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No-Code ETL: How Is It Better Than Manual ETL Coding?

For years, companies have been using the hand-coded Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) process to load data from various data marts into data warehouses. Not only is this way of data integration cumbersome, but it also requires more time and effort.

In fact, most data experts consider ETL as one task that cannot be fully automated. They believe that automation would only be possible if the data was available in a single format and from a single source. A few challenges they mention are:

  1. The ETL process cannot be fully automated because source data is dynamic and changes with each new case.
  2. The ETL process requires multiple tools, and connecting them all would require running multiple scripts to get the job done. Even then the chances of error are a lot higher.
  3. During the automated ETL process, loss of data can become a huge problem and it can’t be detected until the job is complete.

However, in the past few years, many ETL software companies have come forward and developed n0-code ETL solutions that take the pain of manual ETL away. They focus on creating scalable data pipelines instead of automating the process completely. Through smart-mapping between data models, these tools create processes which can collect, clean, and deliver to each disparate source as required. ETL teams still have a role to play but instead of writing code to extract and transform data, they are managing the ETL jobs through a GUI. It makes the process of integration a lot simpler and easier to understand.

Statistics about N0-Code ETL

  • The market for creating no-code (code-free) ETL platforms will increase by almost 40 percent in the next five years.
  • ETL market size was $6 billion in 2017, and it is supposed to grow to $12 billion by the end of 2022. 
  • ETL tools have made data integration easy and that’s why the size of data warehousing is also projected to increase to $35 billion by the end of 2022 from $17 billion in 2017.
  • Average salary of an ETL developer is north of $110,000
  • Average price of an ETL and data integration tool is around $50,000. This means companies using ETL tools save as much as 50% off their current costs.
  • More than 40% companies have already moved from the traditional hand-coded ETL processes to n0-code ETL tools.

Let’s discuss how a n0-code ETL solution can help ETL teams improve their ETL processes. 

N0-Code ETL: How it Helps You?

A no-code ETL platform requires little to no coding. ETL programmers just have to use the relevant connectors to connect each source .e.g. APIs for website data, database servers for database access, and CSV files from storage servers. They can then create a data map using a GUI data mapping tool. Once the data map is complete, the teams just have to run the process and the server will do its job.

They can even add transformation rules to cleanse, re-structure, separate, or remove data sets that are not needed for further processing. Moreover, the teams can set various quality rules to check if the data getting extracted is complete.

Once the data sets have successfully loaded during the ETL testing process, the teams can schedule workflows. These workflow schedulers automate the whole process so that they can run without manual intervention at a designated time period.

These types of no-code ETL solutions can run on-premise or on the cloud. Almost all the ETL solutions have a straightforward, intuitive, and visual interface that permits clients to effectively understand everything throughout the process.

How Manual ETL Codes Work?

Traditional way of coding ETL pipelines for extraction and loading of data is called manual ETL. Manual ETL requires senior developers on board and it is not a single person job. Moreover, the bigger the data pool, the more coding the data integration process would require. This makes the manual ETL process rigid, unscalable, and process-focused. One coding job cannot be replicated for other cases. 

Creating manual ETL pipelines requires a lot of skills, hands-on experience, and time.

  • It would start with recording requirements and outlining the ETL process. 
  • Creating data models for the information that needs to be extracted from each source. 
  • Coding a data pipeline for each source and linking it to the data warehouse
  • Testing ETL processes on a regular basis to ensure that everything works as expected.

The biggest problem with manual ETL is that each pipeline is different from the rest. If a table is being moved from a database, it will require different transformations, while a CSV table will have a different set of transformations. Moreover, coding data quality checks in the ETL process is even more difficult because of lack of parallel processing capabilities. Finally, manual ETL processes don’t have a GUI interface. So, if an error occurs, ETL teams can’t be sure where in the process it occurred and the whole process needs to be checked for bugs.

Why N0-Code ETL is Better than Hand-Coded ETL?

Now that you have an idea about how both ETL processes work, let’s learn why a low-code ETL solution is a much better option for your regular ETL jobs.

  1. Ease of Use

Writing code is not an easy task especially when you have to create data pipelines for each case separately. Even expert developers require time to write code. They need different skills to understand each case and then write code about it.  In most cases, manual ETL jobs require developers to be efficient in more than a few languages. Even then there is no guarantee that the ETL code will deliver the desired results.

On the other end, code-free ETL platforms come pre-loaded with all cases you can imagine. Users just have to create ETL pipelines through given data models. Even non-developers can use code-free ETL solutions easily. 

