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The Astro Python SDK for ETL

The Astro Python SDK is an open source Python package maintained by Astronomer that provides tools to improve the DAG authoring experience for Airflow users. The available decorators and functions allow you to write DAGs based on how you want your data to move by simplifying the data transformation process between different environments.

In this guide, we’ll demonstrate how you can use the Astro Python SDK functions for ETL use cases. The resulting DAGs will be easier to write and read, and require less code.

Assumed knowledge

To get the most out of this guide, you should have knowledge of:

Astro Python SDK ETL functionality

The Astro Python SDK makes implementing ETL use cases easier by allowing you to seamlessly transition between Python and SQL for each step in your process. Details like creating dataframes, storing intermediate results, passing context and data between tasks, and creating Airflow task dependencies are all managed automatically. This means that you can focus solely on writing execution logic in whichever language you need without having to worry about Airflow orchestration logic.

More specifically, the Astro Python SDK has the following functions that are helpful when implementing an ETL framework (for a full list of functions and documentation, check out the Readme):

  • load_file: If the data you’re starting with is in CSV, JSON, or parquet files (stored locally or on S3 or GCS), you can use this function to load it into your database.
  • transform: This function allows you to transform your data with a SQL query. It uses a SELECT statement that you define to automatically store your results in a new table. By default, the output_table is given a unique name each time the DAG runs, but you can overwrite this behavior by defining a specific output_table in your function. You can then pass the results of the transform downstream to the next task as if it were a native Python object.
  • dataframe: Similar to transform for SQL, the dataframe function allows you to implement a transformation on your data using Python. You can easily store the results of the dataframe function in your database by specifying an output_table, which is useful if you want to switch back to SQL in the next step or load your final results to your database.
  • append: This function allows you to take resulting data from another function and append it to an existing table in your database. It is particularly useful in ETL scenarios and when dealing with reporting data.

Getting started with the Astro Python SDK

To use the Astro Python SDK for our ETL example, you must complete a couple of setup steps:

  1. Add the astro-sdk-python Python package to your Airflow environment. Astro CLI users can add the package to your requirements.txt file.

  2. Set the following environment variables:

    export AIRFLOW__ASTRO_SDK__SQL_SCHEMA=<snowflake_schema>

    If you are using the Astro CLI, you can add these variables to your .env file for local development.

    The AIRFLOW__ASTRO_SDK__SQL_SCHEMA variable should be the schema you want to store all intermediary tables in.

For more details on getting started, see the Astro Python SDK tutorial.

Example ETL implementation

To show the Astro Python SDK in action, we’ll start with a simple ETL use case. In this first scenario, we need to load data from two CSVs in S3 into Snowflake. Then we need to combine the data and perform some transformations before loading it into a results table. First we’ll show how to implement this using built-in Airflow features, and then we’ll show how the Astro Python SDK can make it easier.

The DAG before the Astro Python SDK

Here is our ETL DAG implemented with OSS Airflow operators and decorators, as well as the TaskFlow API. We take “homes” data from two CSVs in S3, load them to Snowflake, and perform two transformation tasks before appending the results to a reporting table.

from datetime import datetime
import pandas as pd

from airflow.decorators import dag, task
from airflow.providers.snowflake.hooks.snowflake import SnowflakeHook
from airflow.providers.snowflake.operators.snowflake import SnowflakeOperator
from airflow.providers.snowflake.transfers.s3_to_snowflake import S3ToSnowflakeOperator
from import S3Hook

S3_BUCKET = 'bucket_name'
S3_FILE_PATH = '</path/to/file/'
SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID = 'snowflake'
SNOWFLAKE_SCHEMA = 'schema_name'
SNOWFLAKE_STAGE = 'stage_name'
SNOWFLAKE_WAREHOUSE = 'warehouse_name'
SNOWFLAKE_DATABASE = 'database_name'
SNOWFLAKE_ROLE = 'role_name'

def extract_data():
    # Join data from two tables and save to dataframe to process
    query = ''''
    SELECT *
    SELECT *
    # Make connection to Snowflake and execute query
    hook = SnowflakeHook(snowflake_conn_id=SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID)
    conn = hook.get_conn()
    cur = conn.cursor()

    results = cur.fetchall()
    column_names = list(map(lambda t: t[0], cur.description))

    df = pd.DataFrame(results)
    df.columns = column_names

    return df.to_json()

def transform_data(xcom: str) -> str:
    # Transform data by melting
    df = pd.read_json(xcom)

    melted_df = df.melt(
        id_vars=["sell", "list"], value_vars=["living", "rooms", "beds", "baths", "age"]

    melted_str = melted_df.to_string()

    # Save results to S3 so they can be loaded back to Snowflake
    s3_hook = S3Hook(aws_conn_id="s3_conn")
    s3_hook.load_string(melted_str, 'transformed_file_name.csv', bucket_name=S3_BUCKET, replace=True)

