Apache Spark

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

What is Apache spark?

Apache Spark is an open-source distributed general-purpose cluster-computing framework which provides a number of inter-connected platforms, systems and standards for Big Data projects.

  • Spark provides an interface for programming entire clusters with implicit data parallelism and fault tolerance. In simpler words, it can quickly perform processing tasks on very large data sets, and can also distribute data processing tasks across multiple computers, either on its own or together with other distributed computing tools.

  • It utilizes in-memory caching (i.e. RAM rather than disk space) and optimized query execution for fast queries against data of any size. Simply put, Spark is a fast and general engine for large-scale data processing.

These two qualities are keys to the world of big data and machine learning, which require the assembling of massive computing power to crunch through large data stores.

It was originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley's AMPLab, the Spark codebase was later donated to the Apache Software Foundation, which has maintained it since.

Apache Spark Ecosystem:

Spark can be deployed in a variety of ways, provides native bindings for the Java, Scala, Python, and R programming languages, and supports SQL, streaming data, machine learning, and graph processing.

  1. Apache Spark Core – Spark Core is the underlying general execution engine for the Spark platform that all other functionality is built upon. It provides in-memory computing and referencing datasets in external storage systems.

  2. Spark SQL – Spark SQL is Apache Spark’s module for working with structured data. The interfaces offered by Spark SQL provide Spark with more information about the structure of both the data and the computation being performed.

  3. Spark Streaming – This component allows Spark to process real-time streaming data. Data can be ingested from many sources like Kafka, Flume, and HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System). Then the data can be processed using complex algorithms and pushed out to file systems, databases, and live dashboards.

  4. MLlib (Machine Learning Library) – Apache Spark is equipped with a rich library known as MLlib. This library contains a wide array of machine learning algorithms- classification, regression, clustering, and collaborative filtering. It also includes other tools for constructing, evaluating, and tuning ML Pipelines. All these functionalities help Spark scale out across a cluster.

  5. GraphX – Spark also comes with a library to manipulate graph databases and perform computations called GraphX. GraphX unifies ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) process, exploratory analysis, and iterative graph computation within a single system.


At a foundational level, an Apache Spark application comprises of two main components: a driver, which converts the user's code into multiple tasks that can be distributed across worker nodes, and executors, which run on those nodes and execute the tasks assigned to them. Some form of cluster manager is necessary to mediate between the two.

Moreover, Spark can run in a standalone cluster mode that just requires the Apache Spark framework and a JVM on each machine in your cluster. However, it would be much better to take advantage of a more robust resource or cluster management system to take care of allocating workers on demand for you. In the enterprise, this will normally mean running on Hadoop YARN, but Apache Spark can also run on Apache Mesos, Kubernetes, and Docker Swarm.

If you seek a managed solution, then Apache Spark can be found as part of Amazon EMR, Google Cloud Dataproc, and Microsoft Azure HDInsight. Databricks, the company that employs the founders of Apache Spark, also offers the Databricks Unified Analytics Platform, which is a comprehensive managed service that offers Apache Spark clusters, streaming support, integrated web-based notebook development, and optimized cloud I/O performance over a standard Apache Spark distribution.

Apache Spark builds the user’s data processing commands into a Directed Acyclic Graph, or DAG. The DAG is Apache Spark’s scheduling layer; it determines what tasks are executed on what nodes and in what sequence.


  1. Fast processing – The most important feature of Apache Spark that has made the big data world choose this technology over others is its speed. Big data is characterized by volume, variety, velocity, and veracity which needs to be processed at a higher speed. Spark contains Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD) which saves time in reading and writing operations, allowing it to run almost ten to one hundred times faster than Hadoop.

  2. Flexibility – Apache Spark supports multiple languages and allows the developers to write applications in Java, Scala, R, or Python.

  3. In-memory computing – Spark stores the data in the RAM of servers which allows quick access and in turn accelerates the speed of analytics.

  4. Real-time processing – Spark is able to process real-time streaming data. Unlike MapReduce which processes only stored data, Spark is able to process real-time data and is, therefore, able to produce instant outcomes.

  5. Better analytics – In contrast to MapReduce that includes Map and Reduce functions, Spark includes much more than that. Apache Spark consists of a rich set of SQL queries, machine learning algorithms, complex analytics, etc. With all these functionalities, analytics can be performed in a better fashion with the help of Spark.

  6. Ease of use - Spark has easy-to-use APIs for operating on large datasets. This includes a collection of over 100 operators for transforming data and familiar data frame APIs for manipulating semi-structured data.

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