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BigShift is a tool for moving tables from Redshift to BigQuery. It will create a table in BigQuery with a schema that matches the Redshift table, dump the data to S3, transfer it to GCS and finally load it into the BigQuery table.
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BigShift is a tool for moving tables from Redshift to BigQuery. It will create a table in BigQuery with a schema that matches the Redshift table, dump the data to S3, transfer it to GCS and finally load it into the BigQuery table.


$ gem install bigshift


On the AWS side you need a Redshift cluster and an S3 bucket, and credentials that let you read from Redshift, and read and write to the S3 bucket (it doesn't have to be to the whole bucket, a prefix works fine). On the GCP side you need a Cloud Storage bucket, a BigQuery dataset and credentials that allows reading and writing to the bucket, and create BigQuery tables.


The main interface to BigShift is the bigshift command line tool.

BigShift can also be used as a library in a Ruby application. Look at the tests, and how the bigshift tool is built to figure out how.

Because a transfer can take a long time, it's highly recommended that you run the command in screen or tmux or using some other mechanism that ensures that the process isn't killed prematurely.


Please note that transferring large amounts of data between AWS and GCP is not free. AWS charges for outgoing traffic from S3. There are also storage charges for the Redshift dumps on S3 and GCS, but since they are kept only until the BigQuery table has been loaded those should be negligible.

BigShift tells Redshift to compress the dumps by default, even if that means that the BigQuery load will be slower, in order to minimize the transfer cost. However, depending on your setup and data the individual files produced by Redshift might become larger than BigQuery's compressed file size limit of 4 GiB. In these cases you need to either uncompress the files manually on the GCP side (for example by running BigShift with just --steps unload,transfer to get the dumps to GCS), or dump and transfer uncompressed files (with --no-compression), at a higher bandwidth cost.


Running bigshift without any arguments, or with --help will show the options. All except --s3-prefix, --rs-schema, --bq-table, --max-bad-records, --steps and --[no-]compress are required.

GCP credentials

You can provide GCP credentials either with the environment variable GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS or with the --gcp-credentials argument. These must be a path to a JSON file that contains a public/private key pair for a GCP user. The best way to obtain this is to create a new service account and choose JSON as the key type when prompted. See the GCP documentation for more information.

If Bigshift is run directly on Compute Engine, Kubernetes Engine or App Engine flexible environment, the embedded service account will be used instead. Please note the service account will need to have the cloud-platform authorization scope as detailed in the Storage Transfer Service documentation.

If you haven't used Storage Transfer Service with your destination bucket before it might not have the right permissions setup, see below under Troubleshooting for more information.

AWS credentials

You can provide AWS credentials the same way that you can for the AWS SDK, that is with environment variables and files in specific locations in the file system, etc. See the AWS SDK documentation for more information. You can't use temporary credentials, like instance role credentials, unfortunately, because GCS Transfer Service doesn't support session tokens.

You can also use the optional --aws-credentials argument to point to a JSON or YAML file that contains access_key_id and secret_access_key, and optionally region.

access_key_id: AKXYZABC123FOOBARBAZ
secret_access_key: eW91ZmlndXJlZG91dGl0d2FzYmFzZTY0ISEhCg
region: eu-west-1

These credentials need to be allowed to read and write the S3 location you specify with --s3-bucket and --s3-prefix.

Here is a minimal IAM policy that should work:

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Action": [
      "Resource": [
      "Effect": "Allow"
      "Action": [
      "Resource": [
      "Effect": "Allow"

If you set THE-NAME-OF-THE-BUCKET to the same value as --s3-bucket and THE/PREFIX to the same value as --s3-prefix you're limiting the damage that BigShift can do, and unless you store something else at that location there is very little damage to be done.

It is strongly recommended that you create a specific IAM user with minimal permissions for use with BigShift. The nature of GCS Transfer Service means that these credentials are sent to and stored in GCP. The credentials are also used in the UNLOAD command sent to Redshift, and with the AWS SDK to work with the objects on S3.

Redshift credentials

The --rs-credentials argument must be a path to a JSON or YAML file that contains the host and port of the Redshift cluster, as well as the username and password required to connect.

port: 5439
username: my_redshift_user
password: dGhpc2lzYWxzb2Jhc2U2NAo

S3 prefix

If you don't want to put the data dumped from Redshift directly into the root of the S3 bucket you can use the --s3-prefix to provide a prefix to where the dumps should be placed.

Because of how GCS' Transfer Service works the transferred files will have exactly the same keys in the destination bucket, this cannot be configured.

Redshift schema

By default the schema in Redshift is called public, but in case you're not using that one, you can use the argument --rs-schema to specify the schema your table is in.

BigQuery table ID

By default the BigQuery table ID will be the same as the Redshift table name, but the optional argument --bq-table can be used to tell BigShift to use another table ID.

Running only some steps

Using the --steps argument it's possible to skip some parts of the transfer, or resume a failed transfer. The default is --steps unload,transfer,load,cleanup, but using for example --steps unload,transfer would dump the table to S3 and transfer the files and then stop.

