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Django ETL, derives rules from models, creates relations.

Project Description

ETL based on Django model introspection.

Django-etl-sync derives ETL rules from Django model introspection and is able to trace and create relationships such as foreign keys and many-to-many relationship.

The package currently lacks a method to move records no longer present in upstream data.

The project was originall developed to manage upstream data sources for the Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine, see


  • Re-usable Django app that provides classes for light weight ETL in your project. (Will be more independent from the Django framework in the future)
  • Geared toward sync’ing with upstream data sources (e.g. for an API) or legacy data (it was originally build for loading million records from museum collection data with regular small changes).
  • Prioritizes data consistency over speed.
  • Subclassing allows for replacing of methods with speedier, simplified or more sophisticated versions.
  • Supports data persistence, consistency, normalization, and recreation of relationships from flatten files or dumps.
  • Derives ETL rules from Django model introspection (the use of other frameworks or database declarations is planned). This rules can be easily modified and overriden (as long as they do not cause integrity errors).
  • Can be easily used within a parallelization framework such as Celery, thorough checks of the state of the destination avoid race conditions and inconsistencies (at the cost of speed.)
  • Supports Django Forms as transformation rules. This way web forms within the app can be re-used as transformation rules.


  • Python 2.7 upwards, Python 3
  • Django 1.7 (tested) upwards
  • GDAL if OGR readers for geodata are used


The package is in active development toward a release. For evaluation, contribution, and testing

pip install -e git+ssh://

or for usage

pip install django-etl-sync

Add etl_sync to INSTALLED_APPS in of your Django project.

Minimal Examples

The module provides two principal ways of usage on either file or record level.

  1. Use the Loader class to specify all ETL operations. If you need to make changes to the data between reading from the file and writing them to the database create a custom Transformer class (see below).

The loader class was called Mapper in earlier versions. There is still a Mapper class which is a wrapper of the Loader class that will throw an deprecation warning upon initialization (removal planned for version 1.0). Applications that were build using older versions will work for now.

  1. Use the Generator class to generate a Django model instance from a dictionary and return the instance. The input dictionary needs to satisfy all constraints of the model as defined by the ModelField attributes. If this is not the case an error will be thrown. The Loader class will catch this error and create a log entry. Apply transformations beforehand.

The difference to simply creating an instance by calling Model(**dict) is a very thorough check for consistency and the creation of relationships. However, if the simple method is convenient, a Django Model could be used in place of the Generator.

Minimal example: file load

# data.txt
record  name
1 one
2 two
3 three

from django.db import models
from etl_sync.loaders import Loader

class TestModel(models.Model):
    Example Model.
    record = models.CharField(max_length=10)
    name = models.CharField(max_length=10, null=True, blank=True)

class YourLoader(Loader):
    Add your specific settings here.
    filename = 'data.txt'
    model_class = TestModel

if __name__ == '__main__':
    loader = YourLoader()
    res = loader.load()

Minimal example: dictionary load

from etl_sync.generators import BaseInstanceGenerator
from <yourproject>.models import TestModel

dic = {'record': 3, 'name': 'three'}

if __name__ == '__main__':
    # add additional transformations here
    generator = BaseInstanceGenerator(TestModel, dic)
    instance = generator.get_instance()
    print(instance, generator.res)


Unique fields

Before loading a record it might be necessary to check whether it already exists, whether it needs to be added or updated (persistence). By default the module inspects the target model and uses model fields with the attribute unique=True as criterion for persistence. The module will check first whether any record with the given combination of values in unique fields already exists and update that record.


Do not use the models internal pk or id field as identifier for your data! Add an extra field containing the identifier from the upstream source, such as record or remote_id.

