Real-time vs Batch Data Processing Solutions

Introduction to Real-time and Batch Data Integration

The first blog of the series discussing data integration delivers a well-rounded base for the next concepts being introduced in this blog. The first blog of the series gives you a handy overview of the five different approaches to data integration along with a comprehensive pros and cons list. 

As I was doing research for this article’s topic, I kept going back to the same question of how exactly is data processed. My research led to more questions popping into my head like, does data integration only work in real-time or is there more to it? So, let me share what I figured out after much research! 

Short answer: The way integration processes data is more complex. But stay with me, we will break this down together!

Real-time data processing is literally what it sounds, integrating data in real-time. But, the concept of “real-time” is worth zooming in on since processing and moving data obviously isn’t immediate. Real-time data integration is the idea of processing information the moment it’s obtained. In contrast, batch data-based integration methods involve the process of storing all the data received until a certain amount is collected and then processed as a batch. Overall, it is important to remember that one is not better than the other, but rather based on your business’ needs and strategic goals. 

Process and Examples 

Batch-Based Data Processing

In order for me to understand the concept of batch-based processing, I make sure to remember two key components. Batch processing in data integration means: 

#1 Processing at a scheduled time. 

#2 Processing a sufficient amount of data. 

This helps me remember that when data is processed as a batch, data will be collected and organized into one transaction file. This transaction file (source) is then stored until enough data has been collected, at which point the master file (target, like a central database) is updated via data integration at scheduled periods of time. So, data is not only collected together but also processed together. 

Some Examples

Real life examples make it easier to comprehend this concept, as you will see first hand how segments of your day to day life are organized through a batch-based system. 

  • Electric bill: At the end of the month I’m already expecting that my electric bill is going to tell me that I need to stop baking so much and have to start turning off lights when I leave. Oh yes, the good old hydro bill is an example of a batch-based system for data processing! Your electrical consumption data is collected during a set period of time before being processed together as a batch in the form of your bill.
  • Credit Card Transaction: Your credit card transactions are a slightly different example of batch-based processing; transactions and payments take time to be posted, and aren’t reflected until a later date.

Real-Time Data Processing

Just like there are two key components that helped me remember the nuances of batch-based processing as an approach to data integration and your data’s movement strategy, I have parallel tricks for real-time. 

#1 It is immediate

 #2 It is constantly up-to-date

 #3 it is carried out at the time of the event. 

With real-time processing, as soon as the transaction takes place, the master file is updated at the same time, mirroring a constantly updating cycle of information. With real-time processing, immediate data integration is required so that the information is updated ASAP. 

Some Examples

When you book a flight and you’re able to select your seat as a part of the process of buying your ticket, make sure you thank real-time data movement for ensuring your spot is not double booked. 

  • Reservation systems: When you book that five star all-inclusive vacation or a table at that little Italian restaurant, the master booking database is updated immediately so that no one else can book your spot.
  • Point of Sale Terminals: As soon as you swipe, tap, or input your pin at a POS terminal, the funds are automatically collected from your account. Similarly, when you receive a refund, the funds will be reflected back into your respective banking account immediately.   

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Approach

Batch-Based Data Integration System

Advantages Disadvantages 
Considerable amounts of data are processed at a scheduled time via a single process. This promotes efficiency as it avoids having to process data every time it is received.   Since the information is processed at a scheduled time, the data takes time to be processed. Delays in updating master databases can sometimes occur
This process can be carried out at any time, including during a time that the computer system is idle. This allows operators to prioritize timing of batches easily. The information can be outdated. Depending on the circumstances, this would be detrimental in a situation where data really should be updated immediately, AKA when you’re booking seats on a plane from my examples above.  It’s important that you select the right data movement strategy for your business!

When should your business consider batch-based Data Integration System?

The use of batch-based processing was the preferred approach for many companies, especially those using older technologies that didn’t have the resources to run real-time processing and wanted to save network bandwidth. Although the use of this approach has been declining, many companies like Amazon are still using a form of batch-based processing to move data. 

Batch-based processing is most commonly used by companies that have a high volume of orders. For example, if you have 1,000 orders per day, the system won’t handle it if it is processing each order in real time. Especially if the system does not have the resources to support the volume of orders. Using a batch-based system, allows the orders to be processed as a queue rather than all at once which would clog the system. Similarly, if you have high volume of SKUs, it is better to run them as a batch in order to avoid system throttles. Running these SKU as a batch would allow the system to allocate resources for when it is time to run the SKU, this will prevent the system from getting backed up. Also when these SKU need to be updated, running a batch-base system will allow these updates to run on the back-end rather than in real-time. Overall, batch based processing promotes efficiency and ensures that the system does not get clogged with orders or SKU. 

Real-Time Data Integration System

Advantages Disadvantages 
One of the main advantages is that the data is processed immediately. This is beneficial as the information is updated ASAP which is ideal when you are dealing with reservations. It is costly to have numerous personnel that immediately processes incoming data without further data integration and automation to ensure data is where and how it needs to be on the other end of the integration
Not only does this process promote speed but it also ensures that the information is up-to-date and not delayed. 

When should your business consider Real-Time Data Integration System? 

On the other end of the stick, real-time data movement focuses on the speed that data is processed and ensures that information is always up-to-date. Speed has become critical to businesses especially if you want to have an edge over your competitors. This approach to data movement as part of a broader data integration solution is often used by businesses that schedule shippings since they need to have up-to-date information on inventory. 

For example, if you are running a home decor business, you need to know when you are running low or have completely run out of inventory so that your customers do not order products that are out of stock. This kind of valuable information needs to be up-to-date in order to prevent order and shipping delays and to promote a positive customer experience. Using real-time processing can give you an edge over your competitors, depending on your business’ specific needs, as your customers are given actual real-time updates on their orders rather than outdated information.

Conclusion 

Let’s go back to our original question of this blog, is data integration full stop in real-time or is it more complex? Data integration is NOT always done in real-time, and your options for configuring how your data moves as a part of your broader data integration strategy is a lot more complex than I thought. Choosing how your data is processed involves understanding your business’ needs and determining which approach—batched or real-time—  is the best fit for your business. Again, this decision depends on your business, strategy, data transaction volume,and the kind of customer experience you want to promote. To wrap it up, there are several reasons for considering either data movement systems, bottomline is……. this choice renders on your business strategy and needs.  

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