Branch to Azure SQL Data Warehouse

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Branch and load it into Azure SQL Data Warehouse. (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 Branch?

Branch Metrics lets businesses generate deep links they can use to track conversions and user engagement on web and mobile transactions. It provides a business analytics dashboard to surface user behavior data.

What is Azure SQL Data Warehouse?

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 Branch

Branch exposes data for things like install, open, clicks, and web session start through webhooks to user-defined HTTP POST callbacks. You can add a webhook through the Branch dashboard.

Sample Branch data

Branch exchanges data in JSON format. Here’s an example of the data returned for a clicks endpoint:

POST
User-agent: Branch Metrics API
Content-Type: application/json
{
    click_id: a unique identifier,
    event: 'click',
    event_timestamp: 'link click timestamp',
    os: 'iOS' | 'Android',
    os_version: 'the OS version',
    metadata: {
        ip: 'click IP',
        userAgent: 'click UA',
        browser: 'browser',
        browser_version: 'browser version',
        brand: 'phone brand',
        model: 'phone model',
        os: 'browser OS',
        os_version: 'OS version'
    },
    query: { any query parameters appended to the link },
    link_data: { link data dictionary - see below }
}

// link data dictionary example
{
    branch_id: 'unique identifier for unique link',
    date_ms: 'link creation date with millisecond',
    date_sec: 'link creation date with second',
    date: 'link creation date',
    domain: 'domain label',
    data: {
        +url: the Branch link,
        ... other deep link data
    },
    campaign: 'campaign label',
    feature: 'feature label',
    channel: 'channel label'
    tags: [tags array],
    stage: 'stage label',
}

Preparing Branch data

If you don’t already have a data structure in which to store the data you retrieve, you’ll have to create a schema for your data tables. Then, for each value in the response, you’ll need to identify a predefined datatype (INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them. Branch's documentation should tell you what fields are provided by each endpoint, along with their corresponding datatypes.

Complicating things is the fact that the records retrieved from the source may not always be "flat" – some of the objects may actually be lists. This means you’ll likely have to create additional tables to capture the unpredictable cardinality in each record.

Loading data into Azure SQL Data Warehouse

SQL Data Warehouse 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 SQL Data Warehouse 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 Branch data up to date

Once you’ve set up the webhooks you want and have begun collecting data, you can relax – as long as everything continues to work correctly. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any changes to Branch’s webhooks implementation.

Other data warehouse options

Azure SQL Data Warehouse 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. 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, and To Panoply.

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 Branch to Azure SQL Data Warehouse automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Branch data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Azure SQL Data Warehouse data warehouse.