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First Steps with Spark


Spark is a distributed computing tool that offers many advantages over more established Hadoop frameworks. Apart from its improved memory usage and flexibility, it provides a consistent framework to do everything from ad-hoc big data analysis to the construction of a data processing pipeline in production.


The data science team at Skimlinks has been using Spark for over a year. We will share some of our experience of how to do large-scale data analysis using Spark stand-alone, going from its basic functionality to more advanced features.

We will first give an introduction to Spark, explaining how computations are distributed across the cluster using resilient distributed datasets (RDDs). A high-level understanding of how a workload is split into stages and tasks is important to be able to diagnose potential problems. After showing how to get started on a cluster of EC2 instances, we will go through a complicated part of using Spark: how to set its configuration parameters.

During the first half of the talk, we will focus on Spark core functionality, going through some of the most common problems encountered during basic computations. Using an example from impression data, we will do large-scale text processing using popular ML Python libraries.

In the latter half of the talk, we will focus towards using Apache Spark in practice by giving an overview of building a large data processing pipeline that ingests and summarises terabytes of data on a daily basis. Many non-technical departments such as Business Intelligence and Marketing are familiar with Python and SQL. We will demonstrate how Spark SQL and Dataframes can be used to query over terabytes of data on the fly.


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