Installation of Airflow™

This page describes installations options that you might use when considering how to install Airflow™. Airflow consists of many components, often distributed among many physical or virtual machines, therefore installation of Airflow might be quite complex, depending on the options you choose.

You should also check-out the Prerequisites that must be fulfilled when installing Airflow as well as Supported versions to know what are the policies for supporting Airflow, Python and Kubernetes.

Airflow requires additional Dependencies to be installed - which can be done via extras and providers.

When you install Airflow, you need to setup the database which must also be kept updated when Airflow is upgraded.

Warning

As of June 2021 Airflow 1.10 is end-of-life and is not going to receive any fixes even critical security fixes. Follow the Upgrading from 1.10 to 2 to learn how to upgrade the end-of-life 1.10 to Airflow 2.

Using released sources

More details: Installing from Sources

When this option works best

Intended users

  • Users who are familiar with installing and building software from sources and are conscious about integrity and provenance of the software they use down to the lowest level possible.

What are you expected to handle

  • You are expected to build and install airflow and its components on your own.

  • You should develop and handle the deployment for all components of Airflow.

  • You are responsible for setting up database, creating and managing database schema with airflow db commands, automated startup and recovery, maintenance, cleanup and upgrades of Airflow and the Airflow Providers.

  • You need to setup monitoring of your system allowing you to observe resources and react to problems.

  • You are expected to configure and manage appropriate resources for the installation (memory, CPU, etc) based on the monitoring of your installation and feedback loop. See the notes about requirements.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • You have instructions on how to build the software but due to various environments and tools you might want to use, you might expect that there will be problems which are specific to your deployment and environment you will have to diagnose and solve.

Where to ask for help

  • The #user-troubleshooting channel on slack can be used for quick general troubleshooting questions. The GitHub discussions if you look for longer discussion and have more information to share.

  • The #user-best-practices channel on slack can be used to ask for and share best practices on using and deploying airflow.

  • If you can provide description of a reproducible problem with Airflow software, you can open issue at GitHub issues

  • If you want to contribute back to Airflow, the #contributors slack channel for building the Airflow itself

Using PyPI

More details: Installation from PyPI

When this option works best

  • This installation method is useful when you are not familiar with Containers and Docker and want to install Apache Airflow on physical or virtual machines and you are used to installing and running software using custom deployment mechanism.

  • The only officially supported mechanism of installation is via pip using constraint mechanisms. The constraint files are managed by Apache Airflow release managers to make sure that you can repeatably install Airflow from PyPI with all Providers and required dependencies.

  • In case of PyPI installation you could also verify integrity and provenance of the packages downloaded from PyPI as described at the installation page, but software you download from PyPI is pre-built for you so that you can install it without building, and you do not build the software from sources.

Intended users

  • Users who are familiar with installing and configuring Python applications, managing Python environments, dependencies and running software with their custom deployment mechanisms.

What are you expected to handle

  • You are expected to install Airflow - all components of it - on your own.

  • You should develop and handle the deployment for all components of Airflow.

  • You are responsible for setting up database, creating and managing database schema with airflow db commands, automated startup and recovery, maintenance, cleanup and upgrades of Airflow and Airflow Providers.

  • You need to setup monitoring of your system allowing you to observe resources and react to problems.

  • You are expected to configure and manage appropriate resources for the installation (memory, CPU, etc) based on the monitoring of your installation and feedback loop.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • You have Installation from PyPI on how to install the software but due to various environments and tools you might want to use, you might expect that there will be problems which are specific to your deployment and environment you will have to diagnose and solve.

  • You have Quick Start where you can see an example of Quick Start with running Airflow locally which you can use to start Airflow quickly for local testing and development. However, this is just for inspiration. Do not expect Quick Start is ready for production installation, you need to build your own production-ready deployment if you follow this approach.

Where to ask for help

  • The #user-troubleshooting channel on Airflow Slack for quick general troubleshooting questions. The GitHub discussions if you look for longer discussion and have more information to share.

  • The #user-best-practices channel on slack can be used to ask for and share best practices on using and deploying airflow.

  • If you can provide description of a reproducible problem with Airflow software, you can open issue at GitHub issues

Using Production Docker Images

More details: Docker Image for Apache Airflow

When this option works best

This installation method is useful when you are familiar with Container/Docker stack. It provides a capability of running Airflow components in isolation from other software running on the same physical or virtual machines with easy maintenance of dependencies.

The images are built by Apache Airflow release managers and they use officially released packages from PyPI and official constraint files- same that are used for installing Airflow from PyPI.

Intended users

  • Users who are familiar with Containers and Docker stack and understand how to build their own container images.

  • Users who understand how to install providers and dependencies from PyPI with constraints if they want to extend or customize the image.

