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Apache Spark Dataframes: Features, RDD & Comparison

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21st Aug, 2023
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Apache Spark Dataframes: Features, RDD & Comparison

Have you ever wondered about the concept behind spark dataframes? The spark dataframes are the extension version of the Resilient Distributed Dataset, with a high level of abstractions. Apache Spark dataframes are similar to structured traditional databases with the advancement in optimization techniques.

In this blog, we will discuss apache spark dataframes.


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What is Apache Spark?

Apache spark is a general open-source cluster computing framework. It is a leading platform for stream processing, batch processing, and large scale SQL. Spark is known as lightning-fast cluster computing in an Apache project. It is programmed in the Scala language. Spark lets you operate programs faster than Hadoop. Also, it is a quick data processing platform. Currently, Spark supports APIs in Python, Java, and Scala, and its core is suited for a set of high level and powerful libraries such as GraphX, SparkSQL, MLlib, and Spark Streaming.

  • SparkSQL: SparkSQL provides querying data through hive query or via SQL. It also offers several data sources to work with SQL with code.
  • GraphX: GraphX library supports the manipulation of graphs. It offers a uniform tool for graph computation, analysis, and ETL. It also supports standard graph libraries such as Pagerank.
  • MLlib: It is a library of machine learning that supports several algorithms for regression, filtering, cluster classification, clustering, etc.   
  • Spark Streaming: Spark streaming provides real-time streaming data processing. It divides the input of data streams into batches. 

Reasons To Learn Apache Spark

Apache Spark serves as an open-source foundation project that empowers us to conduct in-memory analytics on vast datasets, effectively overcoming some of the limitations of MapReduce. The demand for faster processing in the entire data pipeline is addressed by Spark. Consequently, it has become the fundamental data platform for various big data-related offerings. The rising popularity of in-memory database computation stems from its ability to provide rapid results due to Spark’s new framework leveraging in-memory capabilities.

The remarkable speed of Apache Spark dataframes, which is about 100 times faster, has made it increasingly prevalent in the big data domain, particularly for swift data processing. As an open-source framework, it offers an economical solution for processing large data with both speed and simplicity. Spark is particularly suitable for analyzing big data applications and can be seamlessly integrated into a Hadoop environment, operated standalone, or utilized in cloud environments.

Being part of the open-source community, Spark fosters a cost-effective approach, enabling developers to work more efficiently. The primary objective of Spark is to provide developers with an application framework centered around a central data structure. This allows Spark to process massive amounts of data in a remarkably short time, ensuring exceptional performance and making it significantly faster.

There are several compelling reasons why learning Spark is highly beneficial, as listed below:

Makes easier access to Big Data

There are many people that deal with large amounts of data, which may frequently approach many terabytes, making it difficult to access and manage effectively. Apache Spark presents itself as a remedy in this situation, making it simple to access enormous volumes of data.

Although Hadoop MapReduce fulfilled a similar function, Apache Spark dataframes was able to get around some of its constraints. Machine learning tasks are dramatically accelerated by Spark’s capacity to keep data in memory, leading to quicker processing and a simpler structure. In addition, Spark is more efficient than Hadoop since it supports real-time processing.

High demand of Spark Developers in market

Spark is becoming more and more popular as the most advantageous replacement for MapReduce. Similar to Hadoop, Spark also necessitates familiarity with OOPs principles, but it provides a simpler and more effective programming and execution environment. As a result, there is a huge increase in career prospects for those with Spark knowledge.

Learning Apache Spark is essential for people who want to pursue a profession in big data technologies. A thorough grasp of data frame in spark provides up a variety of professional opportunities. While there are many ways to learn Spark, formal instruction is the most efficient option. This promotes a more practical and immersive learning experience by giving students hands-on experience and exposure to real-world initiatives.

Diverse Nature

Java, Scala, Python, and R are just a few of the spark dataframe examples on which Spark may run programmes. For all users, this functionality improves the simplicity and accessibility of using Spark.

Learn Spark to make Big Money

Spark developers are in great demand in the present environment. For the purpose of luring in and hiring Apache Spark dataframes expertise, businesses are prepared to be flexible with their hiring practises. To attract great personnel, they give flexible work hours and appealing incentives.

Additionally, understanding Apache data frame in spark and pursuing a career in big data technologies may be quite profitable, offering a fantastic chance to make a good living. This emphasises even more how important Apache Spark is to the sector.

Read: Apache Spark Tutorial for Beginners

What is Resilient Distributed Dataset?

