Why you need a PSA in your data architecture?

In my current data systems, I usually create a persistent staging area (PSA) that receives raw/untransformed data, keeps all of it (all history), in the format we receive it (zip, json, csv, etc), etc. That first layer is very important because anything else you generate from it implies human decisions that transform the data … and those decisions can (will) be wrong and will need to be changed. The PSA is the key to maintain an agile data workflow where prototyping and experiments are possible.

Using the PSA, no matter how “bad” you transform your data, you can just fix the transformation code and re-run. The cheap storage and increasing speed of today’s data tools (like HDFS, Apache Spark and many others) allows to move away from the “physical” Data Warehouse that gets loaded incrementally. We are at a point where we can build “just-in-time” data warehouses that serve the purpose of integrating the data to generate the final serving tables (flat, dimensional, etc.) … and then can be deleted. This virtual DW architecture also lets you do prototyping on the design of the DW itself, which is very powerful.

The Persistent Staging Area can also feed the Lambda Architecture’s Master dataset as defined by Nathan Marz in his Big Data book.

I was inspired to write this article after reading Do you feel torn (too)? by Tom Breur where he explores the need for keeping a pristine (raw) version of our business facts (the PSA) combined with an agile (and fast enough) way of presenting the data to the end-users. By being more agile and more responsive we will decrease the tendency for the end-users to request access to the raw data and create silos of alternate realities.

To learn more about the PSA+Lambda Architecture: Here

Below, Humanity’s PSA, The Svalbard Seed Vault

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Written on September 29, 2016