-oriented databases. In data engineering, NoSQL databases are often used in Big Data scenarios or complex data structures that do not fit the relational model of data storage.

These databases help to store and manage complex and/or semi-structured data, such as log files.


In conclusion, data engineering is a key component of data management that focuses on designing, building, and maintaining the infrastructure required for the processing and management of data. This infrastructure is utilized by various fields such as data science, AI, and ML, which are complementary to data engineering but differ significantly in their core approach.

Furthermore, relational and NoSQL databases are crucial tools in data engineering, and they play different roles in the data pipeline. Relational databases are widely used for structured data, while NoSQL databases are often used when dealing with unstructured and/or high-dimensional data.

5) Learning SQL for Data Engineering

Structured Query Language (SQL) is an essential language used in data engineering to manage data stored in relational databases. SQL is a domain-specific language that provides a powerful set of tools for data transformation, analysis, and management.

It’s crucial for individuals interested in data engineering to learn SQL as it is widely used within the field. Learning SQL is not only critical for data engineering, but also for other data-driven fields such as data analysis and business intelligence.

This is because SQL allows users to manage data accurately and efficiently, enabling them to generate insights and make informed decisions. Several resources are available to learn SQL, including online courses offered by

These courses provide the basic knowledge required to manage a relational database, including data types, constraints, views, indexes, and more. It provides step-by-step guidance in mastering SQL and developing practical skills.

The courses are designed for learners of all levels and provide hands-on practice in using SQL to manage data effectively. The flexibility of online learning also allows for learners to take courses at their own pace and on their own schedule.

In addition to learning SQL, data engineers must have a strong understanding of other programming languages such as Python or Java. Skills such as data cleaning, data manipulation, and data transformation are critical to data engineering.

Attention to detail, strong problem-solving skills, and the ability to think critically are also crucial to succeed in this field. 6)


Data engineering is a critical field that plays a significant role in managing and processing data. It requires a broad set of skills and knowledge, including a strong understanding of relational databases, programming languages such as SQL, and critical thinking skills.

As data continues to play an increasingly important role in numerous industries, the demand for skilled data engineers will only continue to grow. To meet the rising demand, individuals interested in data engineering must continue to learn emerging technologies and new skills.

In the future, data engineering is likely to see continued advancements in technology, leading to improvements in data processing speed, scalability, and overall quality. We can expect automation and machine learning to become increasingly integrated into data engineering workflows.

Such developments will necessitate data engineers to constantly update and enhance their skills to meet the ongoing challenges and requirements of this ever-evolving field. In conclusion, data engineering is a field that is essential to the success of many industries.

Learning SQL is critical for anyone interested in pursuing a career in data engineering or any data-driven fields, as it is a fundamental tool in managing and processing data. In addition, staying up to date with new technologies and new improvement in the field is imperative for those seeking success in this field.

In conclusion, data engineering is a critical field that plays a vital role in managing and processing data. It has evolved from traditional data storage to handling big data with the use of various technologies like Hadoop, Spark, and Cassandra.

Data engineering is different from data science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, but they are interrelated. SQL is an essential tool in data engineering and is necessary for individuals interested in data-driven fields.

Furthermore, data engineering requires having a strong knowledge of programming languages like Python or Java, data manipulation, and critical thinking. In the future, automation and machine learning are expected to become integrated into data engineering workflows, which means data engineers need to constantly enhance their skills.

The main takeaway is that data engineering will be an important component for businesses in the future, and learning the skills required in this field provides excellent career opportunities.

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