Spark initiates the concept of Resilient Distributed Dataset, also known as RDD. It is a distributed and immutable collection of objects that can be run in parallel. There are two operations supported by RDD, transformations operations, and action operations. The transformations operations are performed on RDD, such as union, map, join filter, etc. The actions operations return a value on RDD, such as count, reduce, first, and many more. 

Learn: 6 Game Changing Features of Apache Spark

Why do we need dataframes?

Apache Spark 1.3 version came with spark dataframes. There were two main limitations of the resilient distributed dataset. First is RDD cannot manage structured data, and second is RDD does not support any in-built optimization engine. The concept of Spark dataframes resolved the limitations of RDD.

Although, a Resilient Distributed Dataset cannot improve the system efficiently. So, to overcome the limitations of the Spark Resilient Distributed Dataset, Spark dataframes were introduced. Dataframes are organized into columns and rows. Each data frame column has an associated name and type.

Difference between Spark Resilient Distributed Dataset and Spark DataFrames?

The below table shows the difference between Spark RDD and Spark DataFrames.

S.No.Comparison factorsSpark Resilient Distributed DatasetSpark DataFrames
1.DefinitionLow level of APIHigh level of abstraction
2.Representation of dataIt is distributed across various cluster nodesIt is a collection of named columns and rows.
3.Optimization EngineRDD does not support any in-built optimization engineUtilization of optimization engine to create logical queries
4.AdvantageAPIDistributed data
5.Performance limitationGarbage collection and Java serializationSupport huge performance advancement as compared to RDD
6.Interoperability and ImmutabilityTracing of data lineageIt is not possible to get the object domain.

What are the features of Spark DataFrames?

  • Provides management of data structure. It supports a systematic approach to view data. When the data is being stored in data frame in spark, it has some meaning to it. 
  • Spark dataframes provide scalability, flexibility, and various APIs such as java, python, R, and Scala programming.
  • Utilization of optimization engines known as catalyst optimizers to process data in an efficient manner. 
  • Apache Spark dataframes can also process different sizes of data.
  • Dataframes support different sets of data formats such as CSV, Cassandra, Avro, and ElasticSearch. 
  • Supports custom memory management and decreases the overload of garbage collection. 

Check out: Apache Spark Developer Salary in India

The Verdict

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Apache is very effective and fast. Apache Spark helps to compute an in-depth high volume of processing tasks in real-time. Sparkbyexamples pyspark are useful for developing query plans. Dataframe API improves and enhances the performance of Spark. 

If you are interested to know more about Big Data, check out our Advanced Certificate Programme in Big Data from IIIT Bangalore.

Learn Software Development Courses online from the World’s top Universities. Earn Executive PG Programs, Advanced Certificate Programs or Masters Programs to fast-track your career.


Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Is Apache Spark a programming language?

If you have worked with Java and Python, you can’t have the same expectations from Apache Spark, since it is not a programming language. It is a data processing engine that is compatible with any situation and is available to use. The primary use of Spark stretches mainly to Big Data processing, keeping factors like scalability and speed in mind. Data analysts, engineers, and application developers use Spark every day to create queries and to transform data. ETL and EQL are some of the batch jobs that frequently take place in Apache Spark mainly for data processing. Spark is built on top of the Hadoop/HDFS framework that supervises and handles data supervision. This is done using Scala, which is a slightly functional alternative to Java. Spark also supports many programming languages like Python, Scala, and R.

2What is the advantage of Apache Spark Dataframes?

The first advantage of dataframes is their data collection which is closely knitted in the form of columns. With fancy optimizations, Apache Spark resembles a database table. Furthermore, Cassandra, CSV, Avro, and Elasticsearch are some common data formats that Spark uses. Plus, storage systems like HIVE table, HDFS, and MySQL are also operated with Spark. The next advantage is Spark’s ability to work with Dataframe API, which allows it to use programming languages such as Scala, Python, and R. The last reason why Dataframes have an advantage is how they use Spark core to integrate with Big Data tools.

3What are the limitations of Apache RDD?

To focus on the primary ones, Apache RDD lacks an optimisation engine. Catalyst optimizer and Tungsten engine are the optimizers that Spark operates on. Apache RDD is not compatible with these optimizers and can not implement them. Automatic optimization is also not possible with RDD. Apache RDD has less memory for storage. To accommodate itself with the storage space, RDD compresses to place itself in memory. Moreover, Spark RDD is deprived of run-time type safety which means it cannot calculate the errors when it compiles the program.

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