When it comes to flavors of SQL, everyone’s got an opinion—and often a pretty strong one. While the SQL debates aren’t quite as intense as, say, the Python/R holy war in the data science community, they can still generate a fair amount of passion.
What’s not in dispute, however, is the popularity of Microsoft SQL Server. According to Stack Overflow’s developer survey, not only is MS SQL Server one of the most popular SQL database formats, it’s one of the top 3 most popular database formats overall, and has been for the past few years running.
If you’re an analyst, you’ve probably heard of, if not worked directly on, a Microsoft SQL Server project. Whether it’s a homegrown MS SQL transactional database or an Azure SQL data warehouse, Microsoft SQL Server shows up everywhere, which means that there’s a pretty constant need for quality SQL Server ETL tools for data integration and analytics.
In today’s post, we’ve rounded up five of the top tools for managing your SQL Server ETL processes. If you’re not interested in building an ETL pipeline from scratch (honestly, who has the time?), using one of these ready-made tools will make your data pipelines run a lot more smoothly.
You can’t really talk about SQL Server ETL tools without bringing up SSIS, Microsoft’s own easy-to-use ETL tool. In the same way that SQL Server is a popular database format, SSIS is a very popular ETL tool.
SSIS ships with SQL Server, so many users probably already have it on hand. It’s so ubiquitous and works so well with other database formats that data analytics and engineering teams have been known to buy SQL Server licenses just to get access to this ETL tool. And even though SSIS is designed around a drag-and-drop graphical interface, it’s still powerful enough to take on complex projects, making it a good fit for data teams with a range of skill levels.
SSIS price: $931 - 15,000+
Obviously, we’re partial, but we happen to think Panoply and MS SQL Server make a great ETL + data warehouse combination as well. Panoply’s deep bench of predefined data connectors make collecting data from a wide variety of sources as easy as can be. Panoply is designed to be friendly to data teams of all sizes and skill levels, with point-and-click data connector interfaces that can be set up in seconds, and its ELT (extract, load, transform) approach makes collecting and warehousing your data in Microsoft SQL Server that much faster and more efficient.
While Stitch and Fivetran are a good fit for more technical and more analyst-focused data teams, respectively, Panoply’s ETL tool sits in a happy medium, letting users go nuts in SQL (either via its web-based workbench or in their favorite SQL client) if they want or go straight to analysis in their favorite business intelligence/data visualization tool.
Panoply price: see all pricing options; a free trial is available.
Informatica is one of the biggest players in the ETL and data management space (with the price tags to match), and the tools they make—like their ETL tool PowerCenter—demonstrate why. Informatica’s ETL tool has a number of features designed to speed up and streamline data ingestion, like the metadata-based approach it uses for loading and comparison. Plus, built-in automation of ETL pipeline monitoring and error logging makes keeping track of how your data’s moving super easy.
Informatica PowerCenter price: $2,000/month
Stitch’s developer-friendly ETL tool pairs great with MSSQL, especially for data teams with a somewhat more technical bent. Through its built-in SQL server integration, setting Stitch up to load your data takes a matter of minutes, and its replication engine makes extraction—or the ‘E’ in ETL—from almost any data source stable and reliable.
After the connections are set up, Stitch takes care of scheduling and data replication on its own, freeing your data team from writing custom code to refresh the data from all your individual sources or worrying about what to do when a data source API changes.
Stitch price: $100 - $1,000/month
Like Stitch, Fivetran offers a prebuilt Microsoft SQL Server ETL integration. But unlike Stitch, Fivetran is built with less technical teams in mind—the interface is geared toward drag-and-drop workflows for analysts who don’t want to mess around with ETL code.
Fivetran has a large library of prebuilt data connectors, including social media data sources like Snapchat and eCommerce data sources like Shopify, with plenty of other connectors in between. Fivetran also builds new connectors by customer request, so if you have a data source that you’d like to collect and load into your MSSQL data warehouse, Fivetran can take care of the heavy lifting for you while your analysts get to focus on data analysis.
Fivetran price: Depends on usage
If you're an MS SQL Server fan, building a data stack around it just makes sense. You can save yourself time and headaches by choosing an ETL tool that fulfills your technical requirements and your data team's needs.