Data Integration Tools Introduction
If you’re searching for a comparison between Airbyte and Fivetran, you’re probably already familiar with ETL and ELT as a concept, so we won’t get into that here. Both ELT services are considered part of the modern data stack but they vary in offerings — especially on cost savings vs. time savings. There’s definitely a time and place for both, as proven by some of the customer logos they have on their websites. But which solution is the best choice?
Fivetran: At a glance
Fivetran is a no-code, managed ELT solution built for analytics and data engineers to get data pipelines up and running quickly. Its primary purpose is to move data from SaaS applications like Salesforce to a data warehouse like Snowflake. Fivetran started in 2012 and has many mature integrations out of the box.
Airbyte: At a glance
Airbyte is an open-source data syncing solution for both ELT pipelines and (recently) reverse ETL pipelines after their Grouparoo acquisition. Airbyte started in 2020 with an open-source approach as a key differentiator but also offers managed solutions.
Feature Comparison Overview
Both companies continue to build on top of their wide range of source connectors available. In fact, more dated articles on ELT tools will show lower numbers than what Fivetran and Airbyte report on their website because they’re always in active development.
Airbyte and Fivetran also support multiple destinations including the major data warehouses, databases, and data lakes, but Airbyte does offer a fair amount more to cover a portion of the long-tail of less-popular connectors.
If one company doesn’t have the connector you’re looking for, just stop reading here and go with the one that does. Otherwise, there are other factors at play.
The winner on existing connectors… well it’s a tie.
Fivetran’s customizability for connectors is limited through Fivetran’s cloud functions. Fivetran will take care of the transformation and works well with dbt on this. Customers can code custom functions to edit connectors. And because Fivetran supports multiple serverless platforms like Azure functions, Google Cloud functions, and AWS Lambda, functions can be written using C#, F#, Go, Java, Node.js, or Python.
The Airbyte Connector Development Kit (CDK) allows for custom connector development. This simplifies the process for you to edit existing connectors to your preferences and use case. You can also build new custom connectors and collectively maintain this integration with the rest of the Airbyte community, who also may use this connector. It’s no surprise that Airbyte wanted to address the long-tail of connectors when the founders started the company.
The winner on customizability is… Airbyte
Maintenance & Support
Data pipelines break all the time. So it’s not a shock that this is an important criteria by which to evaluate — especially with how different the two companies approach this given their closed-source vs. open-source philosophy.
Fivetran has customer support channels and ticketing systems in place when things don’t work as expected. Candidly, they may sometimes just ask you what you’ve tried instead of helping you fix the problem off the bat, but there are agents in place to help, and the more you pay (especially on enterprise) the more support and better SLAs there are. Fivetran claims response times as fast as 1 hour for customers on the Standard plan and above, but it may not be a solution from an agent, just a reply.
Airbyte's open-source solution on the other hand will have you relying on documentation, GitHub project board, and community discourse to get across the finish line when encountering issues. Or, ideally but not to be expected, someone in the community just fixes it. Airbyte Cloud customers have in-app chat support as well.
The winner on maintenance & support is… Fivetran
Fivetran focuses on ELT only, meaning it syncs in one direction: from business tools to your warehouse. The use case for Fivetran is to follow the hub-and-spoke philosophy of centralizing all data into a warehouse so that the data can be used for analytics purposes. For syncing in the opposite direction via Reverse ETL, you’ll have to find an additional vendor.
Airbyte also is only able to sync in one direction, the same as Fivetran. Airbyte did acquire Grouparoo in 2022 to eventually add Reverse ETL into its mix of product offerings and claims to release that at some point in 2023. To be clear, this would still only Airbtye to offer 2 one-way syncs, and not a true bidirectional sync. Meaning ELT and Reverse ETL are used for two separate use cases, but if you want to simply keeps two connectors in sync, Airbyte will overwrite data and will not account for merge conflicts.
If you’re looking for a true two-way sync that keeps SaaS applications like Salesforce and your data store such as Postgres in sync with each other, Bracket is a solution focused on this. Unlike with Fivetran & Airbyte, with Bracket you avoid problems like:
- managing two providers
- not having unified logging and error tracking
- running into data duplication or consistency problems with these two independent sources running.
The winner on sync direction is… Airbyte (if you will have a use case beyond just ELT)
Fivetran allows for syncs as fast as 15 minutes on its non-enterprise pricing tiers. The enterprise tier will get you as fast as 5 minute syncs. The lower pricing tiers have even slower sync speeds and the default setting is 6 hour data refreshes. Granted, if the data is large and takes a long time to replicate, the subsequent sync will only begin after the initial one has completed, even if the sync refresh period is shorter than the time it takes to actually sync all the data. In this case, it’s advisable for you to check how many rows you intend on syncing and what type of syncing Fivetran supports for that connector (e.g. incremental vs. full refresh).
Airbyte allows for syncs every 5 minutes in its open-source version, which require a paid license. However, not all connectors have change data capture, especially compared to Fivetran. This could become a problem: without an incremental sync you may have to wait on a full refresh, which could take much longer than five minutes depending on the size of the data.
Bracket allows for up to real-time syncs, though the speed depends on the pricing tier you select.
The winner on sync frequency is…Fivetran (it’ll cost you though)
Fivetran charges based on Monthly Active Rows for data pipelines, which are rows that are inserted, updated, or deleted by Fivetran connectors. They claim that 2-18% of all rows synced in a given month will be “active”. This pricing scheme, though affordable at early stages, can get quite expensive as your company scales and has high volumes of data. In fact, it’s a frequent complaint and the reason people often search for Fivetran alternatives. Besides being expensive, this pricing scheme is volatile: who can predict how many rows will be active in a month, or how much data they’ll be syncing after six months of growth?
Fivetran has a 14 day free trial.
In contrast, Airbyte’s open-source product is free. Engineers need to manage the infrastructure needed to run the pipelines.
For their Cloud solution, Airbyte has a credit-based pricing model. Credits are used based on volume so the larger the volume, the higher the pricing is. However, you have to buy credits prior to consumption of the credits and usage of the product. It still isn't super obvious exactly how many credits you’ll use, but at least you’re paying for the credits upfront and you’ll likely be paying less than Fivetran.
Airbyte's alpha and beta connectors are free on Airbyte Cloud. They also offer a 14 day free trial.
Bracket doesn’t price based on rows, but rather the number of tables you sync. That means that even if your tables quadruple in size, the price you pay doesn’t change, making it much easier to forecast your spend. Bracket also offers a free trial.
The winner on Pricing is…Airbyte
Both Fivetran and Airbyte fit in the modern data stack.
If you want an a tried-and-true solution with robust pipelines and solid technical support, use Fivetran.
If you want the flexibility of open-source with lower price points, use Airbyte.
If you want bidirectional ETL, predictable pricing, and real-time syncs, use Bracket
Interested in learning more about Bracket? Check out our docs here or go to our web app and get started!