December 10, 2017

Apache Spark - A dummy's introduction - 2 (Data Structure)

A dummy's introduction is split in 4 parts:
  1. Architecture
  2. Data Structure
  3. Execution
  4. Example

Data Structures in Spark
Since we will use Java, of course we can use all our traditional data structures in the program. But, for Spark operations, we use special structures created for Spark. I'll introduce the most commonly used ones:

RDDs - Resilient Distributed Datasets

RDDs are the fundamental units of Spark. All of Spark processing revolves around RDDs. The complicated name implies:
Resilience: If data in the memory is lost, this data structure can be recreated
Distributed: An RDD is processed across the cluster
Dataset: It can be loaded from a file/database or can be created programatically using Collections/other data structures
You can imagine an RDD to be a set of records of any object type/ data type. Note that RDDs are immutable (just like Strings are).
Let's try to create an RDD of Strings from a List and imagine how it looks like in an RDD. 

JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.parallelize(Arrays.asList("Apples", "Oranges", "Bananas", "Grapes"));
//sc is the SparkContext which is required to create any Spark data structure

Similarly let's try to create an RDD of Strings from a file as below:

JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.textFile("/path/to/input.txt");

With this, we have learnt the first step of our batches: reading input.

Basic Operations on RDDs

RDDs are immutable and cannot be modified, however we can create new RDDs from existing RDDs. In this way we can proceed to the second step of a batch: process the input. We will take the previous read input RDD and operate on it to create a new RDD which will be our processed RDD. We can also operate on our input RDD to create other values like integers instead of creating another RDD.
There are two major operations on RDDs:
  1. Actions: These operations always return a value.

    Some common examples are:
    1. count()
    2. saveAsTextFile()
  2. Transformations: These operations create a new RDD out of the previous RDD. It is easy to note that transformations are the key for our second step in batches: processing.

    Mainly the following transformations are used: 
    1. map
    2. filter
Let's look at each with examples.


This is an action performed on an RDD. Count function, as name suggests just returns the number of elements in a given RDD. (The value is the count of elements in this case). Let's try to call count function on our RDD as before.

//Read the file
JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.textFile("/path/to/input.txt");
//Find out how many rows are in this file
long noOfFruits = myRddOfFruits.count();

If we were to imagine, it would look like this:


Let's say we want to read from a Collection and write it into a file. How would you do it? You'd create the RDD from the database. But how do you save the contents of an RDD into a file? This function is used. Let's say we want to save our fruits collection in a file from before. 

//Read the collection
JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.parallelize(Arrays.asList("Apples", "Oranges", "Bananas", "Grapes"));
//Save this RDD in a file

The value returned above was a text file. This is an action performed on an RDD. 
With this we just learnt our third step of the batch: writing to output. Further, we'll see how the second step i.e. processing works.


Map is a tranformation performed on an RDD. It performs a particular transformation/function on every record of the RDD. This becomes the key of our second step i.e. processing. What is processing anyway? We take each record and perform a function on it, right? So map is exactly that. Let's try to transform our previous RDD of fruits as an example.

//Read the collection
JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.parallelize(Arrays.asList("Apples", "Oranges", "Bananas", "Grapes"));
//Convert all Strings to Upper case -> fruitString.toUpperCase());

We already know that myRddOfFruits is an RDD of Strings. This means that the data type of each record is a String. So to represent each record in this RDD, we used a variable name inside this map function - fruitString. Thus fruitString is each record in the RDD.
Just in one line a lot happened! In the fourth line of the code, we called the map function on our RDD. Let me further explain the functional syntax inside the map function.
Further, inside the map, we have defined what our new transformed RDD should be. We have instructed, that for each fruitString, we want fruitString.toUpperCase(). The toUpperCase() also returns a String, so the data types match!
Spark will create a new RDD, take each record of myRddOfFruits and make it upper case using the function provided by String class. This new RDD will be pointed by the variable myRddOfFruits. 
Imagination in Spark is essential, this is how we can think of the code above:
Let's say we called the count() function on myRddOfFruits before the map, we would get value as 5, right? What if we called count() after the map? It would also return 5. The map function runs for every record in the RDD. This means the count after map will always remain the same.


Filter is again, a transformation on an RDD. However as the name suggests, it filters out some of the records and only keeps some. Hence, unlike map, the count after a filter may be equal or less than that of the original RDD. Let's try to filter our fruits RDD as an example:

//Read the file as an RDD
JavaRDD myRddOfFruits = sc.textFile("/path/to/input.txt");
//Filter such that only fruits starting with 'B' remain
myRddOfFruits.filter(record -> record.startsWith('B'));

Just like map, we passed a function inside the filter method. This time, we chose to call each record of the RDD as a variable named record. Note that we don't have to worry about the specification of the record. Then, we filtered our RDD such that only fruits starting with the letter 'B' remained in the RDD. 
When we try to picture, the new filtered RDD looks like this:
Notice how the count() has changed!


In short, RDDs are the fundamental unit in which Spark operates. We can perform actions and transformations on these RDDs to achieve our desired result. The actions return a value while transformations create a new RDD. The map and filter transformations follow a functional programming syntax where we operate on each record of the RDD using the lambda function.

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