8 Best Apache Airflow Alternatives & Similar Platforms

by Deniz

Best Apache Airflow Alternatives

A lot of data engineers rely on Apache Airflow to deliver high-quality engineering. However, Airflow is not free from any drawbacks, and some people may find it unsuitable, whether for their liking or work goals. Here are 8 Apache Airflow alternatives you may want to try out next.

What is Apache Airflow, and What is It for?

What is Apache Airflow

In the era of big data, the existence of reliable workflow management software is highly important. By using such software, engineers can minimize errors and improve work efficiency, which in turn will help businesses generate better decisions.

That is where Apache Airflow takes place.

Apache Airflow is a software that will help its users write, schedule, and monitor the workflow. The software was launched back in 2014 using an open-source scheme.

Currently, Apache Airflow has more than 1000 contributors that will always try to keep the software up-to-date. Due to its usefulness, many major companies use the software, such as Wells Fargo, Dailymotion, and Airbnb.

Regarding authoring the workflow, Apache Airflow lets you write them as Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG). The software is designed to display a user-friendly and interactive interface that clearly visualizes each pipeline.

What makes Apache Airflow special is the fact that it uses Python in its DAG. That alone will help lessen the probability of integration problems, especially if it is in different systems.

Moreover, Apache Airflow is very easy to scale and does so without the probability of data loss. You can try each task repeatedly if you fail, and you will also receive an alert through your Slack or email when a task is done or needs fixing.

Understanding and running Apache Airflow may require a certain level of knowledge. But the value, of course, is totally worth the trouble at the start. 

Best Apache Airflow Alternatives to Increase Productivity

Regarding data-related software such as Airflow, the function and preference matter. Therefore, despite the functionality, some may feel like Airflow does not suffice to fulfill their needs. So, in that case, here are 8 software you can use to replace Apache Airflow.

1. Camunda


Stating that Camunda is a head-to-head competitor of Apache Airflow might be slightly incorrect. It is because Camunda is not just a workflow automation software, per se, but also project management software.

Camunda uses “Universal Process Orchestrator” to describe its service. Indeed, what Camunda do is help you navigate tasks throughout the whole process, which circulates across devices, systems, and people.

Camunda applies the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard. It is a standard that allows visual collaboration between stakeholders and teams. That way, the system will be easier to comprehend and use as decision-making material.

Another exceptional feature that Camunda offer is a heat map. It shows which part of your system is more active and will eventually help you improve and optimize the system.

Unlike Apache Airflow, which uses Python, Camunda offers you the freedom to use whatever language you want. Moreover, it also gives you flexibility in your choice of practices, tools, and connectors.

This Airflow-similar tool is easy to deploy and also easy on your processor. You can enjoy Camunda for free, as long as it is for a non-production matter. If you need it for production, you will have to get a license, though you will have a free trial before you purchase the package.


2. Prefect


Prefect is software that shares quite many similarities with Apache Airflow. Thus, making the software worth spending your time on (or money, if you feel like it). So, how is Prefect vs Airflow?

Feature-wise, Prefect does what Apache Airflow does, helping you easily create, coordinate, and monitor your data flow. Prefect is an open-source project, and the development is quite rapid.

Prefect uses the Orion engine, which helps you to turn code into workflows. It enables you to work with Python-based workflows, and the deployment is also pretty easy. Even though the interface is something you need to get used to, it still delivers the function greatly.

However, that is not the only thing that makes Prefect a good option to replace Apache Airflow. Prefect has a very useful tool, versioning, which allows you to track the older version of your workflow.

Prefect also has great choices of integrations. That includes Kubernetes, Slacks, and Databricks. Moreover, you can access Prefect via the cloud, which makes the software easier to work on, even on the go.

 As an open-source Airflow alternative, it is only reasonable that Prefect has a high probability of being compatible with a modern data stack. Some even say that, in that aspect, Prefect is more reliable than Prefect.

You can start using Prefect by downloading the client app on the website. Luckily, it offers a free plan that allows some basic features, including 3 operators and a 7-day versioning period. However, in the paid plan, you can have a read-only user and a longer versioning period (30 days).


3. Luigi


Regarding workflow management software, Luigi is one of the software that frequently comes up in the discussion. Despite having a smaller community – which means it is less popular, Luigi has several features that are significantly different from Apache Airflow.

So, how exactly is Luigi vs Airflow?

First, you must know that both software uses Phyton as their base language. What Luigi does is help you create pipelines, do pipeline management, serve data visualizations, and also commence retries in case of failure.

Feature-wise, Luigi offers fewer features than Apache Airflow. For example, Luigi requires you to write code to schedule workflow automation. On the contrary, Apache Airflow eases you into it by presenting a calendar UI so you can easily choose the time and date.

However, Luigi is much easier to understand and implement in terms of the learning curve. Moreover, it notices you almost instantly when there is a failure so that you can take action faster. Due to that, Luigi suits small teams who want to work ASAP better.

