5 Things to Know About Data Modeling Tools

  1. Data modeling is essential to help your company understand where your data is stored and how it moves between systems.

  2. Data modeling tools provide insights into your current systems and tools to rearchitect them or design new databases from scratch.

  3. The best data modeling tools include advanced features like integrated standards and automated schema generation to save your team time.

  4. Maintaining a data model will help your business manage its data assets more effectively, especially regarding regulatory compliance and security.

  5. There are several data modeling tools to choose from, and finding the right one means understanding your organization’s requirements in advance.

Do you know how much data your company stores? Do you know the types of data being utilized for any given purpose? Can you picture how data flows from one system to another? The goal of data modeling is to help you understand aspects like these. By giving you a visual representation of data within your systems, data modeling tools help you better store, manage, and utilize your data by optimizing the underlying architecture.

If you’re searching for a data modeling solution, here’s a look at the best data modeling tools on the market.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Data Modeling?

  2. Why is Data Modeling Important?

  3. What To Look For In a Data Modeling Tool

  4. Best Data Modeling Tools

  5. Make The Most of Your Data With Integrate.io

What is Data Modeling?

Data modeling can be done manually or with a tool. It aims to generate a data model which shows the associations between different data objects and the rules that impact how data flows between them. Aside from providing a visual representation of where your data lives, data models also support consistency in naming conventions, semantics, security, default values, regulatory compliance, and even security practices.

The best data modeling tools make achieving the above quick and simple. They also give you tools to build a data model from scratch or alter your existing data model in the event that you plan to re-architect it. At the same time, these tools can help you implement changes in your data model by guiding your team with standards and best practices based on industry and government guidelines.

Given the complexities of today’s typical environments, a data modeling tool is necessary. However, not all tools are created equal. For this reason, teams need to spend a fair amount of time understanding their current systems, concerns, and objectives before making a selection.

Why is Data Modeling Important?

Efficient data management isn’t possible without fully understanding the relations between your data systems and how your data is being stored, moved, and used. The thing is, existing databases are rarely intuitive. Unless you implemented thoughtful database design from day one and maintained a data architecture strategy ever since, there’s a good chance your business lacks logical data models.

It’s easy enough to carry on with your day-to-day business processes while ignoring the disorganization in your database systems. However, it can wreak havoc on your database administrators' productivity and pose issues regarding enterprise data governance, business intelligence initiatives, and efficient big data management.

Unless you’re starting from scratch with no data, cleaning up your databases means first understanding them by reverse engineering them with database modeling tools. These tools won’t just help you identify data sources, but they will help you see the relationships between various components. As a result, data modeling reveals database structures, formats, flow, and dependencies to help your business work more efficiently.

What’s more, the best data modeling tools will do more than show you your data model. By working with them in a conceptual manner, you can redesign your databases — and design new ones — to meet your changing business needs. Additionally, once you have decided on the perfect data model, these tools will help you generate schema automatically. In other words, the right data modeling tool could save your enterprise architects weeks’ worth of work. So, how do you choose?

What To Look For In a Data Modeling Tool

Even for a smaller company, data modeling can be a complicated endeavor. Especially if you’re dealing with a combination of on-premises services, cloud data warehouses, and third-party SaaS tools, simply making the flowcharts showing how data moves between those systems is a major undertaking. The good news is that the best data modeling tools will do the heavy lifting for you, as long as you choose the right one.

Some key features to look for in your data modeling tool include:

  • Alignment with your business objectives and use case. If you want your app development and database design teams working together, the tool needs to give both groups the features they demand to ensure they take a standardized approach.

  • Supporting collaboration between IT and other business users. For instance, the user interface and visualization capabilities play a big role in making the data modeling tool accessible to less technical users.

  • The ability to analyze a range of platforms and database types, like NoSQL databases. Likewise, if you’re using non-relational databases to handle unstructured data, you need a tool that works with them.

