This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from AppsFlyer and load it into Azure Synapse. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)
What is AppsFlyer?
AppsFlyer is an attribution stack for mobile marketers. It lets businesses attribute every install of their apps to the marketing campaign and media source that drove that install. It also provides an analytics dashboard that shows which users engage with an app, how they use it, and how much revenue they generate.
What is Azure Synapse?
Azure Synapse (formerly Azure SQL Data Warehouse) is a cloud-based petabyte-scale columnar database service with controls to manage compute and storage resources independently. It offers encryption of data at rest and dynamic data masking to mask sensitive data on the fly, and it integrates with Azure Active Directory. It can replicate to read-only databases in different geographic regions for load balancing and fault tolerance.
Getting data out of AppsFlyer
AppsFlyer exposes data through its Pull API, which developers can use to extract information. Each API call, which is made in the form of an https query, must contain the user’s external API Authorization Key, as well as from and to dates that specify the date range of the data requested.
Additional parameters can request information like media source, currency, and specific fields. The parameters must be added to the https query – for example:
Each successful API query returns a CSV file of data that you can use as an import source to your data warehouse. The query you use will determine what fields you receive.
Loading data into Azure Synapse
Azure Synapse provides a multi-step process for loading data. After extracting the data from its source, you can move it to Azure Blob storage or Azure Data Lake Store. You can then use one of three utilities to load the data:
- AZCopy uses the public internet.
- Azure ExpressRoute routes the data through a dedicated private connection to Azure, bypassing the public internet by using a VPN or point-to-point Ethernet network.
- The Azure Data Factory (ADF) cloud service has a gateway that you can install on your local server, then use to create a pipeline to move data to Azure Storage.
From Azure Storage you can load the data into Azure Synapse staging tables by using Microsoft's PolyBase technology. You can run any transformations you need while the data is in staging, then insert it into production tables. Microsoft offers documentation for the whole process.
Keeping AppsFlyer data up to date
At this point you’ve coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.
Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in AppsFlyer.
And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If AppsFlyer modifies its API, or sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.
Other data warehouse options
Azure Synapse is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL, Snowflake, or Panoply, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax. Others choose a data lake, like Amazon S3. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Postgres, To Snowflake, To Panoply, and To S3.
Easier and faster alternatives
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.
Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to move data from AppsFlyer to Azure Synapse automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your AppsFlyer data, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Azure Synapse data warehouse.