Stream changes with Dataflow

The Bigtable Beam connector lets you use Dataflow to read Bigtable data change records without needing to track or process partition changes in your code, because the connector handles that logic for you.

This document describes how to configure and use the Bigtable Beam connector to read a change stream using a Dataflow pipeline. Before you read this document, you should read the Overview of change streams and be familiar with Dataflow.

Alternatives to building your own pipeline

If you don't want to build your own Dataflow pipeline, then you can use one of the following options.

You can use a Google-provided Dataflow template.

You can also use the code samples from the Bigtable tutorial or quickstart as a starting point for your code.

Make sure that the code that you generate uses google cloud libraries-bom version 26.14.0 or later.

Connector details

The Bigtable Beam connector method, BigtableIO.readChangeStream, lets you read a stream of data change records (ChangeStreamMutation) that you can process. The Bigtable Beam connector is a component of the Apache Beam GitHub repository. For a description of the connector code, see the comments at

You must use the connector with Beam version 2.48.0 or later. Check Apache Beam runtime support to make sure that you're using a supported version of Java. Then you can deploy a pipeline that uses the connector to Dataflow, which handles the provisioning and management of resources and assists with the scalability and reliability of stream data processing.

For more information on the Apache Beam programming model, see the Beam documentation.

Grouping data without event times

Data change records streamed using the Bigtable Beam connector aren't compatible with Dataflow functions that depend on event times.

As explained in Replication and watermarks, a low watermark might not advance if replication for the partition hasn't caught up to the rest of the instance. When a low watermark stops advancing, it can cause the change stream to stall.

To prevent the stream from stalling, the Bigtable Beam connector outputs all data with an output timestamp of zero. The zero timestamp makes Dataflow consider all the data change records to be late data. As a result, Dataflow features that depend on event times aren't compatible with Bigtable change streams. Specifically, you can't use windowing functions, event-time triggers, or event-time timers.

Instead, you can use GlobalWindows with non-event time triggers to group this late data into panes, as demonstrated in the example from the tutorial. For details on triggers and panes, see Triggers in the Beam programming guide.


The connector supports Dataflow autoscaling, which is enabled by default when using Runner v2 (required). The Dataflow autoscaling algorithm takes into account the estimated change stream backlog, which can be monitored on the Dataflow monitoring page in the Backlog section. Use the --maxNumWorkers flag when deploying a job to cap the number of workers.

To manually scale your pipeline instead of using autoscaling, see Manually scaling a streaming pipeline.


Note the following limitations before using the Bigtable Beam connector with Dataflow.

Dataflow Runner V2

The connector can only be executed using Dataflow Runner v2. To enable this, specify --experiments=use_runner_v2 in your command-line arguments. Running with Runner v1 causes your pipeline to fail with the following exception:

java.lang.UnsupportedOperationException: BundleFinalizer unsupported by non-portable Dataflow


The connector does not support Dataflow snapshots.

Before you begin

Before you use the connector, complete the following prerequisites.

Set up authentication

To use the Java samples on this page from a local development environment, install and initialize the gcloud CLI, and then set up Application Default Credentials with your user credentials.

  1. Install the Google Cloud CLI.
  2. To initialize the gcloud CLI, run the following command:

    gcloud init
  3. Create local authentication credentials for your Google Account:

    gcloud auth application-default login

For more information, see Set up authentication for a local development environment.

For information about setting up authentication for a production environment, see Set up Application Default Credentials for code running on Google Cloud.

Enable a change stream

You must enable a change stream on a table before you can read it. You can also create a new table with change streams enabled.

Required roles

To get the permissions that you need to read a Bigtable change stream using Dataflow, ask your administrator to grant you the following IAM roles.

To read the changes from Bigtable, you need this role:

  • Bigtable Administrator (roles/bigtable.admin) on the Bigtable instance that contains the table you plan to stream changes from

To run the Dataflow job, you need these roles:

For more information about granting roles, see Manage access.

