Cascading Failures and Reruns - AWS Data Pipeline

Cascading Failures and Reruns

AWS Data Pipeline allows you to configure the way pipeline objects behave when a dependency fails or is canceled by a user. You can ensure that failures cascade to other pipeline objects (consumers), to prevent indefinite waiting. All activities, data nodes, and preconditions have a field named failureAndRerunMode with a default value of none. To enable cascading failures, set the failureAndRerunMode field to cascade.

When this field is enabled, cascade failures occur if a pipeline object is blocked in the WAITING_ON_DEPENDENCIES state and any dependencies have failed with no pending command. During a cascade failure, the following events occur:

  • When an object fails, its consumers are set to CASCADE_FAILED and both the original object and its consumers' preconditions are set to CANCELED.

  • Any objects that are already FINISHED, FAILED, or CANCELED are ignored.

Cascade failure does not operate on a failed object's dependencies (upstream), except for preconditions associated with the original failed object. Pipeline objects affected by a cascade failure may trigger any retries or post-actions, such as onFail.

The detailed effects of a cascading failure depend on the object type.


An activity changes to CASCADE_FAILED if any of its dependencies fail, and it subsequently triggers a cascade failure in the activity's consumers. If a resource fails that the activity depends on, the activity is CANCELED and all its consumers change to CASCADE_FAILED.

Data Nodes and Preconditions

If a data node is configured as the output of an activity that fails, the data node changes to the CASCADE_FAILED state. The failure of a data node propagates to any associated preconditions, which change to the CANCELED state.


If the objects that depend on a resource are in the FAILED state and the resource itself is in the WAITING_ON_DEPENDENCIES state, then the resource changes to the FINISHED state.

Rerunning Cascade-Failed Objects

By default, rerunning any activity or data node only reruns the associated resource. However, setting the failureAndRerunMode field to cascade on a pipeline object allows a rerun command on a target object to propagate to all consumers, under the following conditions:

  • The target object's consumers are in the CASCADE_FAILED state.

  • The target object's dependencies have no rerun commands pending.

  • The target object's dependencies are not in the FAILED, CASCADE_FAILED, or CANCELED state.

If you attempt to rerun a CASCADE_FAILED object and any of its dependencies are FAILED, CASCADE_FAILED, or CANCELED, the rerun will fail and return the object to the CASCADE_FAILED state. To successfully rerun the failed object, you must trace the failure up the dependency chain to locate the original source of failure and rerun that object instead. When you issue a rerun command on a resource, you also attempt to rerun any objects that depend on it.

Cascade-Failure and Backfills

If you enable cascade failure and have a pipeline that creates many backfills, pipeline runtime errors can cause resources to be created and deleted in rapid succession without performing useful work. AWS Data Pipeline attempts to alert you about this situation with the following warning message when you save a pipeline: Pipeline_object_name has 'failureAndRerunMode' field set to 'cascade' and you are about to create a backfill with scheduleStartTime start_time. This can result in rapid creation of pipeline objects in case of failures. This happens because cascade failure can quickly set downstream activities as CASCADE_FAILED and shut down EMR clusters and EC2 resources that are no longer needed. We recommended that you test pipelines with short time ranges to limit the effects of this situation.