Another case might be if for some reason the BigShift process was killed during the transfer step. The transfer will still run in GCS, and you might not want to start over from the start, it takes a long time to unload a big table, and an even longer time to transfer it, not to mention bandwidth costs. You can then run the same command again, but add --steps load,cleanup to the arguments to skip the unloading and transferring steps.

How does it work?

There are four main pieces to BigShift: the Redshift unloader, the transfer, the BigQuery load and the schema translation.

In theory it's pretty simple: the Redshift table is dumped to S3 using Redshift's UNLOAD command, copied over to GCS and loaded into BigQuery – but the devil is the details.

The CSV produced by Redshift's UNLOAD can't be loaded into BigQuery no matter what options you specify on either end. Redshift can quote all fields or none, but BigQuery doesn't allow non-string fields to be quoted. The format of booleans and timestamps are not compatible, and they expect quotes in quoted fields to be escaped differently, to name a few things.

This means that a lot of what BigShift does is make sure that the data that is dumped from Redshift is compatible with BigQuery. To do this it reads the table schema and translates the different datatypes while the data is dumped. Quotes are escaped, timestamps formatted, and so on.

Once the data is on S3 it's fairly simple to move it over to GCS. GCS has a great service called Transfer Service, that does the transfer for you. If this didn't exist you would have to stream all of the bytes through the machine that ran BigShift. As long as you've set up the credentials right in AWS IAM this works smoothly.

Once the data is in GCS, the BigQuery table can be created and loaded. At this point the Redshift table's schema is translated into a BigQuery schema. The Redshift datatypes are mapped to BigQuery datatypes and things like nullability are determines. The mapping is straighforward:

  • BOOLEAN in Redshift becomes BOOLEAN in BigQuery
  • all Redshift integer types are mapped to BigQuery's INTEGER
  • all Redshift floating point types are mapped to BigQuery's FLOAT
  • DATE in Redshift becomes STRING in BigQuery (formatted as YYYY-MM-DD)
  • NUMERIC is mapped to STRING, because BigQuery doesn't have any equivalent data type and using STRING avoids loosing precision
  • TIMESTAMP in Redshift becomes TIMESTAMP in BigQuery, and the data is transferred as a UNIX timestamp with fractional seconds (to the limit of what Redshift's TIMESTAMP datatype provides)
  • CHAR and VARCHAR obviously become STRING in BigQuery

NOT NULL becomes REQUIRED in BigQuery, and NULL becomes NULLABLE.

Finally, once the BigQuery table has been loaded BigShift will remove the data it dumped to S3 and the data it transferred to Cloud Storage.

What doesn't it do?

  • BigShift can't currently append to an existing BigQuery table. This feature would be possible to add.
  • The tool will truncate the target table before loading the transferred data to it. This is convenient if you want to move the same data multiple times, but can also be considered very scary and unsafe. It would be possible to have options to fail if there is data in the target table, or to append to the target table.
  • There is no transformation or processing of the data. When moving to BigQuery you might want to split a string and use the pieces as values in a repeated field, but BigShift doesn't help you with that. You will almost always have to do some post processing in BigQuery once the data has been moved. Processing on the way would require a lot more complexity and involve either Hadoop or Dataflow, and that's beyond the scope of a tool like this.
  • BigShift can't move data back from BigQuery to Redshift. It can probably be done, but you would probably have to write a big part of the Redshift schema yourself since BigQuery's data model is so much simpler. Going from Redshift to BigQuery is simple, most of Redshifts datatypes map directly to one of BigQuery's, and there's no encodings, sort or dist keys to worry about. Going in the other direction the tool can't know whether or not a STRING column in BigQuery should be a CHAR(12) or VARCHAR(65535), and if it should be encoded as LZO or BYTEDICT or what should be the primary, sort, and dist key of the table.


I get SSL errors

The certificates used by the Google APIs might not be installed on your system, try this as a workaround:

export SSL_CERT_FILE="$(find $GEM_HOME/gems -name 'google-api-client-*' | tail -n 1)/lib/cacerts.pem"

I get errors when the data is loaded into BigQuery

This could be anything, but it could be things that aren't escaped properly when the data is dumped from Redshift. Try figuring out from the errors where the problem is and what the data looks like and open an issue. The more you can figure out yourself the more likely it is that you will get help. No one wants to trawl through your data, make an effort.

Insufficient permissions when transferring to GCS

The Google Storage bucket needs permissions for the Storage Transfer service's Service Account to write to it. If you haven't used Storage Transfer service with this bucket before the bucket might not have the necessary permissions set up.

The easiest way for now to get that ID applied is to just create a manual Transfer request through the UI at which point you will have the permission automatically applied to the bucket.

You can verify that this has been set up by inspecting the permissions for your bucket and check that there is a user with a name like storage-transfer-<ID> that is set up as a writer.

If the permission on the bucket isn't there, the Storage Transfer service won't be able to find the bucket and will fail. You might see an error like "Failed to obtain the location of the destination Google Cloud Storage (GCS) bucket due to insufficient permissions".

I get a NoMethodError: undefined method 'match' for nil:NilClass

This appears to be a bug in the AWS SDK that manifests when your AWS credentials have not been properly specified.


© 2016 Theo Hultberg and contributors, see LICENSE.txt (BSD 3-Clause).