  • Built-in data modeling standards, which include notation and best practices to guide how you approach your databases going forward. You may also look for a tool that will generate database schema for you, saving you time.

  • Compatibility with your design tools. For instance, some tools will give you a data model in a proprietary format. This doesn’t make it a bad choice, but it’s an important consideration that will change how you use the tool, so don’t ignore this factor when making your decision.

Ultimately, before you come to choose a data modeling tool, you’re going to need to sit down with key stakeholders and come to a consensus about these aspects. Once you have assessed your business’s needs, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for, like how much automation you desire or what modeling language you’d like to work with. With that information in mind, the next step is to compare your top options.

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Best Data Modeling Tools

Data modeling software has come a long way. Some tools integrate machine learning, others feature drag-and-drop visualizations to simplify complex entity relationship diagrams, others still help you optimize project management by providing tutorials, templates, and best practices. The point is, no two tools are the same, and taking time to closely evaluate your options in regards to your company’s specific needs will help you make the right decision.

To give you a headstart in your journey to finding a solution, here’s a look at the best data modeling tools.

1. Erwin Data Modeler

Erwin is a flexible tool capable of supporting MySQL, PostgresQL, Oracle, Netezza, and more. It also gives your software development team the power to use reverse or forward engineering, making it a good fit for a variety of use cases.

Given its popularity amongst enterprises (especially those looking to move away from legacy systems), it’s not surprising that Erwin is an award-winning tool associated with a user-friendly interface, powerful tools, and the ability to bring clarity to complex, large-scale systems.

Some of the benefits of using Erwin include:

  • Visualize both structured and unstructured data no matter where it lives in your system

  • Create conceptual, logical, and physical data models all in one place

  • Easily enforce your enterprise data standards to uphold data quality

  • Support agile development and hybrid architectures

  • Improve data utilization by helping all stakeholders get hands-on with your data

Pricing: Free trial available, but you must contact the sales team for pricing information

2. Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler

Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler is a free tool that helps simplify data modeling tasks, especially for small teams and systems. Using this tool, your team can easily create logical, physical, and relational data models. It also supports multi-dimensional models with synchronized forward and reverse engineering capabilities.

This tool isn’t the most powerful option on the market, but it does have the capacity to support on-premises and cloud environments. While free comes at a cost — namely at the cost of a modern user interface — some of its best features include:

  • Integrated source code control enables your team to collaborate more easily

  • Notate using Barker or Bachman

  • Design rules, standardize names, and format your models

Pricing: Free, open-source tool

3. MySQL Workbench

Another free tool on the list, MySQL Workbench provides a more updated GUI compared to Oracle’s tool. In fact, this tool is often praised for its intuitiveness, which will surely save your team time when it comes to the minimal learning curve. It’s a well-thought-out tool with features that will help you design, develop, administer, and visualize with relative ease.

With a visual performance dashboard that offers more than you’d expect from a free tool, Workbench routinely exceeds expectations. Plus, it even has tools to help you with migrations. Some of the best features of MySQL Workbench include:

  • Use visual tools to easily manage databases, even if you need to generate ER models or handle complex change management or documentation tasks

  • Create and optimize your SQL queries using the native editor, which features syntax highlighting, reusable snippets, and execution history to help your team connect databases faster

  • Gain visibility into all of your database with the highly visual console that shows server health, user information, backups, recovery tools, audit data, and more

Pricing: Free, open-source tool

4. ER/Studio

Similar to Erwin, ER/Studio is a premium, expansive platform with a long history of providing powerful data modeling tools to enterprises and large organizations. While the tool is Windows-only, ER/Studio supports a number of databases. What’s more, you have four options regarding the tool, with the most popular supporting conceptual mapping, automatic schema generation, and Jira integration.

