Developing Spark External Data Sources using the V2 API
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.idea Lots of progress on example datasources and writing Apr 8, 2018
src Tidied up documentation Apr 21, 2018

Developing Spark External Data Sources using the V2 API

This project illustrates the new V2 Apache Spark External Data Source API as introduced in Spark 2.3.0.

It consists of:

  • A simplistic in-memory database system (ExampleDB) that supports all of the data access paradigms needed to illustrate the features of the API
  • A series of data sources of varying complexity, all implemented in Java since native Java support is a major goal of the new API (Scala versions mey be added in the future)
  • A series of Spark examples to exercise the various data sources implemented (also in Java for now)

The project has spun out of the following older projects:

Goals and Assumptions

  • Use a "remote" database to illustrate everything
    • Forces us to address connection management in the design of the data sources
  • Use a single database system for all the kinds of sources for simplicity
    • Supports transactions and splits to address resiliency and parallelism
  • all the different kinds of data sources
    • different computation models
    • different storage models (rows and columns)
    • different levels of optimization support
  • Show the different ways to use the data sources from Spark

Target Audience

This project is targeted at developers who are designing and implementing a new Spark external data source for some data store with which they are reasonably familiar, and need information on Spark's new (V2) model for integrating external data sources.

Designing ExampleDB

This project is rather unusual in the decision to develop, from scratch, a simple in-memory database system (ExampleDB) for the sole purpose of providing a simple example integration point for a wide range of Spark external data source examples. It's important to understand the goals and (especially) non-goals of ExampleDB.


  • All communication with ExampleDB should be via remote procedure calls (RPCs) so it is clearly separated from the data sources that use it.
  • For simplicity, the example Spark code should have the option of running ExampleDB in-process on the driver node (to avoid cluttering the examples with process control issues).
  • ExampleDB should provide a suitable data model and set of API entry points to support ALL of the features illustrated in the example data sources. Of course, this is made a rather tough goal by the remarkable breadth of the new data source API, spanning both row and column based data representations as well as batch and streaming queries.


  • The data model and API of ExampleDB don't really have to make sense as a whole -- it's sufficient if they merely mimic features in the real world with sufficient fidelity that developers can see how to map them to the features of the data store they are trying to integrate with Spark.
  • The implementation of ExampleDB doesn't have to make sense. Achieving high performance is not a goal and as such neither is the use of advanced DBMS implementation techniques. Since ExampleDB only has to serve these examples, it is implemented with expediency as its major focus.

The Data Sources

These can be found under src/main/java/datasources.

Read-only data sources

FileWhat's Illustrated

An extremely simple DataSource that supports sequential reads (i.e.: on just one executor) from ExampleDB. It only supports reads from a single, pre-defined table with a pre-defined schema. This DataSource is probably about a simple as one that reads from a remote database can get.

Another simple DataSource that supports sequential reads (i.e.: on just one executor) from ExampleDB. It gets a table name from its configuration and infers a schema from that table.

Another simple DataSource that supports parallel reads (i.e.: on multiple executors) from ExampleDB. It gets a table name from its configuration and infers a schema from that table. If a number of partitions is specified in properties, it is used. Otherwise, the table's default partition count (always 4 in ExampleDB) is used.

This also supports parallel reads (i.e.: on multiple executors) from the ExampleDB. The interesting feature of this example is that it supports informing the Spark SQL optimizer whether the table is partitioned in the right way to avoid shuffles in certain queries. One example is grouping queries, where shuffles can be avoided if the table is clustered in such a way that each group (cluster) is fully contained in a single partition. Since ExampleDB only supports clustered indexes on single columns, in practice a shuffle can be avoided if the table is clustered on one of the grouping (In ExampleDB clustered tables, splits always respect clustering.)

Read/write data sources

FileWhat's Illustrated

This data source adds the ability to write data, and does so in parallel. The various classes for reading are identical to those of ParallelRowDataSource. All four values of SaveMode are supported. Each task writes to its own temporary table, and on global commit all of these temporary tables are copied into the destination table in a single ExampleDB transaction.

The Spark Examples

These can be found under src/main/java/examples and src/main/scala/examples.

Read-only data sources

FileWhat's Illustrated

Simplest example that uses direct ExampleDB calls to populate a table and then uses the SimpleRowDataSource to query it from Spark. Since that data source is sequential the resulting Dataset has just one partition. Since the data source reads from a single, hard coded table with a hard coded schema, the table name is not specified int he Spark code.

Instead uses the FlexibleRowDataSource to infer the schema of a specified table and query it, again sequentially, again resulting in a Dataset with a single partition.

Uses the ParallelRowDataSource to infer the schema of a specified table and query it, this time in parallel, resulting in Datasets with multiple partitions. The example shows both taking the default number of partitions and specifying a partition count.

Uses the PartitioningRowDataSource to avoid a shuffle in a grouping/aggregation query against a table that is clustered ont he grouping column. It achieves this by using the SupportsReportPartitioning mixin for the DataSourceReader interface.

This uses the same data source as the previous example but doesn't cluster the table, thus illustrating the shuffle that takes place. .

Read/write data sources

FileWhat's Illustrated

This illustrates updates using the simplest update-capable data source example, the ParallelRowReadWriteDataSource.

First a dataframe is created that is used to populate a table for the first time. At that point the newly created table's database schema is calculated from the dataframe schema. Notice that even though we create a dataframe with 6 partitions, later when we read from the table we always obtain dataframes with 4 partitions. This is because all tables in ExampleDB advertise 4 partitions by default, and we would have to override that default when reading to obtain different partitioning. However, the partitioning of the dataframe DOES impact update parallelism -- notice from the log output that six tasks write to six temporary tables -- and these would have run in parallel had we not specified only 4 executors as we do in all these examples.

We then put all four settings of SaveMode through their paces and see their impact.


Consider adjusting the log levels in src/main/resources/ to adjust verbosity as needed.

Notice that the data sources and the ExampleDB components both have entries there.