Get in control of your workflows with Apache Airflow

Get in control of your workflows with Apache Airflow



Jul 17, 2016

Big Data
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Below is a compilation of my notes taken during the presentation of Apache Airflow by Christian Trebing from BlueYonder.


Use case: how to handle data coming in regularly from customers?

  • Option 1: use CRON
    • only time triggers
    • hard error handling
    • inconvenient when overlapping
  • Option 2: Writing a workflow processing tool
    • start is easy
    • soon you reach limits: invest much more than envisionned of work with it
  • Option 3: Use an OpenSource worklow processing tool
    • multiple options
    • they chose Apache Airflow @ BlueYonder

Apache Airflow

Apache Airflow is a workflow scheduler like Apache Oozie or Azkaban

  • Written in [Python])(
  • Workflows are defined in Python
  • Interface with a view of present & past runs and also logging
  • Extensible with plugins
  • Active development and community
  • Provides a nice ui and REST interface
  • Relatively lightweight (2 processes on a server & a database)


An Airflow job is composed of multiple operators, one operator being one step of the job, and sensors to read inputs. In a Python workflow, you build your DAG yourself operator by operator.

Many operators are available in Airflow:

  • BashOperator
  • SimpleHttpOperator

and sensors:

  • HttpSensor
  • HdfsSensor

or you can develop your own operator/sensor in Python. Also, Airflow supports branching of the workflow through custom operators.

State handling

  • Variable or relative to the airflow instance
  • External communications are relative to the DAG run / task
  • Both states are persisted in two database


Two processes and a database:


  • Airflow doesn’t handle user impersonation, you have to do it yourself
  • High Availability isn’t handled natively by Airflow
  • The presented use case had no need to connect to services with Kerberos & High Availability


Airflow seems to be a very nice alternative to Oozie and it’s XML workflows. We would have loved for it to be in JavaScript with NodeJS instead of Python!

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