In looks, ER/Studio might not have as modern as an interface (or website) as Erwin, but the functionality is rock solid. Despite its limited compatibility with operating systems, ER/Studio has a long list of features that’s simply impossible to summarize in full. The most notable include:

  • Define standard data elements with the data dictionary and enforce them across your data models

  • Visually document how your data moves across systems with sourcing rules and source/target mapping

  • Compare models and structures bidirectionally and merge them using advanced tools

  • Create universal mappings between all types of model objects with the option to add metadata and view them upstream or downstream

Pricing: Free trial available, but you must contact the sales team for pricing information.

5. IBM InfoSphere Data Architect

In typical IBM fashion, InfoSphere is a tool that only gets better. With a range of features and excellent cross-platform compatibility, InfoSphere is able to accelerate data integration. In turn, you’ll find that kickstarting business intelligence and data management initiatives is more streamlined.

IBM’s focus on creating a tool that aligns teams, processes, and architectures translates to direct business impact for your organization. For instance, using InfoSphere, you can expect faster time to market, rapid development, and better team collaboration. Some of the tool’s other features include:

  • Create highly detailed logical data models to describe your organization’s rules and relations and easily convert them into actionable physical data models

  • Reverse engineer your systems and discover the structure of your data sources through automated metadata exploration via native queries

  • Dive into the user interface to browse the hierarchy that contains nested data elements, helping your team to understand relations and context for every part of your system

  • Make use of IBM’s direct integrations with other IBM tools (like Db2) along with Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle, among others

Pricing: You must contact the sales team for pricing information.

6. Toad Data Modeler

While paid, Toad Data Modeler is one of the more affordable data modeling tools on the list that allows your team to accurately and quickly change data structures across over 20 platforms. Toad supports logical and physical data models and provides synchronization and comparison tools to easily move between models. You can even generate DDL or SQL automatically.

Toad shines when it comes to simplifying complex processes. Whether you’re designing, maintaining, or documenting, Toad brings just enough automation to the table to help your team get ahead of time-intensive tasks. Some of the other features include:

  • Natively integrates with countless platforms, including Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft Access

  • Automatically generates reports to help you explore existing database structures

  • Customization tools allow you to add logical data to your diagrams to alter your data models

  • Simple tool for creating database structures and documenting them quickly

Pricing: Free trial available, but you must contact the sales team for pricing information.

7. Archi

As an open-source solution, Archi is powerful enough to support enterprise modeling while being affordable enough for those looking to explore the ArchiMate language for the first time. If you’re not familiar with ArchiMate, it’s an open and independent modeling language that helps organizations describe, analyze, and visualize their data architecture. The language is hosted by The Open Group and aligns with TOGAF.

To put it simply, if you’re planning to use ArchiMate, Archi is the first tool to consider. However, ArchiMate isn’t the best modeling language for everyone. In the instance your organization’s stakeholders have already begun exploring ArchiMate, some of the benefits of using Archi include:

  • Cross-platform solution that’s compatible with Windows, Linux, or macOS

  • Straightforward with the ability to extend its functionality using various add-ons

  • If you follow the ArchiMate specifications properly, you’ll be able to unlock the tool’s core value

  • Easily export projects in various formats, including XML and Excel

Pricing: Free, open-source tool

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Data modeling tools like those listed above can make relatively quick work of what is truly an immensely complex process. However, a healthy dose of data science will be involved in the process, which means getting stakeholders involved early to help prevent time-consuming mistakes.

Ultimately, most businesses looking for a data modeling tool aren’t merely trying to understand their existing data structures, they’re likely trying to re-architect entirely. For instance, you might be looking to complete the move from on-premises to cloud solutions or you may be looking to adopt a hybrid model that gives your business the most flexibility. Whatever your end goal is, you need to have a clear picture of it before you start making changes.

With all of these things in mind, you should be well-prepared to start your data modeling journey. If you need a tool to help you move data around more easily and utilize it better through the extract, transform, load (ETL) process, integrate.io can help. Once you've signed up for your 14-day trial, reach out to schedule your ETL trial meeting so we can go over with you what you can expect. See how Integrate.io can help you optimize your data architecture.