Data is ubiquitous in modern society, permeating every facet of life. However, simply having data is not enough it must be engineered in a way that makes it accessible, organized, and useful to those who need it.
This is where data engineering comes in. In this article, we will examine what data engineering is, what data engineers do, and their importance in making Big Data accessible and easy to use.
Definition and scope of data engineering
Data engineering is the transportation, transformation and storage of data. It is a subdiscipline of data science that deals with the practical aspects of handling data.
Data engineering can be used to enable machine learning models, support exploratory data analysis, and populate fields in databases. It is an essential component of Big Data, which refers to very large datasets that can only be analyzed with advanced technology.
Big Data is often described using the 3 Vs: volume, velocity, and variety. Volume refers to the sheer amount of data that is generated, while velocity describes the relative speed at which it is generated.
Variety refers to the different types of data that exist, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. What Do Data Engineers Do?
Goal of data engineering
The primary goal of data engineering is to create an organized data flow that can be used by anyone who needs it. Data engineers build infrastructure to support the efficient processing and storage of data, making it easier for people to access and analyze it.
This infrastructure often includes data pipelines, distributed systems, data modeling, and other related technologies.
Data pipelines and distributed systems
Building data pipelines involves designing, constructing, and maintaining independent programs that work together to move data from various sources to target storage. This process can involve multiple steps, such as filtering out irrelevant data, converting formats, and ensuring that data is free of errors.
Distributed systems are used to store data across multiple servers and provide a way for multiple people to access it simultaneously.
Data engineers have to work with a range of different data sources, including IoT devices, telematics from vehicles, real estate data feeds, user activity, and measurement tools. These sources generate data at a rapid pace, making it essential for companies to have a reliable way of processing and storing it.
Data normalization and modeling
Data normalization is the process of standardizing data to ensure that it is consistent across different sources. Data engineers use data modeling to create a unified data model that can be used to deduplicate data.
This process is particularly important for real-time streams and batch processing, where large amounts of data are processed at once.
Data engineering also involves creating accessible data platforms that are easy to use and understand. This often involves developing data models, creating data visualizations, and sharing data with different teams and customers.
Data engineers must also work closely with product teams to ensure that they have the necessary data to develop effective products.
Data engineering is an essential component of Big Data it involves creating efficient processes and infrastructure to enable data storage, processing, and access. Data engineers must also work closely with data scientists, product teams, and other stakeholders to ensure that data is useful and accessible.
As we continue to generate more data, the importance of data engineering will only continue to grow. What Are the Responsibilities of Data Engineers?
Customers and data needs
Data engineers work with data science teams, AI teams, business intelligence (BI) teams, and other internal stakeholders to understand their data needs. This collaboration is essential for creating a data model that meets the organization’s goals, that their data is clean and accurate, and that they have the necessary data to measure product performance.
Data engineers must also perform spot checks and quality checks to ensure that data stays clean over time. By keeping the end-user’s needs in mind, data engineers can create systems that are more manageable and effective.
Data flow is the backbone of data engineering, and it involves ensuring that reliable input is provided to a system. This includes extract transform load (ETL) jobs, APIs, and other data sources.
Data engineers are responsible for ensuring that the system is up and running, providing proven uptime, and supporting near-real-time data processing for critical applications.
Data normalization and modeling
Data normalization involves organizing data to ensure that it can be analyzed and used more easily. Data engineers must provide support for data science, BI teams, and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure that the schema is designed appropriately.
Additionally, data engineers must ensure they can accommodate unstructured data in aspects such as semi-structured data, video, text, and images. Lastly, they must also ensure that the data warehouse is optimized for data storage and retrieval according to the organization’s requirements.
Data cleaning involves the removal of incomplete data or correction of invalid data within a data set. Data engineers must develop internal processes that clean and manage data for accuracy, completeness, and consistency and incorporate the data cleansing process into the initial design.
The quality of data within an organization is critical to its success, and data engineers must prioritize it.
Creating well-accessible data is key to data engineering, and one way to ensure this is by making it easy to query the database. This involves providing fast queries and ideal database access to power various applications within the organization.
In addition to ease of use, reliability and data quality are critical factors that data engineers have to keep in mind. What Are Common Data Engineering Skills?
General programming skills
Data engineers need a solid understanding of software engineering, design concepts, object-oriented programming, data structures, algorithms, and functional programming. They should have excellent programming skills with scripting languages, such as Python or Perl, and a strong understanding of system administration and software architecture.
These programming skills allow data engineers to design and implement ETL systems, data warehouses, and other infrastructure that can handle vast volumes of data.
Data engineers need knowledge of databases, including SQL and NoSQL systems such as MongoDB or Cassandra. They should know how to optimize SQL queries for performance and understand database modeling techniques such as the normalization process.
Additionally, data engineers must understand how to model relationships between elements of data effectively and efficiently. This allows them to create database schema designs and extract relevant data and improve database performance.
Distributed systems and cloud engineering
Data engineers should be familiar with cloud environments, and it is ideal for them to understand how to efficiently run distributed systems and use cloud-based services. This skillset allows them to develop scalable and fault-tolerant systems that can handle undefined or fluctuating workload conditions without any impact on the system.
Data engineers should be familiar with cloud services, microservices, multi-cluster systems, and system architecture, all of which will enable straightforward maintenance and management of systems at scale.
Data engineers play a vital role in modern organizations, where data is both an invaluable asset and a critical challenge. They are responsible for building efficient systems that can handle large volumes of data, transforming data into actionable information and managing data to ensure reliability.
They need to be skilled in programming, managing databases, and cloud engineering, giving them the expertise to design and develop data infrastructure capable of addressing organizational data requirements. By focusing on data modeling, normalization, and cleaning and ensuring data accessibility, data engineers can enable their organizations to turn data into a valuable asset for faster, data-driven business insights.
In conclusion, data engineering is a critical subfield of data science that focuses on transporting, transforming, and storing data. Data engineers are responsible for ensuring that data is clean, reliable, and accessible to stakeholders throughout an organization.
They build the infrastructure that supports data pipelines, distributed systems, data modeling, and other essential technologies. Data engineers also need to possess general programming skills, database knowledge, and cloud engineering expertise.
By emphasizing data modeling, normalization, and cleaning and making data accessible, data engineers enable organizations to harness the power of Big Data for data-driven insights. Ultimately, without data engineering, organizations will be unable to fully leverage their data assets, making it clear how this field is critical to modern business success.