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Airflow vs AWS Glue: What are the differences?

Developers describe Airflow as "A platform to programmaticaly author, schedule and monitor data pipelines, by Airbnb". Use Airflow to author workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks. The Airflow scheduler executes your tasks on an array of workers while following the specified dependencies. Rich command lines utilities makes performing complex surgeries on DAGs a snap. The rich user interface makes it easy to visualize pipelines running in production, monitor progress and troubleshoot issues when needed. On the other hand, AWS Glue is detailed as "Fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service". A fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service that makes it easy for customers to prepare and load their data for analytics.

Airflow can be classified as a tool in the "Workflow Manager" category, while AWS Glue is grouped under "Big Data Tools".

Some of the features offered by Airflow are:

  • Dynamic: Airflow pipelines are configuration as code (Python), allowing for dynamic pipeline generation. This allows for writting code that instantiate pipelines dynamically.
  • Extensible: Easily define your own operators, executors and extend the library so that it fits the level of abstraction that suits your environment.
  • Elegant: Airflow pipelines are lean and explicit. Parameterizing your scripts is built in the core of Airflow using powerful Jinja templating engine.

On the other hand, AWS Glue provides the following key features:

  • Easy - AWS Glue automates much of the effort in building, maintaining, and running ETL jobs. AWS Glue crawls your data sources, identifies data formats, and suggests schemas and transformations. AWS Glue automatically generates the code to execute your data transformations and loading processes.
  • Integrated - AWS Glue is integrated across a wide range of AWS services.
  • Serverless - AWS Glue is serverless. There is no infrastructure to provision or manage. AWS Glue handles provisioning, configuration, and scaling of the resources required to run your ETL jobs on a fully managed, scale-out Apache Spark environment. You pay only for the resources used while your jobs are running.

Airflow is an open source tool with 13K GitHub stars and 4.72K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Airflow's open source repository on GitHub.

According to the StackShare community, Airflow has a broader approval, being mentioned in 72 company stacks & 33 developers stacks; compared to AWS Glue, which is listed in 13 company stacks and 7 developer stacks.

Advice on Airflow and AWS Glue

We need to perform ETL from several databases into a data warehouse or data lake. We want to

  • keep raw and transformed data available to users to draft their own queries efficiently
  • give users the ability to give custom permissions and SSO
  • move between open-source on-premises development and cloud-based production environments

We want to use inexpensive Amazon EC2 instances only on medium-sized data set 16GB to 32GB feeding into Tableau Server or PowerBI for reporting and data analysis purposes.

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Replies (3)

You could also use AWS Lambda and use Cloudwatch event schedule if you know when the function should be triggered. The benefit is that you could use any language and use the respective database client.

But if you orchestrate ETLs then it makes sense to use Apache Airflow. This requires Python knowledge.

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Recommends
Airflow

Though we have always built something custom, Apache airflow (https://airflow.apache.org/) stood out as a key contender/alternative when it comes to open sources. On the commercial offering, Amazon Redshift combined with Amazon Kinesis (for complex manipulations) is great for BI, though Redshift as such is expensive.

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Recommends

You may want to look into a Data Virtualization product called Conduit. It connects to disparate data sources in AWS, on prem, Azure, GCP, and exposes them as a single unified Spark SQL view to PowerBI (direct query) or Tableau. Allows auto query and caching policies to enhance query speeds and experience. Has a GPU query engine and optimized Spark for fallback. Can be deployed on your AWS VM or on prem, scales up and out. Sounds like the ideal solution to your needs.

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Vamshi Krishna
Data Engineer at Tata Consultancy Services · | 4 upvotes · 93.6K views

I have to collect different data from multiple sources and store them in a single cloud location. Then perform cleaning and transforming using PySpark, and push the end results to other applications like reporting tools, etc. What would be the best solution? I can only think of Azure Data Factory + Databricks. Are there any alternatives to #AWS services + Databricks?

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Hi all,

Currently, we need to ingest the data from Amazon S3 to DB either Amazon Athena or Amazon Redshift. But the problem with the data is, it is in .PSV (pipe separated values) format and the size is also above 200 GB. The query performance of the timeout in Athena/Redshift is not up to the mark, too slow while compared to Google BigQuery. How would I optimize the performance and query result time? Can anyone please help me out?

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Replies (4)

you can use aws glue service to convert you pipe format data to parquet format , and thus you can achieve data compression . Now you should choose Redshift to copy your data as it is very huge. To manage your data, you should partition your data in S3 bucket and also divide your data across the redshift cluster

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Carlos Acedo
Data Technologies Manager at SDG Group Iberia · | 4 upvotes · 76.7K views
Recommends
Amazon Redshift

First of all you should make your choice upon Redshift or Athena based on your use case since they are two very diferent services - Redshift is an enterprise-grade MPP Data Warehouse while Athena is a SQL layer on top of S3 with limited performance. If performance is a key factor, users are going to execute unpredictable queries and direct and managing costs are not a problem I'd definitely go for Redshift. If performance is not so critical and queries will be predictable somewhat I'd go for Athena.

