Beam Pipelines as CLIs: A Hack


created: 2021-02 updated: 2021-08

While building a Beam pipeline for work, I found myself surprised to find there was no documentation on how to structure the pipeline as a CLI [1]. I wanted to make running my pipeline as easy as possible. What's easier than installing a python package via pip, and invoking a well-documented command? With features like pip search and --help messages, one never needs to leave the terminal.

It's a bit strange to structure a Beam pipeline as a CLI. When I usually use CLIs, I think about manipulating files on my local machine, not orchestrating a distributed system to process potentially petabytes of data. Maybe this is starting to change. AWS, GCP, and the like all offer developers the ability to manipulate whole cloud architectures from a CLI. Why not do the same for my ETL job?

After some trail and error, I ended up figuring out a hack to make it work. A full demo of my solution can be found in this project on Github.

├── mytool
│   ├──
│   ├── boom
│   ├──
│   └── subtool
│       ├──
│       ├──
│       └──

2 directories, 9 files

The secret ingredient to getting this right was to have nested files. The inner file is necessary so that each Beam worker gets the dependencies it needs (library code + third party deps). However, the outer is needed to publish the project and make a CLI entry-point available. The script registered in the outer setup file, here called boom, passes the path to the inner setup file.

This may be unclear, let me show rather than tell:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# mytool/boom

#!/usr/bin/env python3

import glob
import logging
import os
import subprocess
import sys
import tempfile
import tarfile

import mytool

if __name__ == '__main__':

    site_pkg = mytool.__path__[0]

        from subtool import cli
    except ImportError:
        # Install the subpackage.
        subprocess.check_call(f'{sys.executable} -m pip install {site_pkg}'.split())

        from subtool import cli

    with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as tmpdir:
        # Convert subpackage to a tarball
            f'{sys.executable} ./ sdist --dist-dir {tmpdir}'.split(),

        # Set tarball as extra packages for Beam.
        pkg_archive = glob.glob(os.path.join(tmpdir, '*.tar.gz'))[0]

        with, 'r') as tar:
            py_files_in_tar = [f for f in tar.getnames() if f.endswith('.py')]
            assert len(py_files_in_tar) > 0, 'extra_package must include python files!'

        cli(['--extra_package', pkg_archive])

This imports the cli function, an entrypoint to the pipeline. The --extra_package is a standard way to package non-PyPi dependencies in your pipeline.

# mytool/subtool/

from .main import run

def cli(extra=[]):
    import sys
    run(sys.argv + extra)

Thus, by nesting packages and pointing to the path to the inner package, we get the best of both worlds: Beam can install the inner package as a library to each remote worker. Users can install the tool using python standards.

1: Sure, the docs talk about packaging workers with setuptools, but this explanation lacks my use case exactly. The workers still need to be run from an executor, and I want that executor to be installed with pip.