Zendesk to Snowflake

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Zendesk and load it into Snowflake. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

About Snowflake

Snowflake is a data warehouse solution that is entirely cloud based. It's a managed service. If you don't want to deal with hardware, software, or upkeep for a data warehouse you're going to love Snowflake. It runs on the wicked fast Amazon Web Services architecture using EC2 and S3 instances. Snowflake is designed to be flexible and easy to work with where other relational databases are not. One example of this is the query execution. Snowflake creates virtual warehouses where query processing takes place. These virtual warehouses run on separate compute clusters, so querying one of these virtual warehouses doesn't slow down the others. If you have ever had to wait for a query to complete, you know the value of speed and efficiency for query processing.

Getting data out of Zendesk

In order to get your Zendesk data into your data warehouse, you have to start by extracting it from Zendesk’s servers. You can do this using the Zendesk API. Zendesk allows access to the API for all of its customers. The API documentation can be accessed at this link.

Data from the Zendesk API can be retrieved programmatically via REST requests. The API gives you access to plenty of data. Tickets, agents, clients, and groups are some examples. Use the API docs to retrieve the data you'd like to load into your warehouse.

Sample Zendesk data

The Zendesk API returns JSON-formatted data. Below is an example of the kind of response you might see when querying for the details of a ticket.

{
  "id":               35436,
  "url":              "https://company.zendesk.com/api/v2/tickets/35436.json",
  "external_id":      "ahg35h3jh",
  "created_at":       "2009-07-20T22:55:29Z",
  "updated_at":       "2011-05-05T10:38:52Z",
  "type":             "incident",
  "subject":          "Help, my printer is on fire!",
  "raw_subject":      "{{dc.printer_on_fire}}",
  "description":      "The fire is very colorful.",
  "priority":         "high",
  "status":           "open",
  "recipient":        "support@company.com",
  "requester_id":     20978392,
  "submitter_id":     76872,
  "assignee_id":      235323,
  "organization_id":  509974,
  "group_id":         98738,
  "collaborator_ids": [35334, 234],
  "forum_topic_id":   72648221,
  "problem_id":       9873764,
  "has_incidents":    false,
  "due_at":           null,
  "tags":             ["enterprise", "other_tag"],
  "via": {
    "channel": "web"
  },
  "custom_fields": [
    {
      "id":    27642,
      "value": "745"
    },
    {
      "id":    27648,
      "value": "yes"
    }
  ],
  "satisfaction_rating": {
    "id": 1234,
    "score": "good",
    "comment": "Great support!"
  },
  "sharing_agreement_ids": [84432]
}

Preparing data for Snowflake

Depending on the structure that you data is in, you may need to prepare it for loading. Take a look at the supported data types for Snowflake and make sure that the data you've got will map neatly to them. If you have a lot of data, you should compress it. Gzip, bzip2, Brotli, Zstandard v0.8 and deflate/raw deflate compression types are all supported.

One important thing to note here is that you don't need to define a schema in advance when loading JSON data into Snowflake. Onward to loading!

Loading data into Snowflake

There is a good reference for this step in the Data Loading Overview section of the Snowflake documentation. If there isn’t much data that you’re trying to load, then you might be able to use the data loading wizard in the Snowflake web UI. Chances are, the limitations on that tool will make it a non-starter as a reliable ETL solution. There two main steps to getting data into Snowflake:

  • Use the PUT command to stage files
  • Use the COPY INTO table command to load prepared data into the awaiting table from the prior step.

For the COPY step, you’ll have the option of copying from your local drive, or from Amazon S3. One of Snowflakes’ slick features lets you to make a virtual warehouse that will power the insertion process.

Keeping Zendesk up to date

So, now what? You’ve built a script that pulls data from Zendesk and loads it into your destination database. What happens tomorrow when you have dozens of new tickets and related data?

The key is to build your script in such a way that it can identify incremental updates to your data. Thankfully, Zendesk’s API returns updated_at fields that allow you to quickly identify new records. The final step is to set your script up as a cron job or continuous loop to keep pulling down new data as it appears.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Zendesk data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Snowflake data warehouse.