Once you select the technology you'll need to optimize your data in order to get the queries executed as fast as possible. In both cases you may need to adapt the data model to fit your queries better. In the case you go for Athena you'd also proabably need to change your file format to Parquet or Avro and review your partition strategy depending on your most frequent type of query. If you choose Redshift you'll need to ingest the data from your files into it and maybe carry out some tuning tasks for performance gain.

I'll recommend Redshift for now since it can address a wider range of use cases, but we could give you better advice if you described your use case in depth.

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Alexis Blandin
Recommends
Amazon Athena

It depend of the nature of your data (structured or not?) and of course your queries (ad-hoc or predictible?). For example you can look at partitioning and columnar format to maximize MPP capabilities for both Athena and Redshift

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Recommends

you can change your PSV fomat data to parquet file format with AWS GLUE and then your query performance will be improved

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Needs advice
on
Apache Spark
Luigi
and
Airflow

I am so confused. I need a tool that will allow me to go to about 10 different URLs to get a list of objects. Those object lists will be hundreds or thousands in length. I then need to get detailed data lists about each object. Those detailed data lists can have hundreds of elements that could be map/reduced somehow. My batch process dies sometimes halfway through which means hours of processing gone, i.e. time wasted. I need something like a directed graph that will keep results of successful data collection and allow me either pragmatically or manually to retry the failed ones some way (0 - forever) times. I want it to then process all the ones that have succeeded or been effectively ignored and load the data store with the aggregation of some couple thousand data-points. I know hitting this many endpoints is not a good practice but I can't put collectors on all the endpoints or anything like that. It is pretty much the only way to get the data.

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Replies (1)
Gilroy Gordon
Solution Architect at IGonics Limited · | 2 upvotes · 119.6K views
Recommends
Cassandra

For a non-streaming approach:

You could consider using more checkpoints throughout your spark jobs. Furthermore, you could consider separating your workload into multiple jobs with an intermittent data store (suggesting cassandra or you may choose based on your choice and availability) to store results , perform aggregations and store results of those.

Spark Job 1 - Fetch Data From 10 URLs and store data and metadata in a data store (cassandra) Spark Job 2..n - Check data store for unprocessed items and continue the aggregation

Alternatively for a streaming approach: Treating your data as stream might be useful also. Spark Streaming allows you to utilize a checkpoint interval - https://spark.apache.org/docs/latest/streaming-programming-guide.html#checkpointing

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Pros of Airflow
Pros of AWS Glue
  • 43
    Features
  • 13
    Task Dependency Management
  • 12
    Beautiful UI
  • 11
    Cluster of workers
  • 10
    Extensibility
  • 5
    Open source
  • 4
    Python
  • 4
    Complex workflows
  • 3
    K
  • 2
    Dashboard
  • 2
    Good api
  • 2
    Custom operators
  • 1
    Apache project
  • 6
    Managed Hive Metastore

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Cons of Airflow
Cons of AWS Glue
  • 1
    Open source - provides minimum or no support
  • 1
    Logical separation of DAGs is not straight forward
  • 1
    Running it on kubernetes cluster relatively complex
  • 1
    Observability is not great when the DAGs exceed 250
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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is Airflow?

    Use Airflow to author workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks. The Airflow scheduler executes your tasks on an array of workers while following the specified dependencies. Rich command lines utilities makes performing complex surgeries on DAGs a snap. The rich user interface makes it easy to visualize pipelines running in production, monitor progress and troubleshoot issues when needed.

    What is AWS Glue?

    A fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service that makes it easy for customers to prepare and load their data for analytics.

    Need advice about which tool to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

    What companies use Airflow?
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    Blog Posts

    Aug 28 2019 at 3:10AM

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    What are some alternatives to Airflow and AWS Glue?
    Luigi
    It is a Python module that helps you build complex pipelines of batch jobs. It handles dependency resolution, workflow management, visualization etc. It also comes with Hadoop support built in.
    Apache NiFi
    An easy to use, powerful, and reliable system to process and distribute data. It supports powerful and scalable directed graphs of data routing, transformation, and system mediation logic.
    Jenkins
    In a nutshell Jenkins CI is the leading open-source continuous integration server. Built with Java, it provides over 300 plugins to support building and testing virtually any project.
    AWS Step Functions
    AWS Step Functions makes it easy to coordinate the components of distributed applications and microservices using visual workflows. Building applications from individual components that each perform a discrete function lets you scale and change applications quickly.
    Pachyderm
    Pachyderm is an open source MapReduce engine that uses Docker containers for distributed computations.
    See all alternatives