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Fivetran slammed for dropping SQL support. CEO: 'Blame me for this'

Ubiquitous database language support continued through third-party tool, users told

Updated Fivetran, the automated data integration company once valued at $5.6 billion, has received a volley of criticism for ending direct support for ubiquitous data language SQL, leading to a frank mea culpa from its CEO.

In an email shared on Twitter, the company said that from April 2023, it planned to end support for SQL for basic SQL transformation. As an alternative, customers — which include German airline Lufthansa, UK fast-food outlet Nando's, and online supply-chain marketplace Coupa — have as an alternative been invited to use the Fivetran Transformations for Core dba without charge.

Dbt is a data transformation tool that works with Fivetran that can be used as part of an end-to-end ETL (extract, transform, load) process. The company explained developers would still be able to use SQL with dbt.

"SQL has long been the language of choice for analysts developing transformations and performing analysis. Therefore, the decision for dbt to have a model file be a SQL SELECT statement means analysts don't need to learn a new language or tool and can freely transform data the same way they have previously. Using SQL makes for easy collaboration and a better understanding of your transformations," it said.

However, in its email, the company said that with dbt developers also get things like integrated scheduling and data lineage graphs.

But the commentariat was less than impressed. "Fivetran dropping support for SQL and forcing users to move to dbt. Oh but you're going to love it because 'modern'. Not going to happen," one CTO piped up.

Another said that product management at Fivetran seemed "out of touch" with the "enormous blunder."

In stepped Fivetran's CEO to calm the waters.

"You can blame me for this. Gotta focus, basic SQL + dbt SQL were two ways to do the same thing," said George Fraser, who co-founded the firm in 2012.

He went on to say Fivetran was "working on lowering the barrier to dbt adoption" and invited readers to name their biggest barrier.

While thanking Fraser for his interjection, Matthew Mullins, CTO of data analytics platform Coginiti, argued that basic SQL support did not require any extra infrastructure, and that "with dbt a user can only create tables and views, but they also need additional infrastructure to run them. It's actually a bit of a headache."

The Register has contacted Fivetran for a comment.

In September 2021, Fivetran secured a $565m funding round, valuing the company at $5.6bn. Those stumping up the cash include a16z, an investment company of web pioneer Marc Andreessen. ®

Updated to add:

A Fivetran spokesperson told us: "Fivetran continues to support SQL – that has not and will not change. The announcement was related to the framework used to support the writing and running of SQL – called dbt Core. Our customers work in SQL every day. It's a standard we believe in, and supporting it within dbt Core does not change this."

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