  1. Easy to Maintain

Let’s be realistic. In manual ETL, an ETL code will not work for all scenarios. So, the developers will have to recode repeatedly on an adhoc basis for each scenario that gets created. Writing code from scratch for all these cases is nowhere cost saving and time efficient.

On the other hand, in a code-free ETL solution, each data flow can be saved. Since everything is available through drag-and-drop options, you can easily create data pipelines within seconds. Even a non-developer can use the given data integration interface to create a data model.

  1. Performance and efficiency

Manual ETL coding can significantly increase the performance of your ETL job. However, each manual ETL coding job will take a lot more time to complete, decreasing the overall efficiency of the ETL process. The same thing can be done with a low-code ETL solution in a much shorter time. 

Similarly, hiring an efficient manual ETL coder is not an easy task. First you will have to spend days finding the best fit. Once the ETL developer is available, you will have to negotiate a salary – just a note here – this will be much more than what you pay for a no-code ETL solution. Once you have hired the developer, he/she will take time in understanding the system and data flows that you would use to extract business insights.

  1. ETL Process Structure

If you are writing your own code for the ETL process, or if you have hired a developer to do it for you, ensure that you take care of bugs and errors in the code. This would mean handling error exceptions, generating error logs, and creating separate repositories for each code so that others can access them when needed.

But since doing all this is a tiresome task, you can get rid of all these headaches by using a low-code ETL solution that allows you to see the whole data flow in action without worrying about technicalities. 

  1. Scalability

Most manual ETL jobs are unscalable because they are designed for a specific case. If the case is changed, or if a new data source is added, then the code will again need to be revisited. In some cases, a completely new code would need to be written for handling the new source. This adds up the cost and reduces efficiency. 

On the other hand, low-code ETL solutions don’t rely on a specific case. You can use as many ETL cases as you want, create as many jobs as you desire, and the solution will work as expected. You can increase the performance of the solution further by adding more RAM to the CPU.

  1. Workflow Automation

ETL developers code workflows themselves and this requires a lot of effort. On top of that, scheduling these workflows is an even bigger problem and there is no workaround available for them in a manual environment. So, ETL developers have to run these workflows manually every time they are assigned an ETL job.

On the other hand, low-code ETL solutions not only help create workflows but they also automate them. Users of code-free ETL solutions can create schedules for running various ETL jobs. They don’t require manual coding, don’t need to be started manually, and allow easier workflow management.

  1. Cost: Manual ETL vs No-Code ETL

Let’s see. An ETL engineer will charge close to $110,000 per year if you hire him for creating ETL jobs and managing the ETL process. However, you won’t be hiring only a single ETL developer to carry out the project. There are at least three people on an ETL team that include one developer, one architect, and one Quality Assurance expert. Total cost can be somewhere between $300,000 to $400,000. In short, manual ETL is not cheap.

On the other hand, a code-free ETL solution is around $50,000 to $80,000 to carry out various levels of data integrations. Apart from the software cost, there are no other costs associated. In fact, ETL clients get free customer support from most ETL solution developers for complex projects. This means they can get them on live call whenever they get stuck during a data integration job.

  1. ETL Customizations

There is a misconception that manual ETL jobs allow more flexibility because businesses can create data pipelines of their choice. They can make any type of customizations to the code they want, something not available in a low-code ETL solution.

While the first part is true, however, the same level of customizations are available in no-code ETL solutions. In fact, these no-code ETL solutions are much faster in delivering results. Where a manual ETL job would take days to construct, the code-free solutions would be able to run, process, and complete it within hours.

Almost all code-free ETL solutions allow some level of customizations to the users. Astera Centerprise is a code-free ETL solution that allows its users to add transformations manually for each data flow. The users can add as many transformations as they want, and in any way they want it to proceed. There are no restrictions. if they get stuck, they can always get help from the support team.


No-Code ETL solutions are the future of ETL processes. They are better than manual ETL coding in all aspects. 

In short, they are flexible, cost-effective, faster, much more organized, easy to maintain, provide better ETL job scheduling, and are much more reliable. 

If you are looking for a code-free data integration platform that can help you create ETL pipelines for your business easily, then get in touch with Astera Centerprise team today. You can also get a 14-day free trial.


Sharjeel Ashraf

Sharjeel loves to write about all things data integration, data management and ETL processes. In his free time, he is on the road or working on some cool project.

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