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Getting Started with Apache Spark’s Databricks

4 September 2023

Getting Started with Apache Spark’s Databricks

Apache Spark has become one of the most popular open source frameworks for large-scale data processing and analytics. With its speed, ease of use and unified engine, Spark is a top choice for building data pipelines and machine learning applications.

Databricks provides a managed platform for running Apache Spark workloads in the cloud, handling all the infrastructure complexities so you can focus on your analytics. This guide will walk through how to get started using Databricks for your Spark-based projects.

This materials is taken from JBI Trainings apache spark course if you are considering training for you or your team get in contact and we can discuss how we can provide the perfect solution to your training requirements. 

An Introduction to Apache Spark

Apache Spark is an open source cluster computing framework optimized for fast analytics and data processing. Spark provides APIs for SQL, machine learning, graph processing and streaming data, allowing you to combine different workloads in your applications.

Some of the key capabilities and benefits of Apache Spark include:

  • Speed: Spark utilizes in-memory caching and optimized query execution to run programs up to 100x faster than Hadoop MapReduce in certain situations. Spark is designed for low latency analytics.
  • Ease of Use: Spark's unified APIs in Python, Scala, SQL and R allow you to interactively query data and build complex analytics pipelines.
  • General Purpose Engine: Spark provides a single platform for batch processing, streaming, machine learning and graph workloads - no need to integrate separate tools.
  • Runs Anywhere: Spark can run on premises, in the cloud, on Hadoop or as a standalone cluster manager making it highly portable.

So in summary, Apache Spark provides a fast, easy to use and flexible framework for building all types of analytics applications from streaming to machine learning.

Overview of Databricks

Databricks provides a managed platform for running Apache Spark clusters in the cloud. Key benefits of using Databricks for your Spark workloads include:

  • Fully managed Spark infrastructure with auto-scaling capabilities.
  • Automated cluster management, monitoring and optimization.
  • Notebook style collaborative analytics with interactive Spark in Python, Scala, R and SQL.
  • Integrated tools including Delta Lake, MLflow and Koalas on top of Spark.
  • Secure access controls and role-based permissions for enterprise use.

As you can see, Databricks greatly simplifies running Spark in production by removing infrastructure management burdens. Let's go through how to get started.

Creating a Databricks Account

The first step is to create a Databricks account which provides the web portal to manage your Spark resources. Here's how:

  1. Navigate to and click on Try Databricks for Free.
  2. Provide your name, work email and create a password for your account.
  3. Databricks will send a confirmation email - click to verify your email address.
  4. Optionally enter payment information to upgrade from the free trial. The free tier gives access to Spark clusters.

Once your Databricks account is created, you can log into the workspace. This web portal allows you to create notebooks, clusters, jobs and manage all your Spark resources.

Launching a Spark Cluster

Now that you have a Databricks account, the next step is to launch a Spark cluster which will run your jobs and notebooks.

  1. On the left sidebar, click on Clusters.
  2. Click on Create Cluster.
  3. Give your cluster a name and make sure the Databricks Runtime is set to a version that supports Spark 3.0 or above.
  4. Select the hardware configuration - start with Small cluster as the free tier.
  5. Click on Create Cluster.

The Spark cluster will take a few minutes to start up. Once it shows a green Running indicator, your Spark jobs and notebooks can attach to this cluster to run computations.

Creating Your First Notebook

Databricks notebooks provide an interactive workspace for exploring data and building Spark applications using Python, Scala, SQL, R and more. Let's create a simple notebook:

  1. Click on Workspace in the sidebar and select Create, then Notebook.
  2. Give your notebook a name and select the Python language.
  3. In a notebook cell, type the code: print("Hello Databricks Spark!")
  4. Click on Run Cell to execute the code and view the output.
  5. Try adding additional cells with Spark code to read data, run queries etc.

As you can see, notebooks provide an easy way to learn Spark APIs and prototype your analytics pipelines. Notebooks can then be exported to scripts or production jobs.

Uploading Datasets

To start analysing datasets, you first need to import data into your Databricks workspace. There are several options to load data:

  • Import Files: Upload datasets from your local machine into DBFS storage.
  • Datasources: Connect to S3 buckets, JDBC databases or data from BI tools.
  • HTTP/HTTPS: Ingest streaming data over the network.

For quick experiments, uploading a small dataset from your computer is easiest:

  1. On the left sidebar, click on Data.
  2. Select the blue Upload Data button.
  3. Drag a file from your computer into the upload window.
  4. Wait for the file to upload then click Close.

