How to make the most of Azure Data Factory?

By:   |   Updated: 2023-12-04   |   Comments   |   Related: > Azure Data Factory


As the digital landscape evolves rapidly, businesses are inundated with data from different and numerous sources. And this is why many vendors understand that centralizing, processing, and visualizing this data is legitimate to gain insights and drive business growth.


Microsoft Azure Data Factory (ADF) stands out as a game-changer, providing a cloud-based data integration service that orchestrates and automates data movement and transformation. As an intuitive suite of tools, ADF enables businesses to streamline complex ETL processes, guaranteeing that data from various sources is consolidated and rendered actionable.

Azure Data Factory (ADF) presents itself as a cure-all solution. Through ADF's Linked Services, datasets can be tailored for each store's database, funneling data into a centralized warehouse. Dynamic data pipelines in ADF facilitate data migration while data flow activities cleanse and enrich the data. By harnessing the power of Azure HDInsight and Data Lake for advanced analytics and integrating with visualization tools like Power BI, companies can now access a unified, constantly refreshed sales analytics dashboard, granting them the competitive edge of real-time business intelligence.

Understand Your Data to Master the Power of Azure Data Factory

Before diving deep into ADF's extensive features, one should start with inspiration: experiencing the information itself. Comprehending your data's structure, assets, and intricacies plays a crucial role in maximizing the advantages of any data integration tool, and ADF is no exception.

Data Profiling

Start by comparing the value of your data. ADF integrates seamlessly with Azure Data Lake Storage and Azure SQL Data Warehouse, supplying tools to conduct facts profiling. This allows for identifying anomalies, missing values, or inconsistencies that would skew analytics or disrupt processes.

Data Lineage

Recognize where your statistics originate and how it interacts with other statistic sets. ADF's intuitive interface aids in tracing facts lineage, making sure transparency and trustworthiness for your information pipelines. This is especially important in complicated ecosystems where records are pulled from multiple assets because it enables maintaining record integrity.

Data Granularity

Determine the level of detail your statistics capture. Whether it's transaction-stage info from income databases or summarized records from advertising and marketing analytics, expertise granularity assists in setting up appropriate adjustments and aggregations within ADF.

Data Modeling

Data modeling is pivotal when working with both relational and non-relational databases in ADF. Relational databases emphasize based tables and relationships, ensuring data integrity. In assessment, non-relational databases provide flexibility tailored to unique wishes, like record, key-cost, and graph databases.

The Recipe Behind Azure Data Factory

To understand how ADF operates and the infrastructure that supports it, let's discover the technical elements that compose the foundation of ADF's "recipe."

Languages & Frameworks

ADF relies on the Microsoft .NET framework and its extensive libraries. Python and PowerShell are also important in executing specific tasks, including scripting and certain monitoring functions.

ADF also introduces Azure Resource Manager templates to implement infrastructure as code for Azure solutions. The template uses declarative syntax where the user indicates what they plan to deploy without writing the sequence of programming commands to create it. The template should contain all the resources to deploy and their properties.


 The architecture of ADF is quite complex and varied:

  • Control Flow: Responsible for orchestrating a large set of activities.
  • Data Flow: Similar to the one introduced in SSIS, it offers a visual interface to perform data transformations based on a Spark-based platform.
  • Integration Runtime: The compute engine of Azure Data Factory; responsible for the following tasks: Run Data Flow with an Azure Managed Spark Engine.
  • Linked Services: Similar to connection strings, they contain the information needed for the service to connect to external resources.
  • Datasets: A named view of data that references the data used in the activities as inputs and outputs.
  • Pipelines: Defined as a logical grouping of activities performing a specific task together.

Data Integration Environment

ADF allows users to choose between a code-first or a visual design-first environment. This capability ensures that individuals with different backgrounds and expertise can collaborate to deliver innovative solutions. ADF also provides a smooth integration with Git for efficient version control and a debug environment to help improve the development process.


ADF offers connectors for a large selection of relational and non-relational databases, data lakes, document shares, and others for on-premises, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments.

Monitoring & Management

To follow the best practices, if we combine ADF with Azure Monitor and Azure Log Analytics, we can have a solution with monitoring and alerting abilities. The ADF portal provides a user-friendly interface for monitoring and managing statistical operations.

Azure Data Factory: Bridging the Gap Between DevOps and Scrum

ADF, acknowledged as Microsoft's prime data integration service, has emerged as a crucial instrument in the data-driven business arena. Apart from its exceptional data integration capabilities, ADF's architecture and features epitomize a seamless fusion of the principles of DevOps and Scrum.

Iterative Development & Continuous Improvement – Scrum Foundations

Scrum places great importance on the iterative growth of projects through its sprint-based method. Teams engage in brief, concentrated periods, consistently offering incremental advancements to the product. The Agile Delivery Framework seamlessly harmonizes with this ideology.

