From Data Chaos to Clarity: Streamlined Data Processing with Apache Beam and Pydantic

From Data Chaos to Clarity: Streamlined Data Processing with Apache Beam and Pydantic

Johan Hammarstedt
October 25, 2023

Picture a world where data flows ceaselessly, an endless river of possibilities. But, amidst this torrent, the real treasures are often buried under layers of noise and uncertainty. In today's data-driven landscape, organizations are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to transform raw data into actionable insights. Data collection is merely the first step of a grand adventure. The true magic happens when you unearth patterns, distilling the chaos into clarity. The era of artificial intelligence owes its existence to technologies and frameworks that have, like extracting gold from a river, unlocked the potential of data. 

Conquering the uncharted data lakes can be intimidating without proper navigation. Enter Apache Beam, a data processing framework born in 2016 that, like a seasoned navigator, brings order to the data tumult by defining scalable and parallelizable pipelines. Constructing Beam pipelines is a relatively straightforward task, yet managing and structuring complex pipelines and data models can pose a formidable challenge. While Beam functions brilliantly on its own, it doesn't inherently provide robust data validation principles, leaving the quality assurance aspect uncertain. Here's where Pydantic, a nimble Python library gaining prominence in recent years, steps in to make a significant impact on your pipeline. In this post, we'll explore how we leverage Pydantic at Gilion to supercharge our Beam pipelines.

The Data Quality Imperative

Imagine your data as a vast treasure trove, filled with gems of information waiting to be uncovered. However, amidst the brilliance, lurk a shadow of inconsistency, inaccuracy and unreliability. Data quality, like a compass, guides you through these treacherous waters. 

Data quality forms the bedrock of any organization driven by information. It encompasses various traits such as consistency, accuracy, reliability, relevance, and timeliness. While perfection might elude us, having well-defined methods for modeling, parsing, and transforming data goes a long way in maintaining data integrity. While Beam offers tools for creating scalable processing pipelines, it doesn't guarantee data quality by default. Handling diverse data sources and models can lead to challenges if not executed properly. This is where Pydantic enters.

Robust Data Parsing

Delving deeper into your data voyage, robust data parsing becomes your trusted sword, and Pydantic is one of the best blades when it comes to parsing data. With predefined data models and validation rules, Pydantic ensures that your data is pristine, ready for analysis.

Take a moment to visualize a complex data model, much like a puzzle with missing pieces Pydantic transform the puzzle into a complete picture. In example 1, we define a data model, and when the object is unpacked at line 20, it not only enforces type safety but also wields the power to rectify incorrectly formatted data using the field validator on line 11. Setting the mode to 'before' ensures this operation precedes validation. This is the essence of Pydantic’s strength. 

Moreover, Pydantic allows you to navigate through the labyrinth of nested data effortlessly. One data model can be a collection of enums, objects and other types, making it possible to capture complex input data. Once the model is defined and the raw input is unpacked into a Pydantic object, it becomes a treasure chest of information – accessible, readable and ready for exploration.

The data transformation mandate

Raw data often arrives in a chaotic state, requiring extensive cleansing and transformation. Beam, or any other pipeline tool, lays a solid foundation for data processing. However, the path to a consistent and standardized data model is filled with challenges. 

In this adventure, your fellow explorers are your data and analytics teams. They must understand the landscape, the assumptions, and the transformations applied to the data. Beam provides them with powerful tools for operations, but maintaining a consistent data model from input to output is still a great quest. Here Pydantic again returns as your trusted companion.  

Streamline your data transformations

By incorporating Pydantic into your pipeline, it acts as a bridge, allowing you to define both input and output models. This enforces a clear flow of the data and enables easy transformations at both ends of the pipeline. 

In example two, by specifying the date type on line 16, Pydantic ensures that the birthday input is correctly typed, facilitating straightforward datetime manipulations to calculate the age on line 24. Pydantic can also handle differently formatted dates using field validators, similar to the approach in example 1.

By specifying the output model, you assure consistency in your data journey. Transformations and validation are applied with precision, guaranteeing end-to-end data integrity. Furthermore, if the data has a predefined JSON schema, Pydantic's datamodel-codegen package can, like a blueprint, allow you to auto-generate models from it. Teams can as a result have clear data contracts and share data models or schemas that will generate Pydantic objects to be used in all pipelines. 

Addressing Unique Data Challenges

In the grand tapestry of data processing, every thread represents a unique challenge. At Gilion, we stand before the quest of processing millions of data points daily from over fifty different systems, spanning from accounting software, to CRM tools, and user engagement systems, and turn them into metrics. As data engineers, we must understand the ways of each system, translating each distinct dialect into one common language. 

Nevertheless, Pydantic may not be necessary and could overcomplicate straightforward tasks. In cases where pre-defined Beam functions can perform simple mappings, a standard pipeline might suffice. However, at Gilion, the fusion of Beam and Pydantic has not only provided clear parsing and end-to-end structure throughout the data lifecycle, but has also turbocharged our pipeline development speed.

In conclusion, data engineering revolves around leveraging the best available tools to enable businesses to unlock the full potential of their data. Whether it’s navigating through the vast oceans of information, deciphering the intricate languages of diverse data systems, or sculpting raw data into refined insights, different tools come into play. Understanding these different synergies allows us to reach new heights, and in turn sail our business toward the next horizon.