The dataset will now be available in DBFS storage and accessible from Spark.

Querying Data with Spark SQL

Once data is available in Databricks, you can start analysing it using Spark SQL. Follow these steps:

  1. In a notebook cell, read a data source into a DataFrame:
    df ="csv").load("/path/to/data")
  2. Run SQL queries on the DataFrame:
    spark.sql("SELECT * FROM data LIMIT 10").show()
  3. Visualize the data using graphs:

Databricks makes it simple to execute SQL analytics on your datasets. You can also use Pandas-like DataFrame APIs.

Monitoring Spark Jobs

As you run larger workloads, it becomes crucial to monitor job execution and cluster utilization. Databricks provides several tools:

  • Spark UI - Visualize the steps in your Spark jobs and performance characteristics.
  • Cluster Metrics - View usage of CPU, memory, storage for your clusters.
  • Jobs View - List all jobs run in your workspace with logs and runtime.

Monitoring helps identify and debug bottlenecks in your Spark applications. You can also use the monitoring data to right size your clusters.

Best Practices for Production

Here are some key best practices to follow when running Spark workloads in production on Databricks:

  • Use auto-scaling clusters to match usage instead of overprovisioning.
  • Partition large datasets for parallelism and cache frequently accessed data.
  • Use structured streaming for real-time analytics pipelines.
  • Secure access to data assets and clusters using permissions and Access Control Lists.
  • Add monitoring, alerting and automation to track production jobs.

Following these will help reduce costs, maximize performance and increase reliability of your Databricks big data analytics.

I hope this article helped you get started with using Apache Spark's Databricks platform. You might enjoy How To Build a Machine Learning Pipeline with Apache Spark and Databricks or if you are considering training our Apache Spark Course

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about getting started with Databricks for Apache Spark:

Q: Does Databricks offer a free tier?

A: Yes, Databricks offers a free Community Edition tier to get started which includes Spark clusters up to 6GB and unlimited users and compute hours.

Q: What options are available for cloud deployment of Databricks?

A: Databricks is available on all major clouds - AWS, Azure, GCP and Aliyun. You can deploy Databricks on your cloud account.

Q: Can I use languages other than Python in Databricks notebooks?

A: Yes, Databricks allows using Scala, R, SQL along with Python in the same notebook. This allows combining different languages.

Q: How do I connect Databricks to my big data sources and data warehouses?

A: Databricks offers high-performance connectors for data sources like S3, Redshift, Snowflake, Delta Lake. You can also connect via JDBC.

Q: Does Databricks integrate with my existing data infrastructure?

A: Databricks provides integration with common enterprise platforms like ADLS, PowerBI, Tableau, Kafka, Spark and more.

In the dynamic world of big data and analytics, Apache Spark's integration with Databricks emerges as a formidable tool for data engineers, analysts, and data scientists. This powerful combination enables the seamless processing, analysis, and visualization of vast datasets, driving innovation and insights across diverse industries.

Explore the potential of Apache Spark with Databricks through our tailored courses at JBI Training, each designed to empower you with the skills to harness this robust technology.

  1. Apache Spark 3 - Databricks Certified Associate Developer: This certification course is your gateway to becoming a Databricks Certified Associate Developer in Apache Spark 3. Dive deep into the intricacies of Apache Spark, exploring its core concepts, data processing techniques, and performance optimization. Equip yourself with the knowledge and certification to excel in the field of big data.
  2. Apache Spark Development: Immerse yourself in the world of Apache Spark development. Learn how to harness the power of distributed computing for data analysis and processing. Understand Spark's APIs, libraries, and best practices to build scalable and high-performance data applications.

But Apache Spark and Databricks aren't the only technologies transforming the data landscape. Our course offerings extend to other vital tools:

  • Apache Kafka: Discover the world of real-time data streaming with Apache Kafka. Learn how to build robust data pipelines, enabling the seamless flow of data between systems and applications.
  • Apache Storm: Dive into the realm of stream processing with Apache Storm. Master the art of real-time data processing, making it possible to derive insights from data as it's generated.

Enrol in these courses and empower yourself to navigate the complex data landscape, extract valuable insights, and drive innovation in your field, whether you're leveraging Apache Spark with Databricks or exploring other critical data technologies.

About the author: Daniel West
Tech Blogger & Researcher for JBI Training

+44 (0)20 8446 7555

[email protected]



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