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Scripts to analyze Spark's performance
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Understanding Spark Performance

NOTE: These scripts are now deprecated, because the information that they show is now part of Apache Spark's UI. To view how each task in a stage spent its time, click on the stage detail page in the Spark UI, and then click "Event timeline". This will display a (much nicer-looking version of) the the plot output by the scripts here.

This repository contains scripts to understand the performance of jobs run with Apache Spark.

Configuring Spark to log performance data

In order to use these tools, you'll first need to configure Spark to log performance data while jobs are running by setting the Spark configuration parameter spark.eventLog.enabled to true. This configuration parameter causes the Spark master to write a log with information about each completed task to a file on the master. The master already tracks this information (much of it is displayed in Spark's web UI); setting this configuration option just causes the master to output all of the data for later consumption. By default, the event log is written to a series of files in the folder /tmp/spark-events/ on the machine where the Spark master runs. Spark creates a folder within that directory for each application, and logs are stored in a file named EVENT_LOG_1 within the application's folder. You can change the parameter spark.eventLog.dir to write the event log elsewhere (e.g., to HDFS). See the Spark configuration documentation for more information about configuring logging.

These scripts are most accurate with more recent versions of Spark because of instrumentation inaccuracies that were recently fixed (e.g., SPARK-2570 was only included in 1.3.1, and fixes a problem where not all of the time to write shuffle files to disk was recorded). If you use these scripts with an older version of Spark, the compute time may include time that was actually spent doing I/O (in addition to the inaccuracies in compute time mentioned in the Missing data section).

Analyzing performance data

After you have collected an event log file with JSON data about the job(s) you'd like to understand, run the script to generate a visualization of the jobs' performance:

python EVENT_LOG_1 --waterfall-only

The --waterfall-only flag tells the script to just generate the visualization, and skip more complex performance analysis. To see all available options, use the flag --help.

For each job in the EVENT_LOG_1 file, the Python script will output a gnuplot file that, when plotted, will generate a waterfall depicting how time was spent by each of the tasks in the job. The plot files are named [INPUT_FILENAME]_[JOB_ID] To plot the waterfall for job 0, for example:


will create a file `EVENT_LOG_1_0_waterfall.pdf. The waterfall plots each task as a horizontal line. The horizontal line is colored by how tasks spend time. Tics on the y-axis delineate different stages of tasks.

Here's an example waterfall:

Waterfall example

This waterfall shows the runtime of a job that sorts a small amount of input data. The job has two stages that each have 40 tasks. The first stage reads input data and saves the data to disk, sorted based on which reduce task will read the data. Tasks in the second stage read the data saved by the previous stage over the network and then sort that partition of the data. One thing that stands out for this job is that tasks in the first stage sometimes spend a lot time writing output data to disk (shown in teal). In this case, this is because the job was running on top of the ext3 file system, which performs poorly when writing many small files; once we upgraded to ext4, the job completed much more quickly and most of the teal-colored time spent writing shuffle output data disappeared.

Keep in mind that these plots do not depict exactly when a task was doing what. For example, for the "Output write wait" in the above plot, each task writes output data many times during task execution, and not only at the very end. Spark only logs the total time spent writing output data, and does not log exactly when during execution tasks block writing output, because logging the latter would require saving significantly more information. So, the placement of where in a task's runtime each component of exeuction is shown in the graph is purely fictional; only the total amount of time spent in each part of task execution and the start and end time of the task is accurate.

One thing to keep in mind is that Spark does not currently include instrumentation to measure the time spent reading input data from disk or writing job output to disk (the ``Output write wait'' shown in the waterfall is time to write shuffle output to disk, which Spark does have instrumentation for); as a result, the time shown as `Compute' may include time using the disk. We have a custom Hadoop branch that measures the time Hadoop spends transferring data to/from disk, and we are hopeful that similar timing metrics will someday be included in the Hadoop FileStatistics API. In the meantime, it is not currently possible to understand how much of a Spark task's time is spent reading from disk via HDFS.

Missing data

Parts of the visualization are currently inaccurate due to incomplete parts of Spark's logging. In particular, the HDFS read time and output write time (when writing to HDFS) are only accurate if you are running a special version of Spark and HDFS. Contact Kay Ousterhout if you are interested in doing this; otherwise, just be aware that part of the pink compute time may be spent read from or writing to HDFS. (In the future, we're hoping that this time will be exposed in the default metrics reported by HDFS; see HADOOP-11873 to track progress on adding such metrics.)

