Urban Airship to Grafana

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Urban Airship and analyze it in Grafana. (If the mechanics of extracting data from Urban Airship seem too complex or difficult to maintain, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Urban Airship?

Urban Airship is a cloud-based mobile marketing platform that aims to improve customer engagement.

What is Grafana?

Grafana is an open source platform for time series analytics. It can run on-premises on all major operating systems or be hosted by Grafana Labs via GrafanaCloud. Grafana allows users to create, explore, and share dashboards to query, visualize, and alert on data.

Getting data out of Urban Airship

Urban Airship offers a REST API that lets you access data stored in the system. The API exposes 16 endpoints, including channels, segments, and schedules. To get information about static lists, for example, you could call GET /api/lists with an optional type parameter, in which you can specify user, lifecycle, or all lists.

Sample Urban Airship data

The Urban Airship API returns data in JSON format. For example, the results of a call to retrieve lists might look like this.

{
   "ok" : true,
   "lists" : [
      {
         "name" : "platinum_members",
         "description" : "loyalty program platinum members",
         "extra" : { "key" : "value" },
         "created" : "2017-08-08T20:41:06",
         "last_modified" : "2017-11-01T18:00:27",
         "channel_count": 3145,
         "status": "ready"
      },
      {
         "name": "gold_members",
         "description": "loyalty program gold member",
         "extra": { "key": "value" },
         "created": "2017-08-08T20:41:06",
         "last_updated": "2017-11-01T18:00:27",
         "channel_count": 678,
         "status": "ready"
      }
   ]
}

Preparing Urban Airship 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. Urban Airship'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 Grafana

Analyzing data in Grafana requires putting it into a format that Grafana can read. Grafana natively supports nine data sources, and offers plugins that provide access to more than 50 more. Generally, it's a good idea to move all your data into a data warehouse for analysis. MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL are among the supported data sources, and because Amazon Redshift is built on PostgreSQL and Panoply is built on Redshift, those popular data warehouses are also supported. However, Snowflake and Google BigQuery are not currently supported.

Analyzing data in Grafana

Grafana provides a getting started guide that walks new users through the process of creating panels and dashboards. Panel data is powered by queries you build in Grafana's Query Editor. You can create graphs with as many metrics and series as you want. You can use variable strings within panel configuration to create template dashboards. Time ranges generally apply to an entire dashboard, but you can override them for individual panels.

Keeping Urban Airship data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Urban Airship.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Urban Airship modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

From Urban Airship to your data warehouse: An easier solution

As mentioned earlier, the best practice for analyzing Urban Airship data in Grafana is to store that data inside a data warehousing platform alongside data from your other databases and third-party sources. You can find instructions for doing these extractions for leading warehouses on our sister sites Urban Airship to Redshift, Urban Airship to BigQuery, Urban Airship to Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Urban Airship to PostgreSQL, Urban Airship to Panoply, and Urban Airship to Snowflake.

Easier yet, however, is using a solution that does all that work for you. Products like Stitch were built to move data from Urban Airship to Grafana automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Urban Airship data via the API, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into a data warehouse that can be easily accessed and analyzed by Grafana.