  • Users who know how to create deployments using Docker by linking together multiple Docker containers and maintaining such deployments.

What are you expected to handle

  • You are expected to be able to customize or extend Container/Docker images if you want to add extra dependencies. You are expected to put together a deployment built of several containers (for example using docker-compose) and to make sure that they are linked together.

  • You are responsible for setting up database, creating and managing database schema with airflow db commands, automated startup and recovery, maintenance, cleanup and upgrades of Airflow and the Airflow Providers.

  • You are responsible to manage your own customizations and extensions for your custom dependencies. With the Official Airflow Docker Images, upgrades of Airflow and Airflow Providers which are part of the reference image are handled by the community - you need to make sure to pick up those changes when released by upgrading the base image. However, you are responsible in creating a pipeline of building your own custom images with your own added dependencies and Providers and need to repeat the customization step and building your own image when new version of Airflow image is released.

  • You should choose the right deployment mechanism. There a number of available options of deployments of containers. You can use your own custom mechanism, custom Kubernetes deployments, custom Docker Compose, custom Helm charts etc., and you should choose it based on your experience and expectations.

  • You need to setup monitoring of your system allowing you to observe resources and react to problems.

  • You are expected to configure and manage appropriate resources for the installation (memory, CPU, etc) based on the monitoring of your installation and feedback loop.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • You have instructions: Building the image on how to build and customize your image.

  • You have Running Airflow in Docker where you can see an example of Quick Start which you can use to start Airflow quickly for local testing and development. However, this is just for inspiration. Do not expect to use this docker-compose.yml file for production installation, you need to get familiar with Docker Compose and its capabilities and build your own production-ready deployment with it if you choose Docker Compose for your deployment.

  • The Docker Image is managed by the same people who build Airflow, and they are committed to keep it updated whenever new features and capabilities of Airflow are released.

Where to ask for help

  • For quick questions with the Official Docker Image there is the #production-docker-image channel in Airflow Slack.

  • The #user-troubleshooting channel on Airflow Slack for quick general troubleshooting questions. The GitHub discussions if you look for longer discussion and have more information to share.

  • The #user-best-practices channel on slack can be used to ask for and share best practices on using and deploying airflow.

  • If you can provide description of a reproducible problem with Airflow software, you can open issue at GitHub issues

Using Official Airflow Helm Chart

More details: Helm Chart for Apache Airflow

When this option works best

  • This installation method is useful when you are not only familiar with Container/Docker stack but also when you use Kubernetes and want to install and maintain Airflow using the community-managed Kubernetes installation mechanism via Helm chart.

  • It provides not only a capability of running Airflow components in isolation from other software running on the same physical or virtual machines and managing dependencies, but also it provides capabilities of easier maintaining, configuring and upgrading Airflow in the way that is standardized and will be maintained by the community.

  • The Chart uses the Official Airflow Production Docker Images to run Airflow.

Intended users

  • Users who are familiar with Containers and Docker stack and understand how to build their own container images.

  • Users who understand how to install providers and dependencies from PyPI with constraints if they want to extend or customize the image.

  • Users who manage their infrastructure using Kubernetes and manage their applications on Kubernetes using Helm Charts.

What are you expected to handle

  • You are expected to be able to customize or extend Container/Docker images if you want to add extra dependencies. You are expected to put together a deployment built of several containers (for example using Docker Compose) and to make sure that they are linked together.

  • You are responsible for setting up database.

  • The Helm Chart manages your database schema, automates startup, recovery and restarts of the components of the application and linking them together, so you do not have to worry about that.

  • You are responsible to manage your own customizations and extensions for your custom dependencies. With the Official Airflow Docker Images, upgrades of Airflow and Airflow Providers which are part of the reference image are handled by the community - you need to make sure to pick up those changes when released by upgrading the base image. However, you are responsible in creating a pipeline of building your own custom images with your own added dependencies and Providers and need to repeat the customization step and building your own image when new version of Airflow image is released.

  • You need to setup monitoring of your system allowing you to observe resources and react to problems.

  • You are expected to configure and manage appropriate resources for the installation (memory, CPU, etc) based on the monitoring of your installation and feedback loop.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • You have instructions: Building the image on how to build and customize your image.

  • You have Helm Chart for Apache Airflow - full documentation on how to configure and install the Helm Chart.

  • The Helm Chart is managed by the same people who build Airflow, and they are committed to keep it updated whenever new features and capabilities of Airflow are released.

Where to ask for help

  • For quick questions with the Official Docker Image there is the #production-docker-image channel in Airflow Slack.

  • For quick questions with the official Helm Chart there is the #helm-chart-official channel in Slack.