Another problem is that the shuffle write time is currently incorrect (it doesn't include much of the time spent writing shuffle output) for many versions of Spark. This Spark JIRA search tracks the various issues with the shuffle write time. This will result in the shuffle write time showing up as compute time.

Finally, Spark does not currently expose metrics about the amount of time spent spilling intermediate data to disk. Spilling happens when a task uses more memory than is available on the machine, so needs to temporarily store intermediate data on disk. You can tell if your tasks are spilling because the stage page in Spark's UI reports the bytes spilled to disk by each task. Until a fix for SPARK-3577 is merged, spill time is not logged by Spark tasks, so time spent spilling data to disk will show up as compute time.


How do I upgrade my version of gnuplot to support generating PDF output?

The gnuplot file generated by these scripts uses the pdfcairo terminal device to generate slightly nicer looking files, but many versions of gnuplot (especially on macs) do not include pdfcairo by default.

If you'd like a quick fix to this problem, you can just change the gnuplot file generated by the scripts to generate postscript output instead of pdf output. To do this, change the line at the top that reads set terminal pdfcairo ... to instead say set terminal postscript ..., and at the very bottom of the file, change the line that reads set output X.pdf to instead say set output This graph won't look quite as nice, but you can get a very basic version working.

For mac users, to update your version of gnuplot to include pdfcairo, I recommend first uninstalling your current version of gnuplot, and then using Homebrew to install gnuplot with pdfcairo enabled:

brew install gnuplot --cairo --pdf --tutorial

For linux users, recommend to uninstall your current version of gnuplot and then install gnuplot-5.0.1 with cairo:

Download gnuplot-5 from
tar -zxf gnuplot-5.0.1.tar.gz
cd gnuplot-5.0.1
./configure --with-cairo
make install

I've found that trying to upgrade existing versions of gnuplot to include pdfcairo is much more difficult than just re-installing gnuplot.

In theory, you can also use macports to install gnuplot with pdfcairo (described here) but I've found that this often fails.

####This graph is way too hard to read! How do I make it bigger?

The first line of the gnuplot file includes a size (by default, size 5,5). The two coordinates describe the length and width; increase these to generate a larger graph.

####I'm getting an error that says "'AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'percentile'"

If you get an error that ends with:

median_runtime = numpy.percentile(runtimes, 50)
AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'percentile'

you need to upgrade your version of numpy to at least 1.5.

####Parts of my plot are outside of the plot area, and/or some tasks seem to be overlapping others.

This typically happens when you try to plot multiple gnuplot files with one command, e.g., with a command like:

gnuplot *.gp

Gnuplot will put all of the data into a single plot, rather than in separate PDFs. Try plotting each gnuplot file separately.

How can I figure out which parts of the code each stage executes?

While a common cause of confusion in Spark, this question is unfortunately not answered by this tool. Right now, the event logs don't include this information. There have been murmurs about adding more detail about this to the Spark UI, but as far as I know, this hasn't been done yet.

The scheduler delay (yellow) seems to take a large amount of time. What might the cause be?

At a very high level, usually the best way to reduce scheduler delay is to consolidate jobs into fewer tasks.

The scheduler delay is essentially message propagation delay to (1) send a message from the scheduler to an executor to launch a task and (2) to send a message from the executor back to the echeduler stating that the task has completed. This can be high when the task is large or the task result is large, because then it takes longer for the scheduler to ship the task to the executor, and vice versa for the result. To diagnose this problem, take a look at the Spark UI (or directly look at the JSON in your event log) to look at the result size of each task, to see if this is large.

Another reason the scheduler delay can be high is if the scheduler is launching a large number of tasks over a short period. In this case, the task completed messages get queued at the scheduler and can't be processed immediately, which also increases scheduler delay. When I've benchmarked the Spark scheduler in the past, I've found it can handle about 1.5K tasks / second (see section 7.6 in this paper. This was for a now-antiquated version of Spark, but in theory this shouldn't have changed much, because the Spark performance regression tests run before each release have a test that measures this.

One last reason we've sometimes seen in the AMPLab is that it can take a while for the executor to actually launch the task (which involves getting a thread -- possibly a new one -- from a thread pool for the task to run in). This is currently included in scheduler delay. A few months ago, I proposed adding metrics about this to the Spark UI, but it was deemed too confusing and not useful to a suffuciently broad audience (see discussion here: If you want to understand this metric, you can implement the reverse of this commit (which is part of the aforementioned pull request) to measure whether this time is the cause of the long scheduler delay.

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