  • Sprint-Based Pipeline Development. In ADF, data engineers can collaborate in agile sprints to gradually construct, verify, and enforce statistics pipelines. For instance, a particular sprint might also emphasize data ingestion, while the following sprint could recognize the transformation approaches. Subsequently, some other dash might also delve into the optimization elements.
  • Backlog & Prioritization. Whether they involve creating a new pipeline or improving an existing one, ADF features and modifications can be expressed as user stories or tasks building the product backlog, which can be continuously refined and prioritized per Scrum principles.
  • Collaborative Reviews. The outcomes of the development cycles in ADF can be presented to stakeholders, gathering their input and guaranteeing that it aligns with the requirements of the business.

Automation and Monitoring – The DevOps Ethos

Scrum, known for its organized methodology, and DevOps, with its strong focus on automation, collaboration, and rapid feedback, complement each other seamlessly.

  • Version Control. The integration of ADF with Git includes the process of automatically testing every change to the code base as soon as possible. Continuous delivery follows the test performed during continuous integration and pushes changes to a pre-production or production system.
  • Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD). By integrating ADF with Azure DevOps, each modification made to a data pipeline can be automatically tested and deployed.
  • Real-Time Monitoring. ADF only stores pipeline execution data for 45 days. However, with Azure Monitor, the data can be retained for longer since it allows you to route diagnostic logs for analysis to multiply targets.

Collaboration – A Synthesis of DevOps and Scrum

  • Shared Development Environment. Numerous developers can collaborate on an identical ADF instance, encouraging collective possession of code and promoting a culture of shared accountability.
  • Unified Communication. The amalgamation with tools such as Azure DevOps guarantees that developers, operations, and even non-technical stakeholders possess a communal platform to exchange information, cooperate, and monitor advancement.

Getting Acquainted: Azure Data Factory vs. Data Factory in Microsoft Fabric

Microsoft Fabric's Data Factory is a progressive advancement from Azure Data Factory, offering an advanced platform for complex ETL tasks. It effortlessly integrates with contemporary frameworks like Lakehouse and Datawarehouse, ushering in streamlined functionalities like direct interfacing with data sources using "Connections." Serving as an upgrade to its predecessor, its primary objective is to streamline and enhance business data movement and transformation capabilities.

The recent enhancements in the Fabric's Data Factory present some new features that sets it apart from its predecessor, Azure Data Factory. Below is a feature-by-feature comparison:

Azure Data Factory Data Factory in Fabric Explanation
Pipeline Data pipeline Fabric's pipeline offers improved integration with platforms like Lakehouse and Datawarehouse.
Mapping dataflow Dataflow Gen2 Dataflow Gen2 promises a more streamlined experience for transformations.
Activities Activities Fabric is working towards encompassing all Azure Data Factory activities, with new additions like the Office 365 Outlook activity.
Dataset Not Present Fabric has eliminated the dataset concept in favor of using Connections for data source interfacing.
Linked Service Connections Connections in Fabric offer a more intuitive creation process.
Triggers Schedules Schedules in Fabric will soon be joined by other Azure Data Factory triggers.
Publish Save, Run Fabric allows direct content saving without the need for publishing.
Integration runtime (Autoresolve, Azure) Not Present Fabric omits the Integration runtime concept.
Self-hosted integration runtimes On-premises Data Gateway Design for this Fabric capability is underway.
Azure-SSIS integration runtimes Pending Decision Fabric is yet to finalize its roadmap for this feature.
MVNet, Private End Point Pending Decision Fabric is still deciding on this feature's integration.
Expression language Expression language Both platforms use a similar expression language.
Authentication in linked service Authentication type in connection Fabric supports popular Azure Data Factory authentication types, with more on the way.
CI/CD CI/CD Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment is on Fabric's near-future roadmap.
Export and Import ARM Save as Fabric offers a 'Save as' feature for pipeline duplication.
Monitoring Monitoring, Run history Fabric's monitoring provides advanced functionalities for broader insights.


Amidst the chaotic realm of processing and merging information, Microsoft's Azure Data Factory and the Data Factory in Microsoft Fabric emerge as powerful remedies for enterprises, conquering a myriad of data obstacles. For quite some time, Azure Data Factory has been recognized as a reliable cloud-based service for integrating data. Nevertheless, the transition to Microsoft Fabric's Data Factory introduces a more polished and comprehensive platform designed specifically for current data requirements. Although, still in a preliminary phase, this cutting-edge tool vows to further streamline the ETL tasks and push boundaries in data integration, demonstrating Microsoft's dedication to keeping up with the demands of the modern digital landscape.

Next Steps

As the digital landscape continuously evolves, understanding the full breadth of Microsoft Fabric Data Factory capabilities is paramount for any organization seeking to optimize its data integration processes.

In the next article, we will dive more into the Data Factory - a single product that is easy to understand, set up, create, and manage, offering persona-optimized experiences and tools in an integrated user interface.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Amira Bedhiafi Amira Bedhiafi utilizes Azure Analysis Services to harness the power of scalable, cloud-based OLAP cubes for advanced data analysis and multidimensional modeling.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Article Last Updated: 2023-12-04

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