Navigating the Open Source Data Orchestration Landscape: Airflow, Dagster, Orkes, and Temporal

Albert Wong
3 min readFeb 24, 2024
Navigating the Open Source Data Orchestration Landscape: Airflow, Dagster, Orkes, and Temporal

By the way, I’m Albert, and I’m Head of Community and Developer Relations at CelerData. CelerData is a $60 million VC-funded startup that is building StarRocks, an open-source replacement for Snowflake, Big Query, and RedShift.

In today’s data-driven world, managing complex data workflows is crucial. Orchestration tools like Airflow, Dagster, Orkes, and Temporal come to the rescue, automating and streamlining the execution of these vital processes. But with various options available, choosing the right tool can be daunting. Let’s delve into their key features and strengths to help you navigate this decision.

1. Apache Airflow:

  • The Established Player: Airflow boasts a large and active community, extensive documentation, and a vast ecosystem of plugins, making it a mature and reliable option.
  • Flexibility and Customization: Users can create complex workflows using Python code, offering granular control and customization.
  • Challenges: The UI can be cumbersome for beginners, and scaling can be complex for large-scale deployments.

2. Dagster:

  • Data-Centric Approach: Built specifically for data workflows, Dagster offers features like data lineage tracking and asset cataloging, ideal for data engineering teams.
  • Ease of Use: Dagster prioritizes user experience with a clean UI and Python-like syntax, making it easier for beginners to pick up.
  • Focus on Data, Less on Scalability: Dagster may not be ideal for highly scalable workflows or those requiring extensive infrastructure management.

3. Orkes:

  • Kubernetes Native: Orkes integrates seamlessly with Kubernetes, making it a valuable tool for teams already invested in the container orchestration platform.
  • Scalability and Portability: Built on Kubernetes primitives, Orkes offers excellent scalability and ease of deployment across different environments.
  • Limited Community and Documentation: As a newer option, Orkes may have a smaller community and less readily available documentation compared to Airflow.

4. Temporal:

  • Robust and Scalable: Designed for high-throughput, long-running workflows, Temporal excels in handling complex business processes and workflows that involve external events or human interaction.
  • State Management: Temporal’s robust state management capabilities ensure reliable and consistent workflow execution even in case of failures or interruptions.
  • Learning Curve: Due to its focus on complex workflows and distributed systems, Temporal might have a steeper learning curve for beginners.

Choosing the Right Tool:

The best data workflow tool depends on your specific needs and priorities. Consider the following factors:

  • Team Expertise: Evaluate your team’s existing knowledge and comfort level with different programming languages and paradigms.
  • Workflow Complexity: Assess the complexity of your workflows, including data volume, dependencies, and scalability requirements.
  • Existing Infrastructure: If you have a Kubernetes environment, Orkes might be a natural fit. Dagster could be ideal for data-centric teams.

By analyzing your needs and comparing the strengths of each tool, you can confidently choose the data workflow solution that empowers your team and streamlines your processes. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and the best approach is to explore and evaluate based on your specific context.



Albert Wong

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