decorative image for blog on apache nifi
June 10, 2021

Apache NiFi Overview: Key Benefits and Features

Middleware
Open Source

Apache NiFi is a simple, powerful, and reliable data ingestion platform that can process and distribute data between various systems, databases, and cloud storage providers. But how does it work, and when should it be deployed?

In this blog, we give an overview of Apache NiFi, how it works, when it should be used, and discuss key benefits and processes central to this platform.

What Is Apache NiFi?

Apache NiFi is a real-time open source data ingestion platform designed to manage data transfer between different sources and destination systems.

It was built based on NiagraFiles technology, originally pioneered by the NSA, and then donated to Apache Software foundation. With the latest release of version 1.13, Apache NiFi offers an active release schedule and thriving developer community.

Apache NiFi supports a wide array of data formats like logs, geo location data, social feeds, and more.  Apache can handle anything that can be accessed via an HTTPS. Apache NiFi supports several different protocols including HTTP/S, SFTP, HDFS, as well several different messaging systems, such as Apache Kafka or ActiveMQ, and most major databases.  This means that a wide variety of data sources and protocols are supported, making this platform popular among IT professionals who deal with massive data lakes and complex data flows. 

What Is Apache NiFi Used For?

Apache NiFi is used as a real-time integrated data logistics and simple event processing platform. Some of the use-cases include the following:

  • Scaling out clusters in order to ensure data delivery. 
  • Real-time data flow control to help manage the transfer of data between various sources and destination.
  • Visualization of data flow at the enterprise level.
  • Providing common tooling and extensions.
  • Helping enterprises extract, transform, and load data with reusable processors in a GUI based drag and drop interface.
  • Allowing enterprises to take advantage of existing libraries and Java ecosystem functionality.
  • Visualizing and monitoring performance and behavior in a flow bulletin. 
  • Enforce data provenance rules where data history and accuracy is of the utmost importance. 
     

What Is Flow-Based Programming?

Apache NiFi is built with a Flow-Based Programming (FBP) paradigm. This means that applications are defined as networks of “black box” processes. These “black box” processes exchange data via predefined connections via message passing, while these connections are specified externally to each “black box” process.

Using flow-based processing, you can have an unlimited number of connections to form various applications without changing specific internal processes. You can reuse these processes and connections quite easily.

In flow-based programming, applications are not a single and sequential process, which starts and does one thing until it ends. Instead, they act as a network of processes communicating via streamed information packets. As data travels from one process to another processor, there are information packets being shared between “black box” processors.

Five Apache NiFi Features and Benefits

1. Highly Configurable

Apache NiFi is highly configurable. This helps users achieve guaranteed delivery, high throughput, low latency, dynamic prioritization, back pressure and allows for modifying flows at runtime.

2. Web-Based User Interface

Apache NiFi provides an easy-to-use web-based user interface. Design, control, and feedback monitoring can all happen within the web UI with no need for other resources. This offers users a simple web-based interface, and seamless experience between design, control, feedback, and monitoring.

3. Built-in Monitoring

Apache NiFi provides a data provenance module to track and monitor data from beginning to the end of the flow. Developers can create their own custom processors and reporting tasks according to their needs.

4. Support for Secure Protocols

Apache NiFi also provides support for secure protocols such as SSL, HTTPS, SSH and a variety of other encryptions. This translates to a highly secure framework within a variety of complex enterprise environments.

5. Good User & Role Management

Apache NiFi supports user role management and can also be configured with LDAP for authorization. Administrators can set thresholds for various users to allow for viewing and modifying policies, access the controller, retrieve site-to-site details, or restrict users from accessing any and all functions.

Key Processes in Apache NiFi

Working within Apache NiFi, there are a few key processes you should understand in order to be successful. These include: 

Process

Description

Flow

A data flow is created by connecting different processes to transfer and modify data, if necessary, from one data source to another destination.

FlowFile

A FlowFile represents each object moving through the system, while NiFi keeps track of a map and key/value pair attribute strings to and associated content of zero or more bytes.

FlowFileprocessor

A Java module responsible for fetching data from a sourcing system or storing it in a destination system.

Process Group

A group of NiFi flows that help users manage and keep flows hierarchical.

Connection

Provides linkage between processors.

Flow Controller

Maintains knowledge of how processes connect and manage threads and allocations all processes use.

Event

Represent the change in FlowFile while moving through a NiFi flow. Tracked in data provenance.

Data Provenance

Refers to records of the inputs, systems, entities, and processes which influence data, and provide a historical record of data.

Final Thoughts

Apache NiFi offers enterprises a real-time and open source data ingestion platform, which can easily be leveraged across disparate open source environments.

With an easy-to-use web-based interface, built-in monitoring, and a wealth of configuration options, NiFi is an attractive option for teams working with real-time data.

Get Support and Services for Apache NiFi

Whether you are thinking about using Apache NiFi to streamline your data flows, or just need help getting started with another software, OpenLogic is here to ensure success across all of your open source enterprise needs. Reach out to talk with an expert today, and learn how we can support your Apache NiFi implementation.

Talk to an Expert

Additional Resources