What Is a Data Pipeline?
A data pipeline is a series of data processing steps. If the data is not currently loaded into the data platform, then it is ingested at the beginning of the pipeline. Then there are a series of steps in which each step delivers an output that is the input to the next step. This continues until the pipeline is complete. In some cases, independent steps may be run in parallel.
Data pipelines consist of three key elements: a source, a processing step or steps, and a destination. In some data pipelines, the destination may be called a sink. Data pipelines enable the flow of data from an application to a data warehouse, from a data lake to an analytics database, or into a payment processing system, for example. Data pipelines also may have the same source and sink, such that the pipeline is purely about modifying the data set. Any time data is processed between point A and point B (or points B, C, and D), there is a data pipeline between those points.