Extra arguments

Another method to add (or overwrite) persistence criterions is to add a list of fields via key word argument.

generator = InstanceGenerator(
    TestModel, dic, persistence = ['record', 'source'])


You can subclass InstanceGenerator to create your own generator class with a specific persistence criterion.

from etl_sync.generators import InstanceGenerator

class MyGenerator(InstanceGenerator):
    My generator class with custom persistence criterion.
    persistence = ['record', 'source']

etl_persistence key in data dictionary

The last method is to put an extra key value pair in your data dictionary, e.g. during the dictionary transformation.

dic = {'record': 6365,
       'name': 'john',
       'occupation': 'developer',
       'etl_persistence': ['record']}

This approach is particular helpful for nested records that can be used to create relationships. It seems likely that the related model has different persistence criteria than the model currently loaded. In a recursive call, the InstanceGenerator might not be directly accessible (see below). E.g.

dic = {'record': 6565,
       'occupation': {
            'name': 'developer',
            'paygroup': 'III',
            'etl_persistence': ['name', 'paygroup']}}

If the instance generator is called like this and the create_foreignkey attribute is True, the foreign key entry for developer with paygroup III will be generated if not already existent.

In addition the key value pair etl_create: True can be set on nested records to create (or prevent the creation if set False) of nested records.

If record creation is disabled and the persistence criterion cannot be met, the record will be rejected and the rejection logged in the logfile when using Loader.

Defining persistence by a Django ModelField attributes requiring a concise data model is the preferred method.

Once the attribute persistence is set on the Generator class the model field attributes will be ignored as a source for persistence rules. Nevertheless, conflicts with your Django models will throw IntegrityError or other database errors.

Error handling

If the Generator class is called within the Mapper class, errors will be caught and written to the defined logfile or to stdout. The loading process will continue. In contrast, if you use the Generator class in a different context you need to catch errors in your code


By default django-etl-sync uses the Python csv.DictReader, other reader classes can be used or created if they are similar (duck-typed) to csv.DictReader.

The package currently contains a reader for OGR readable files.

from etl_sync.generators import InstanceGenerator
from etl_sync.readers import OGRReader

class MyMapper(Mapper):

The OGRReader covers the functionality of the older ShapefileReader class there is still a stub ShapefileReader for compatibility. It will be removed in version 1.0.


Transformations remap the dictionary from the CSV reader or another reader class to the Django model. We attempt to map the dictionary key to the model field with the matching name. The Transformer classes allows for remapping and validation of incoming records.

Instantiate InstanceGenerator with a customized Transformer class:

from etl_sync.loaders import Loader
from etl_sync.transformes import Transformer

class MyTransformer(Transformer):
    mappings = {'id': 'record', 'name': 'last_name'}
    defaults = {'last_name': 'Doe'}
    forms = []
    blacklist = {'last_name': ['NA', r'unknown']}

class MyLoader(Loader):
    model_class = {destination model}
    transformer_class = MyTransformer

loader = MyLoader(filename=myfile.txt)
  • The mapping property contains a dictionary in the form {‘original_fieldname’: ‘new_fieldname’} which will remap the dictionary.
  • The defaults property holds a dictionary that gets applied if the value for the dictionary key in question is empty.
  • The forms property holds a list of Django forms that get applied to the dictionary. Be careful, unused keys will not be removed. The new cleaned_data keys will be added to the dictionary.
  • And finally the blacklist property holds a list of values for particular keys that will trigger a validation error. The record will be discarded.


These methods will be applied in exactly that order. If the dictionary changes in one of these steps, the next step needs to take these changes into consideration.

In addition to these built-in transformations, there are two additional methods that can be modified for more thorough changes:

class MyTransformer(Transformer):

    def transform(self, dic):
        """Make whatever changes needed here."""
        return dic

    def validate(self, dic):
        """Raise ValidationErrors"""
        if last_name == 'Bunny':
            raise ValidationError('I do not want to have this record')

Both methods will be applied after the aforementioned built-in methods encouraging a declarative style.

Django form support

A generic Django form class can also be used as Loader.transformer_class.

Create transformer for related models

File load


Django-etl-sync will create a log file in the same location as the source file. It will contain the list of rejected records.


  • Create readers for more source types, especially for comma limited data, and headerless CSV.
  • Add data removal, if deleted from source.
  • Improve Documentation, create documention on ReadTheDocs.
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