It’s a geeky term that stands for Extract, Transform and Load and used in order to manage databases. Apart from us mentioning ETL on this page, we’re quite keen to avoid this jargon as we like the term data transformation better.
ETL is really all about using software data tools to get data (a dataset) from one or more databases, manipulating it using rules or actions e.g. reformat, merge, split, de-dupe the data and then uploading the transformed results to another database. You could of course update the original database if you needed to.
ETL’s non-geeky equivalent terms include data migration, data conversion, and data mapping, which to some readers could be seen as still geeky!
ETL comes in handy as it eliminates the need to do repetitive data transformation task manually. Instead of spending hours manually transforming the data the alternative options are either to write some bespoke software coding or use a data tool which are available as a ready-to-use software package.
These data tools make the job of transforming data easier and besides saving time, these data tools will support different database formats (Oracle, SAP, mySQL) and different data types (CSV, XML, flat, fixed).
These data tools are expensive but powerful applications which you install on your local machine. Both the source and destination dataset structures will be shown to the user and the graphical display will show lines mapping the data across to the different structure, hence the term data mapping.
Data mappings can be integral to your processes as some data tools will also allow a data mapping to be scheduled so that the rules can run on datasets based on a schedule which will automatically extract live data, transform it using the data mapping rules and making sure that it gets to its destination (the transformed dataset).
All-in-all a very simple concept and terminology for what is a really complex task as data comes in all shapes and sizes.
And just in case you’re wondering… Yes, DataWand would be classed as an ETL tool though its different from traditional ETL tools as the DataWand Wizard tool is available online and it manipulates the data based on the actions you’ve chosen and then displays the transformed data results immediately which you can then email to yourself and upload it to a database if you wanted to.