External DAG triggers in Airflow – kuan butts

External DAG triggers in Airflow


The intent of this post is to demonstrate how to accomplish two tasks. First, I document how to trigger a DAG from within another Airflow DAG, without the trigger being attached to either DAG. Second, I demonstrate how to pass through the context from the first DAG to the second.

Why would you want to pass the context from the first DAG to the second? For example, let’s say you want to trigger a backfill or rerun a DAG for a prior date. In this example, you might have one DAG and a second, let’s call them dag_a and dag_b. Let’s say the current date is 06-01-2020. The backfill date is going to be for 04-13-2020. When the backfill DAG job is triggered in Airflow, dag_a receives a context which includes the date for the backfill job (in this case, the 04-13 date). But, when the first DAG triggers the second DAG, dag_b, dag_b does not receive the same context. Instead, a new context is generated for dag_b, and, as a result, dag_b has a context which has the current date, 06-01. This is undesirable - as we would want the backfill date string being provided to dag_a to also be propagated through to the second DAG, dag_b.

The TriggerDagRunOperator class

Triggering a DAG can be accomplished from any other DAG so long as you have the other DAG that you want to trigger’s task ID. This can be achieved through the DAG run operator TriggerDagRunOperator. Airflow documentation as of 1.10.10 states that this TriggerDagRunOperator requires the following parameters:

  • trigger_dag_id: the dag_id to trigger
  • python_callable: an optional python method that receives the current context object and is also passed the dag_run object
  • execution_date: this is an optional date time object

A gotcha is that, in addition to those three parameters, it also requires a unique task_id as well. If you review the source code, it won’t be immediately obvious that this parameter is required.

But, if you review the source code for BaseOperator the abstract base class for TriggerDagRunOperator, you will see that a task_id is required for initialization. This will be triggered in TriggerDagRunOperator during its initialization step in the following line: super(TriggerDagRunOperator, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs).

At a bare minimum, we might represent a trigger of dag_b as the following. This can then be used from within dag_a to call for a run of dag_b.


Triggering a DAG run from another

Now, the question is where to fire the trigger for dag_b. One pattern is to use the on_success_callback key on the default_args that get passed into the DAG class that initializes dag_a. With this set, one can initialize the DAG as shown below.

from airflow import DAG

dag_a = DAG(
    	'on_success_callback': trigger_dag_b,

Now the method task_success_trigger needs to be defined. At a minimum, it can just call the next DAG to run like so. This will trigger the next DAG to run, completely independent of the current context that dag_a is running with.

def trigger_dag_b(context):

Sharing context between DAGs

In order to transfer context variables (such as, for example, the date of the triggered original DAG on a backfill date), TriggerDagRunOperator itself has a python_callable that can be leveraged to update the context being passed from dag_a to dag_b. In the callable method, the DAG run object is updated to receive any elements desired to be added to its payload’s key-value store. In this case, below, we’ve added the date string from the original/first DAG run. Now, with the date string shifted to the DAG run payload, it can be accessed via the templating feature of the params attribute inherited from BaseOperator. This will cause the value to be provided as park of the dag run configuration in the context that is passed on to the triggered DAG, dag_b.

def update_payload(context, dag_run_obj):
	# copy over aspect of the context/whatever that is desired to be preserved
    dag_run_obj.payload = { 'ds': context['ds'] }
    return dag_run_obj

def trigger_dag_b(context):
        params={ 'ds': "< see below >" },

Note due to issues with templating for this blog, the params is called out separately in the below code snippet:

params={ ‘ds’: “{{ dag_run.conf[‘ds’] }}” },

Now, dag_b needs to be able to access this variable not from the typical context key-value location for the ds string, but instead from the DAG run configuration. So, originally, dag_b might have accessed the dete string in a Python callable via context["ds"] - but now it would need to access it through the DAG run configuration: context["dag_run"].conf["ds"].

dag_b = DAG(
    default_args={ ... },

def call_with_desired_context(**context):
	ds = context["dag_run"].conf["ds"]
	# trigger lambda, do whatever you want with this ds
	# which will now be the same as the one from dag_a


Finally, as an aside, note that in the case of passing through the ds from context, it is also an option to use execution date. So, if all you need is date, then the date for the subsequent execution can be passed through via:

def trigger_dag_b(context):