You might also be able to get the required permissions through custom roles or other predefined roles.

Add the Bigtable Beam connector as a dependency

Add code similar to the following dependency to your Maven pom.xml file. The version must be 2.48.0 or later.


Read the change stream

To build a Dataflow pipeline to read your data change records, you configure the connector and then add transforms and sinks. Then you use the connector to read ChangeStreamMutation objects in a Beam pipeline.

The code samples in this section, written in Java, demonstrate how to build a pipeline and use it to convert key-value pairs into a string. Each pair consists of a row key and a ChangeStreamMutation object. The pipeline converts each object's entries to a comma-separated string.

Build the pipeline

This Java code sample demonstrates how to build the pipeline:

BigtableOptions options =
Pipeline p = Pipeline.create(options);

final Instant startTime =;

        "Read Change Stream",
        "Flatten Mutation Entries",
        "Print mutations",
            new DoFn<String, Void>() { // a DoFn as an anonymous inner class instance
              public void processElement(@Element String mutation) {
                System.out.println("Change captured: " + mutation);

Process the data change records

This sample demonstrates how to loop through all the entries in a data change record for a row and call a convert-to-string method based on entry type.

For a list of entry types that a data change record can contain, see What's in a data change record.

static List<String> mutationEntriesToString(KV<ByteString, ChangeStreamMutation> mutationPair) {
  List<String> mutations = new ArrayList<>();
  String rowKey = mutationPair.getKey().toStringUtf8();
  ChangeStreamMutation mutation = mutationPair.getValue();
  MutationType mutationType = mutation.getType();
  for (Entry entry : mutation.getEntries()) {
    if (entry instanceof SetCell) {
      mutations.add(setCellToString(rowKey, mutationType, (SetCell) entry));
    } else if (entry instanceof DeleteCells) {
      mutations.add(deleteCellsToString(rowKey, mutationType, (DeleteCells) entry));
    } else if (entry instanceof DeleteFamily) {
      // Note: DeleteRow mutations are mapped into one DeleteFamily per-family
      mutations.add(deleteFamilyToString(rowKey, mutationType, (DeleteFamily) entry));
    } else {
      throw new RuntimeException("Entry type not supported.");
  return mutations;

In this sample a write entry is converted:

private static String setCellToString(String rowKey, MutationType mutationType, SetCell setCell) {
  List<String> mutationParts =
  return String.join(",", mutationParts);

In this sample a deletion of cells entry is converted:

private static String deleteCellsToString(
    String rowKey, MutationType mutationType, DeleteCells deleteCells) {
  String timestampRange =
      deleteCells.getTimestampRange().getStart() + "-" + deleteCells.getTimestampRange().getEnd();
  List<String> mutationParts =
  return String.join(",", mutationParts);

In this sample, a deletion of a column family entry is converted:

private static String deleteFamilyToString(
    String rowKey, MutationType mutationType, DeleteFamily deleteFamily) {
  List<String> mutationParts =
      Arrays.asList(rowKey,, "DeleteFamily", deleteFamily.getFamilyName());
  return String.join(",", mutationParts);


The following resources in the Google Cloud console let you monitor your Google Cloud resources while you run a Dataflow pipeline to read a Bigtable change stream:

In particular, check the following metrics:

  • On the Bigtable Monitoring page, check these metrics:
    • CPU utilization by change streams data in the metric cpu_load_by_app_profile_by_method_by_table. Shows the change stream's impact on your cluster's CPU usage.
    • Change stream storage utilization (bytes) (change_stream_log_used_bytes).
  • On the Dataflow monitoring page, check data freshness, which shows the difference between the current time and the watermark. It should be around two minutes, with occasional spikes that are a minute or two longer. If the data freshness metric is consistently higher than that threshold, your pipeline is probably under-resourced and you should add more Dataflow workers.

What's next