Linux Pipes in PipelineWise

A pipe is unidirectional interprocess communication channel. The term was coined by Douglas McIlroy for Unix shell and named by analogy with the pipeline.

Pipes are most often used in shell-scripts to connect multiple commands by redirecting the output of one command (stdout) to the input (stdin) followed by using a pipe symbol ‘|’. specification, hence PipelineWise is also using linux pipes to connect Taps (Data Sources) and Targets (Destinations) connectors.

For example in the following command tap-postgres Extracts data from a postgres database and the extracted data sent to target-snowflake to Load it into a Snowflake database:

tap-postgres | target-snowflake


Pipes provide asynchronous execution of commands using buffered I/O routines. Thus, all the commands in the pipeline operate in parallel, each in its own process.

The size of the buffer since kernel version 2.6.11 is 65536 bytes (64K) and is equal to the page memory in older kernels. When attempting to read from an empty buffer, the read process is blocked until data appears. Similarly, if you attempt to write to a full buffer, the recording process will be blocked until the necessary amount of space is available.

It is important to note, that despite the fact that pipes operates using file descriptor I/O streams, operations are performed in memory without loading to/from the disc.

All the information given below is for bash shell 4.2 and kernel 3.10.10. Further details in the original Linux Pipes Tips & Tricks post.

Increasing buffer size

Sometimes the default 64K buffer size that provided by the Linux kernel is too small. For example in the example above when you extracting data from a busy postgres database and loading into a busy Snowflake database sometimes you will find that that tap-postgres is blocked by target-snowflake.

This happens when the target cannot load the data fast enough. For example if you have lot of concurrent queries in the target database the database can queue up new queries (at least in case of a Snowflake database) and this is blocking the tap to extract more data. This scenario can cause unexpected timeout in tap-postgres and other tap connectors. To avoid this scenario you can consider to increase the buffer size between the tap and target.


PipelineWise doesn’t modify the kernel buffer size. When you need more buffer than the defualt 64K that’s provided by the kernel, PipelineWise will use its own buffering mechanism between taps and targets.

PipelineWise is using mbuffer to create custom sized buffer between taps and targets.

You can set custom buffer sizes in the tap YAML files by setting the stream_buffer_size value. If stream_buffer_size is greater than 0 then the following piped command will be generated to create larger buffer between taps and targets than the default buffer that’s provided by the Linux kernel:

tap-postgres | mbuffer -m 10M | target-snowflake