Choosing a data pipeline orchestration technology in Azure

Most big data solutions consist of repeated data processing operations, encapsulated in workflows. A pipeline orchestrator is a tool that helps to automate these workflows. An orchestrator can schedule jobs, execute workflows, and coordinate dependencies among tasks.

What are your options for data pipeline orchestration?

In Azure, the following services and tools will meet the core requirements for pipeline orchestration, control flow, and data movement:

These services and tools can be used independently from one another, or used together to create a hybrid solution. For example, the Integration Runtime (IR) in Azure Data Factory V2 can natively execute SSIS packages in a managed Azure compute environment. While there is some overlap in functionality between these services, there are a few key differences.

Key Selection Criteria

To narrow the choices, start by answering these questions:

  • Do you need big data capabilities for moving and transforming your data? Usually this means multi-gigabytes to terabytes of data. If yes, then narrow your options to those that best suited for big data.

  • Do you require a managed service that can operate at scale? If yes, select one of the cloud-based services that aren't limited by your local processing power.

  • Are some of your data sources located on-premises? If yes, look for options that can work with both cloud and on-premises data sources or destinations.

  • Is your source data stored in Blob storage on an HDFS filesystem? If so, choose an option that supports Hive queries.

Capability matrix

The following tables summarize the key differences in capabilities.

General capabilities

Azure Data Factory SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) Oozie on HDInsight
Managed Yes No Yes
Cloud-based Yes No (local) Yes
Prerequisite Azure Subscription SQL Server Azure Subscription, HDInsight cluster
Management tools Azure Portal, PowerShell, CLI, .NET SDK SSMS, PowerShell Bash shell, Oozie REST API, Oozie web UI
Pricing Pay per usage Licensing / pay for features No additional charge on top of running the HDInsight cluster

Pipeline capabilities

Azure Data Factory SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) Oozie on HDInsight
Copy data Yes Yes Yes
Custom transformations Yes Yes Yes (MapReduce, Pig, and Hive jobs)
Azure Machine Learning scoring Yes Yes (with scripting) No
HDInsight On-Demand Yes No No
Azure Batch Yes No No
Pig, Hive, MapReduce Yes No Yes
Spark Yes No No
Execute SSIS Package Yes Yes No
Control flow Yes Yes Yes
Access on-premises data Yes Yes No

Scalability capabilities

Azure Data Factory SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) Oozie on HDInsight
Scale up Yes No No
Scale out Yes No Yes (by adding worker nodes to cluster)
Optimized for big data Yes No Yes