Apache Airflow Tutorial

Apache Airflow is a platform to programmatically author, schedule, and monitor workflows. It is an open source project that allows you to programmatically create, schedule, and monitor workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks.

A workflow is defined by a DAG of tasks, where an edge (a dependencies) represents the dependencies between tasks. For example, in a workflow to process data, you might have a task that retrieves the data, a task that cleans the data, and a task that stores the cleaned data. The data retrieval task would depend on the data cleaning task, and the data cleaning task would depend on the data storage task.

Airflow has a web-based UI and an API that you can use to define and execute workflows. It also has a rich set of features, including the ability to define and trigger workflows based on events, schedule workflows to run at a specific time or frequency, and monitor and track the progress of workflows.

Airflow is commonly used in data engineering and data science workflows, but it can be used in any situation where you need to define and automate complex workflows.

Usage of Airflow

Apache Airflow is used to programmatically author, schedule, and monitor workflows. Some common use cases for Airflow include:

  • Data pipelines: Airflow is often used to build data pipelines that move and transform data from one location to another. For example, you might use Airflow to extract data from a database, transform the data to a new format, and load the transformed data into another database or data warehouse.

  • Machine learning workflows: Airflow can also be used to automate machine learning workflows. For example, you might use Airflow to schedule the training of a machine learning model, or to run periodic evaluations of a model's performance.

  • ETL (extract, transform, load) processes: Airflow is often used to automate ETL (extract, transform, load) processes, which involve extracting data from one or more sources, transforming the data to a new format, and loading the transformed data into a destination.

  • General automation: Airflow can be used to automate any type of workflow that can be represented as a directed acyclic graph (DAG) of tasks. This includes workflows in a variety of fields, such as finance, healthcare, and e-commerce.


Here is a list of the main components in Apache Airflow:

  1. DAG: A DAG, or directed acyclic graph, is a collection of tasks with dependencies between them. A DAG represents the workflow you want to automate.

  2. Operator: An operator is a class that represents a single task in a DAG. There are a variety of built-in operators, and you can also create custom operators for specific tasks.

  3. Task: A task is an instance of an operator. When you define a DAG, you create tasks by instantiating operators and specifying their parameters.

  4. Executor: An executor is the component responsible for running the tasks in a DAG. There are several types of executors available in Airflow, including the SequentialExecutor, the LocalExecutor, and the CeleryExecutor.

  5. Scheduler: The scheduler is the component responsible for determining which tasks should be executed and when. It periodically scans the DAGs in your system and creates "executions" for any tasks that are ready to be run.

  6. Web server: The web server is the component that serves the web UI and API for Airflow. It allows you to view the status of your DAGs, trigger DAG runs, and configure Airflow settings.

  7. Worker: A worker is a process that runs on a remote machine and is responsible for executing the tasks in a DAG. The scheduler sends tasks to the workers to be processed.

  8. Database: Airflow uses a database to store metadata about your DAGs, tasks, and executions. This includes information such as the DAG's definition, the status of each task, and the start and end times of each execution.


Here are some advantages of using Apache Airflow:

  • Flexibility: Airflow allows you to define complex workflows as code, which makes it easy to update and maintain. You can use Airflow to automate a wide variety of workflows, including data pipelines, machine learning workflows, and ETL processes.

  • Scalability: Airflow has a distributed architecture that allows you to scale out your workflows to run on multiple machines. This makes it well-suited for large-scale data processing tasks.

  • Monitoring and visibility: Airflow has a built-in web UI that allows you to monitor the status and progress of your workflows. It also has a robust logging system that makes it easy to track the execution of tasks and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

  • Extensibility: Airflow is highly extensible and has a large community of users and developers. There are a number of ways you can customize and extend Airflow to fit your specific needs, including writing custom plugins and operators.

  • Integrations: Airflow has a number of built-in integrations with popular tools and services, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Salesforce. This makes it easy to use Airflow to automate workflows that involve these tools.