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Rethinking Orchestration as Reconciliation: Software-Defined Assets in Dagster

Sandy Ryza Sandy Ryza | Software Engineer | Elementl

This talk discusses software-defined assets, an approach to orchestration and data management that makes it drastically easier to trust and evolve data assets, like tables and ML models.

In traditional data platforms, code and data are only loosely coupled.  As a consequence, deploying changes to data feels dangerous, backfills are error-prone and irreversible, and it’s difficult to trust data, because you don’t know where it comes from or how it’s intended to be maintained.  Each time you run a job that mutates a data asset, you add a new variable to account for when debugging problems.

Dagster proposes an alternative approach to data management that tightly couples data assets to code - each table or ML model corresponds to the function that’s responsible for generating it.  This results in a “Data as Code” approach that mimics the “Infrastructure as Code” approach that’s central to modern DevOps.  Your git repo becomes your source of truth on your data, so pushing data changes feels as safe as pushing code changes.  Backfills become easy to reason about.  You trust your data assets because you know how they’re computed and can reproduce them at any time. The role of the orchestrator is to ensure that physical assets in the data warehouse match the logical assets that are defined in code, so each job run is a step towards order.

Software-defined assets is a natural approach to orchestration for the modern data stack, in part because dbt models are a kind of software-defined asset.

Attendees of this session will learn what it looks like to build and maintain a warehouse or data lake of software-defined assets with Dagster.

Sandy Ryza
Sandy Ryza
Software Engineer | Elementl

Sandy is a software engineer at Elementl, building Dagster. Prior, he led machine learning and data science teams at KeepTruckin and Clover Health. He's a committer on Spark and Hadoop, and co-authored O'Reilly's Advanced Analytics with Spark.