What are Data Contracts?
Data contracts are agreements that define how data should be structured and processed within a system. They are essential for communication between different parts of an organization or software components. Data contracts ensure that data remains consistent and compatible across different versions or components of a system. Here’s what you need to know about data contracts.
Terms of Services
Data contracts include terms of services that describe how data can be used, whether for development, testing, or deployment. These terms outline the rules and guidelines for data usage.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
SLAs specify the quality of data delivery, including uptime, error rates, and availability. They ensure that data products meet the agreed-upon standards and can be relied upon.
Metadata in Data Contracts
There are three key elements of metadata in data contracts:
1. Schema: Schema provides information on data processing and analysis. It consists of rules and constraints placed on the columns of a dataset. Schema can evolve over time, so it’s important to ensure that changes can be detected and reacted to while still allowing data to be processed with the old schema.
2. Semantics: Semantics capture the rules of each business domain. They describe how businesses transition between different stages in their lifecycle and how they relate to each other. Like schema, semantics can also change over time.
3. Service Level Agreements: SLAs specify the availability and freshness of data in a data product. They help design data consumption pipelines effectively and include commitments such as maximum expected delay and metrics like mean time between failures.
The Significance of Data Contracts
Data contracts offer several advantages:
1. Compatibility Assurance: Data contracts ensure that data produced and consumed by different components or system versions remain compatible, minimizing data processing complications during schema evolution.
2. Consistency Enforcement: Data contracts promote consistency in data representation. They require all producers and consumers to adhere to the same schema, enhancing data correctness and system reliability.
3. Version Control: Data contracts can be versioned and tracked over time, allowing for structured management of changes to data schemas, which is crucial for seamless schema evolution.
4. Effective Communication: Data contracts facilitate effective communication among organizational teams or components. They establish a shared understanding of data structures and formats, promoting collaboration.
5. Error Prevention: Well-defined data contracts prevent errors, particularly in schema mismatches or unexpected alterations. They enable early detection of schema-related issues.
Practical Ways to Enforce Data Contracts
A data processing pipeline can be used to enforce data contracts effectively:
1. Schema changes are managed within a Git repository and applied to data-producing applications to ensure consistent data structures.
2. Applications send their data to Kafka Topics, separating raw data from Change Data Capture (CDC) streams.
3. A Flink App validates the data against Schema Registry schemas from the raw data streams. Inaccurate data goes to the Dead Letter Topic, while valid data is sent to the validated Data Topic.
4. Real-time applications can access data directly from the validated topics.
5. Data from the validated Data Topic is stored for additional checks, including validation against specific SLAs.
6. This data is then sent to the Data Warehouse for in-depth analysis.
7. If any SLAs are breached, alerts are sent to consumers and producers.
8. Invalidated Flink Apps review real-time data for potential fixes using a recovery Flink App.
By following this comprehensive pipeline, data consistency, validation, and reliability are ensured throughout the process, facilitating efficient data analysis and monitoring.
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About the Author
The author is a Civil Engineering Graduate (2022) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, with a keen interest in Data Science, especially Neural Networks and their applications.
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