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Cover image for A Visual Guide To: Azure Data Factory
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D for Microsoft Azure

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A Visual Guide To: Azure Data Factory

Curious about big data and Azure Data Factory?


Welcome to the visual guide on Azure Data Factory!! This is a companion article to a detailed explainer I published on A Cloud Guru last week. I recommend you check that out after you read this.

In this post, I'll give you a sense of how the guide was created, and answer these questions:

  • WHAT is Azure Data Factory (ADF)?
  • WHY should you learn about (and use) it?
  • HOW can you continue the learning journey?

Visual Guide to Azure Data Factory

This is what the visual guide to ADF looks like. Check out the article to find the downloadable poster-sized version.

Alt Text

Now let's answer those questions:

What is Microsoft Azure Data Factory (ADF)?

Every startup or enterprise needs data analytics to understand their users, improve their products, and grow their business. The data can come in different formats, be created at different rates or volumes, and be located in diverse data sources (on-premises, in-cloud, or behind-API). Deriving insights requires data to have connecting context and defined structure for consumption by analytics engines.

Data integration services achieve this by collecting data (extract), enriching and processing it as needed (transform) and readying it for use by these engines (load). ADF is a fully managed, serverless data integration service that orchestrates data movement and operationalize data workflows using code-free tooling.

Why is ADF useful?

  • It has 90+ built-in connectors to help ingest data from a variety of popular enterprise data sources.
  • It has a code-free approach (UI wizard) to helping you setup and manage data pipelines.
  • It works seamlessly with multiple compute options for hand-crafted data transformation if necessary.
  • It operates at cloud-scale. You pay for only what you use, and get access to new features as released!

How does it work?

ADF is a set of interconnected systems(connect & collect, transform & enrich, CI/CD & publish, monitor) that give you an end-to-end platform for data engineering. The guide and the module provide more details on ADF components - and workflows that support popular data integration patterns like ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) in a code-free way.

Microsoft Learn Module

Where can I learn more?

Check out the three main resources at the top and bottom of this page to start. In particular, I recommend taking an hour to do two things:

Visual Guides: Motivation

Curious about why I created this visual guide?

65% of us are visual learners, and a third of us have visual-spatial learning ability. We can absorb information better from pictures, and detect patters or make connections faster, to related concepts, as a result.

My visual guides aim to provide learners with something they can use as a pre-read or post-review resource, to accompany traditional learning materials like documentation and hands-on tutorials.

Try it out. Scan the guide above, then take 30 minutes to review this module. Then scan the guide again. Did that help reinforce key terms and concepts? Were you able to identify gaps in understanding on your second pass through the guide? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn visual storytelling? Check out these free workshops and other resources to get started!

Visual Guides: Process

Curious about how I created this visual guide?

My process for creating visual guides is simple. I am visual learner zero. Whenever I want to learn something, I read relevant documentation, complete at least one hands-on tutorial or learning module -- and take visual notes on everything I learn. Here's what that looks like for the visual guide to Azure Data Factory.

I then distill notes into one "big picture" image with illustrations and compositional elements that organize and synthesize information in ways that help me retain and recall it better. Check the tweet below for a time-lapse replay of that process.

Want more visual guides? Follow @SketchTheDocs to visit published guides and be notified of new ones.

In Conclusion

I hope you found this visual guide to Azure Data Factory useful as a high-level visual introduction to the service, and the broader concept of data integration at scale.

Want to continue the learning journey while the concepts are still fresh? Here are three things you can do:

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