  • The #user-troubleshooting channel on Airflow Slack for quick general troubleshooting questions. The GitHub discussions if you look for longer discussion and have more information to share.

  • The #user-best-practices channel on slack can be used to ask for and share best practices on using and deploying airflow.

  • If you can provide description of a reproducible problem with Airflow software, you can open issue at GitHub issues

Using Managed Airflow Services

Follow the Ecosystem page to find all Managed Services for Airflow.

When this option works best

  • When you prefer to have someone else manage Airflow installation for you, there are Managed Airflow Services that you can use.

Intended users

  • Users who prefer to get Airflow managed for them and want to pay for it.

What are you expected to handle

  • The Managed Services usually provide everything you need to run Airflow. Please refer to documentation of the Managed Services for details.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • Airflow Community does not provide any specific documentation for managed services. Please refer to the documentation of the Managed Services for details.

Where to ask for help

  • Your first choice should be support that is provided by the Managed services. There are a few channels in the Apache Airflow Slack that are dedicated to different groups of users and if you have come to conclusion the question is more related to Airflow than the managed service, you can use those channels.

Using 3rd-party images, charts, deployments

Follow the Ecosystem page to find all 3rd-party deployment options.

When this option works best

  • Those installation methods are useful in case none of the official methods mentioned before work for you, or you have historically used those. It is recommended though that whenever you consider any change, you should consider switching to one of the methods that are officially supported by the Apache Airflow Community or Managed Services.

Intended users

  • Users who historically used other installation methods or find the official methods not sufficient for other reasons.

What are you expected to handle

  • Depends on what the 3rd-party provides. Look at the documentation of the 3rd-party.

What Apache Airflow Community provides for that method

  • Airflow Community does not provide any specific documentation for 3rd-party methods. Please refer to the documentation of the Managed Services for details.

Where to ask for help

  • Depends on what the 3rd-party provides. Look at the documentation of the 3rd-party deployment you use.

Notes about minimum requirements

There are often questions about minimum requirements for Airflow for production systems, but it is not possible to give a simple answer to that question.

The requirements that Airflow might need depend on many factors, including (but not limited to):
  • The deployment your Airflow is installed with (see above ways of installing Airflow)

  • The requirements of the deployment environment (for example Kubernetes, Docker, Helm, etc.) that are completely independent from Airflow (for example DNS resources, sharing the nodes/resources) with more (or less) pods and containers that are needed that might depend on particular choice of the technology/cloud/integration of monitoring etc.

  • Technical details of database, hardware, network, etc. that your deployment is running on

  • The complexity of the code you add to your DAGS, configuration, plugins, settings etc. (note, that Airflow runs the code that DAG author and Deployment Manager provide)

  • The number and choice of providers you install and use (Airflow has more than 80 providers) that can be installed by choice of the Deployment Manager and using them might require more resources.

  • The choice of parameters that you use when tuning Airflow. Airflow has many configuration parameters that can fine-tuned to your needs

  • The number of DagRuns and tasks instances you run with parallel instances of each in consideration

  • How complex are the tasks you run

The above “DAG” characteristics will change over time and even will change depending on the time of the day or week, so you have to be prepared to continuously monitor the system and adjust the parameters to make it works smoothly.

While we can provide some specific minimum requirements for some development “quick start” - such as in case of our Running Airflow in Docker quick-start guide, it is not possible to provide any minimum requirements for production systems.

The best way to think of resource allocation for Airflow instance is to think of it in terms of process control theory - where there are two types of systems:

  1. Fully predictable, with few knobs and variables, where you can reliably set the values for the knobs and have an easy way to determine the behaviour of the system

  2. Complex systems with multiple variables, that are hard to predict and where you need to monitor the system and adjust the knobs continuously to make sure the system is running smoothly.

Airflow (and generally any modern system running usually on cloud services, with multiple layers responsible for resources as well multiple parameters to control their behaviour) is a complex system and they fall much more in the second category. If you decide to run Airflow in production on your own, you should be prepared for the monitor/observe/adjust feedback loop to make sure the system is running smoothly.

Having a good monitoring system that will allow you to monitor the system and adjust the parameters is a must to put that in practice.

There are few guidelines that you can use for optimizing your resource usage as well. The Fine-tuning your Scheduler performance is a good starting point to fine-tune your scheduler, you can also follow the Best Practices guide to make sure you are using Airflow in the most efficient way.

Also, one of the important things that Managed Services for Airflow provide is that they make a lot of opinionated choices and fine-tune the system for you, so you don’t have to worry about it too much. With such managed services, there are usually far less number of knobs to turn and choices to make and one of the things you pay for is that the Managed Service provider manages the system for you and provides paid support and allows you to scale the system as needed and allocate the right resources - following the choices made there when it comes to the kinds of deployment you might have.

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