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What is Apache NiFi?

Apache NiFi is a powerful data integration tool that provides a user-friendly interface for designing and managing data flows between systems. It supports a wide variety of data sources and destinations, including databases, message queues, and cloud services.

Confluent’s data streaming platform provides a fully managed, cloud-native service available in any on-prem, multi-cloud, or serverless environment. Stream, integrate, govern, and secure data in real time.

Main Benefits

NiFi provides a graphical user interface for creating, monitoring, and managing data flow, making it accessible to users with limited programming experience. Apache NiFi offers a powerful expression language that allows users to dynamically modify the flow of data within the system. The NiFi expression language enables users to define dynamic properties and perform transformations on data in real time.

Apache Nifi vs Kafka vs Airflow: Comparing Data Processing and Streaming Tools

Apache Kafka, Apache Airflow, and Apache NiFi are all open-source tools that can be used for data processing and streaming. However, they have different strengths and weaknesses.

  • Apache Kafka is a distributed streaming platform that can be used to store and process large amounts of data in real time. It is often used for applications such as event streaming, real-time analytics, and data integration.
  • Apache Airflow is a workflow management system that can be used to schedule and manage complex data pipelines. It is often used for applications such as ETL, data warehousing, and machine learning.
  • Apache NiFi is a flow-based data processing engine that can be used to extract, transform, and load data from a variety of sources. It is often used for applications such as data ingestion, data cleansing, and data enrichment.

In general, Apache Kafka is a good choice for applications that require real-time processing of large amounts of data. Apache Airflow is a good choice for applications that require complex data pipelines to be scheduled and managed. Apache NiFi is a good choice for applications that require data to be extracted, transformed, and loaded from a variety of sources.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between the three tools:

Feature Apache Kafka Apache Airflow Apache NiFi
Data processing Real-time processing Batch processing Real-time processing
Data size Large Large Small to large
Data sources Various Various Various
Use cases Event streaming, real-time analytics, data integration ETL, data warehousing, machine learning Data ingestion, data cleansing, data enrichment

Use Cases

Apache NiFi is a powerful, scalable, and flexible dataflow management system. It can be used to automate the movement and transformation of data between disparate systems. NiFi is a popular choice for a variety of use cases, including:


  • NiFi is a horizontally scalable system, meaning that you can add more nodes as needed to increase its capacity. This makes it a good choice for large-scale data processing. For example, if you need to process data from a large number of sources, you can add more NiFi nodes to handle the load.

  • NiFi achieves scalability through the use of a master-slave architecture. The master node is responsible for coordinating the flow of data, while the slave nodes are responsible for processing data. This architecture allows NiFi to scale to meet the needs of even the most demanding data processing applications.


  • NiFi is a reliable system that can withstand failures. If a node fails, NiFi will automatically failover to another node. This ensures that data processing can continue even if a node fails.
  • NiFi achieves reliability through the use of a number of techniques, including:
    • Replication: NiFi replicates data across multiple nodes. This ensures that if a node fails, the data is not lost.
    • Failover: NiFi has a failover mechanism that automatically switches to another node if a node fails.
    • Load balancing: NiFi load balances data across multiple nodes. This ensures that no single node is overloaded.


  • NiFi is a secure system that supports encryption and authentication. This helps to protect your data from unauthorized access.
  • NiFi achieves security through the use of a number of techniques, including:
    • SSL/TLS: NiFi supports SSL/TLS encryption, which protects data in transit.
    • Kerberos: NiFi supports Kerberos authentication, which protects data at rest.
    • Access control: NiFi supports access control, which allows you to control who has access to your data.

Ease of Use

  • While NiFi is complex to use, it has a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it easy to create and manage dataflows.
  • NiFi's GUI allows you to drag and drop components to create dataflows. It also provides a variety of tools to help you monitor and troubleshoot your dataflows.

Common Use Cases

Here are the top common use cases for Apache NiFi:

  • Data Ingestion: NiFi can be used to collect data from a variety of sources, including log files, sensors, and applications. NiFi can ingest data in real time or in batches.
  • Data Enrichment: NiFi can be used to enrich data by adding additional information, such as timestamps, geolocation data, or user IDs. This can be useful for improving the quality of data and making it more useful for analysis.
  • Data Transformation: NiFi can be used to transform data by changing its format, structure, or content. This can be useful for making data compatible with different systems or for improving the performance of data analysis.
  • Data Routing: NiFi can be used to route data to different destinations, such as Hadoop, Hive, or Spark. This can be useful for distributing data to different systems or for performing different types of data analysis.
  • Data Monitoring: NiFi can be used to monitor data flows and identify potential problems. This can be useful for preventing data loss or ensuring that data is flowing as expected.
  • Data Security: NiFi can be used to secure data flows by encrypting data at rest and in transit. This can help to protect data from unauthorized access or tampering.
  • Compliance: NiFi can be used to help organizations comply with data regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA. This can be done by encrypting data, controlling who has access to data, and deleting data when it is no longer needed.


Here are the top challenges:

Apache NiFi is a powerful tool, but it can be extremely complex to manage and deploy.

  • Complexity: NiFi is a complex system with a lot of features. This can make it difficult to learn and use, especially for users with no prior experience with dataflow management systems.
  • Scalability: NiFi can be scaled horizontally, but it can be difficult to do so without careful planning and configuration. This is because NiFi is a distributed system, and each node in the cluster needs to be configured correctly in order to work together.
  • Performance: NiFi can be a bottleneck for data processing, especially if it is not properly configured. This is because NiFi is a flow-based system, and each processor in the flow can potentially slow down the entire flow.
  • Security: NiFi is a secure system, but it can be difficult to secure it properly. This is because NiFi has a lot of features, and each feature can have its own security risks.
  • Cost: NiFi is a free and open-source system, but it can be expensive to deploy and operate. This is because NiFi requires a lot of hardware resources, and it can be difficult to find qualified personnel to manage it.
  • Community: The NiFi community is small and fragmented. This can make it difficult to find help and support when problems arise.

Why Confluent’s Fully Managed Data Streaming Platform

NiFi and Confluent are somewhat orthogonal to each other as NiFi is focused primarily on specifying data flows in a graphical UI while Confluent is focused on near real-time streaming data at scale. There is a bidirectional integration between Confluent / Apache Kafka and Apache NiFi wherein Apache NiFi can consume messages from Kafka and produce messages to Kafka in a straightforward manner via drag-drop and component configuration in the NiFi interface. Apache NiFi materials will note that ETL functions can be offloaded into Apache NiFi but this isn’t always appropriate for Confluent use cases. ksqlDB, Kafka Streams, and Apache Flink also meet data processing requirements, do so at scale, in a streaming manner and within Confluent’s offering.