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Like Airflow, Luigi is an open-source Airflow alternative that is completely free. You can get the program on Luigi’s page.


4. AWS Step Functions

AWS Step Functions

If you seek an Airflow alternative in AWS, rest assured because AWS Step Functions will help you easily reach your goal.

AWS Step Functions is a cloud-based workflow orchestrator software that helps you build and coordinate the components of distributed applications and micro-services. Due to the nature of the cloud, it is serverless and highly supports collaboration between teams.

Just like Apache Airflow, AWS Step Functions also operates with visual workflow. It uses a drag-and-drop method to make it even easier to use so that the stakeholder can work around the workflow leisurely.

AWS Step Functions enable you to manage the input and output, as well as give you the ability to deal with errors and retries. That way, you will be able to concentrate more on the goal rather than doing the trivial tasks that can be automated.

AWS Step Functions can be great if you work around the AWS environment. That is because it integrates with various AWS services such as Lambda, SageMaker, and SNS.

With a limitation of 4000 state transitions a month, you can get AWS Step Functions for free. However, if you require more than that, you will have to pay $0.025 for each state transition that you use.


5. Azure Data Factory

Azure Data Factory

As one of Apache Airflow alternatives, Azure Data Factory focuses on building pipelines for ETL/ELT process. This software allows you to schedule, manage, and observe the pipelines thoroughly.

One of the much-admired features of Azure Data Factory is its codeless processes. It enables users from different levels of skills and needs to build, integrate, and migrate data easily.

Though serverless, Azure Data Factory is still a powerful service. Within it, there are about 90 built-in connectors that enable you to work with various data sources, including SaaS sources. 

Moreover, you can also extract SSIS data pipelines and move them anytime to the software. You will also receive fully-integrated notifications and alerts to respond to the ongoing process in real-time.

To start using Azure Data Factory, you actually do not have to pay anything. Microsoft offers a $200 credit for you to use in the span of 30 days, and you can continue building your pipelines easily.

In that period, you will also be able to enjoy Azure’s other services. However, you can still use the same account using the pay-per-use scheme after the period.


6. Apache NiFi

Apache NiFi

It is hard to say that Apache Airflow shares huge similarities with Apache NiFi. In fact, both software serves different purposes, though it revolves around the same material; data.

Apache NiFi is software that assists you in handling a huge amount of data and automates the data flow in-between systems. In this context, ‘handling’ refers to the process of filtering, adjusting, joining, dividing, enhancing, and verifying data.

With Apache NiFi, you will have the ability to control the data in real time. It has a simple yet great interface, and it takes no programming skills to operate this software.

What makes Apache NiFi receive praise all around, however, is its guaranteed delivery, no matter how high-scale the data is. Due to the powerful architecture, you can easily handle various data files, even binary files.

In addition to that, you can also customize several features that you may need. For example, you can adjust your own queuing rules and modify how they will be executed. Moreover, you will also be able to adjust the reporting activities to suit your company’s needs.

Apache NiFi is open-source and free-to-use software and is downloadable through its website page.


7. JS7 Jobscheduler

JS7 Jobscheduler

JS7 Jobscheduler may not be as famous as its contender, which, in this article, is Apache Airflow. However, it holds great features which may be suitable to your needs.

Preceding Apache Airflow, JS7 Jobscheduler was developed by SOS GmbH, a Germany-based company. It has been around as an open-source software since 2005, and it continues to strive today.

What JS7 Jobscheduler offer is not that different from Airflow. It allows you to improve your work performance by offering automation service to your tasks, especially in the file-transferring and file-executing aspects.

JS7 Jobscheduler has a web interface, which makes the software easier to navigate. With JS7, you can easily build and manage your workflow based on real-time observation.

There are three elements to JS7; a controller to orchestrate all the work, a universal agent to execute all queued tasks, and the cockpit, which eases you to monitor all that is happening in the system. You will be guaranteed an agile and scalable result with these three elements.

In addition to that, all of JS7’s elements are very versatile. It is accessible through MacOS, Linux, and Windows devices. It can also be accessed through other devices as long as it supports Java Virtual Machine. You can download JS7’s Jobscheduler on the website.


8. Jenkins


Aiming for great CI/CD automation tools? Then using Jenkins is the way to go.

Jenkins is a cloud-based automation software that will help you create, run and automate tasks through multiple machines. It enables you to test your software, document the process, and helps you find out how it might work on different platforms.

Jenkins operates with a set of plugins, making running easier. Due to that reason, Jenkins is popular among various tiers of users, from freelancers to big companies to even enterprises.

As long as the device can access cloud platforms, it can also use Jenkins. The software works in various cloud environments, including IBM Cloud and Azure. Moreover, since it is open-source, you can get Jenkins for free.


Finding great Apache Airflow alternatives may not be easy, especially if you aim to find the one that perfectly fits you and your goal. However, it will surely be worth the wait when you find it. Hopefully, this list helps you find it.

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