@dag(start_date=datetime(2021, 12, 1), schedule_interval='@daily', catchup=False)

def classic_etl_dag():

    load_data = S3ToSnowflakeOperator(
        s3_keys=[S3_FILE_PATH + '/homes.csv'],
        file_format="(type = 'CSV',field_delimiter = ',')",

    create_reporting_table = SnowflakeOperator(
        CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS homes_reporting (
            sell number, 
            list number, 
            variable varchar,
            value number

    load_transformed_data = S3ToSnowflakeOperator(
        s3_keys=[S3_FILE_PATH + '/transformed_file_name.csv'],
        file_format="(type = 'CSV',field_delimiter = ',')",

    extracted_data = extract_data()
    transformed_data = transform_data(extracted_data)
    load_subscription_data >> extracted_data >> transformed_data >> load_transformed_data
    create_reporting_table >> load_transformed_data

classic_etl_dag = classic_etl_dag()

Classic Graph

While we achieved our ETL goal with the DAG above, there are a couple of limitations that made this implementation more complicated:

  • Since there is no way to pass results from SnowflakeOperator query to the next task, we had to write our query in a _DecoratedPythonOperator function using the SnowflakeHook and explicitly do the conversion from SQL to a dataframe ourselves.
  • Some of our transformations are better suited to SQL, and others are better suited to Python, but transitioning between the two requires extra boilerplate code to explicitly make those conversions.
  • While the TaskFlow API makes it easier to pass data between tasks here, it is storing the resulting dataframes as XComs by default. This means that we need to worry about the size of our data. We could implement a custom XCom backend, but that would be extra lift.
  • Loading data back to Snowflake after the transformation is complete requires writing extra code to store an intermediate CSV in S3.

The DAG with the Astro Python SDK

Next, we’ll show how to rewrite the DAG using the Astro Python SDK to alleviate the challenges listed above.

import os
from datetime import datetime

import pandas as pd
from airflow.decorators import dag

from astro.files import File
from astro.sql import (
from astro.sql.table import Metadata, Table

SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID = "snowflake_conn"
AWS_CONN_ID = "aws_conn"

# The first transformation combines data from the two source tables
def extract_data(homes1: Table, homes2: Table):
    return """
    SELECT *
    FROM {{homes1}}
    SELECT *
    FROM {{homes2}}

# Switch to Python (Pandas) for melting transformation to get data into long format
def transform_data(df: pd.DataFrame):
    df.columns = df.columns.str.lower()
    melted_df = df.melt(
        id_vars=["sell", "list"], value_vars=["living", "rooms", "beds", "baths", "age"]

    return melted_df

# Run a raw SQL statement to create the reporting table if it doesn't already exist
def create_reporting_table():
    """Create the reporting data which will be the target of the append method"""
    return """
    CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS homes_reporting (
      sell number,
      list number,
      variable varchar,
      value number

@dag(start_date=datetime(2021, 12, 1), schedule_interval="@daily", catchup=False)
def example_s3_to_snowflake_etl():

    # Initial load of homes data csv's from S3 into Snowflake
    homes_data1 = load_file(
        input_file=File(path="s3://airflow-kenten/homes1.csv", conn_id=AWS_CONN_ID),
        output_table=Table(name="HOMES1", conn_id=SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID)

    homes_data2 = load_file(
        input_file=File(path="s3://airflow-kenten/homes2.csv", conn_id=AWS_CONN_ID),
        output_table=Table(name="HOMES2", conn_id=SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID)

    # Define task dependencies
    extracted_data = extract_data(

    transformed_data = transform_data(
        df=extracted_data, output_table=Table(name="homes_data_long")

    create_reporting_table = create_reporting_table(conn_id=SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID)

    # Append transformed data to reporting table
    # Dependency is inferred by passing the previous `transformed_data` task to `source_table` param
    record_results = append(
        target_table=Table(name="homes_reporting", conn_id=SNOWFLAKE_CONN_ID),
        columns=["sell", "list", "variable", "value"],

example_s3_to_snowflake_etl_dag = example_s3_to_snowflake_etl()

Astro Graph

The key differences in this implementation are:

  • The load_file and append functions take care of loading our raw data from S3 and appending data to our reporting table respectively. We didn’t have to write any extra code to get the data into Snowflake. In this implementation we also have a load_file task for each file instead of one task for all files in S3, which supports atomicity.
  • Using the transform function, we easily executed SQL to combine our data from multiple tables. The results are automatically stored in a table in Snowflake. We didn’t have to use the SnowflakeHook or write any of the code to execute the query.
  • We seamlessly transitioned to a transformation in Python with the df function without needing to explicitly convert the results of our previous task to a Pandas dataframe. We then wrote the output of our transformation to our aggregated reporting table in Snowflake using the target_table parameter, so we didn’t have to worry about storing the data in XCom.
  • We didn’t have to redefine our Airflow connections in any tasks that were downstream of our original definitions (such as load_file and create_reporting_table). Any downstream task that inherits from a task with a defined connection can use the same connection without additional configuration.

Overall, our DAG with the Astro Python SDK is shorter, simpler to implement, and easier to read. This allows us to implement even more complicated use cases easily while focusing on the movement of our data.

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