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Apache Spark Future

Spark 2.0 Major Features

Everyone around the internet is constantly talking about the bright future of Apache Spark. How cool it is, how innovative it is, how fast it is moving, how big its community is, how big the investments into it are, etc. But what is really hiding behind this enthusiasm of Spark adepts, and what is the real future of Apache Spark?

In this article I show you the real data and real trends, trying to be as agnostic and unbiased as possible. This article is not affiliated with any vendor.

Official Position

Let’s start with official position of Databricks on the shiny future of Apache Spark. Here is the slide from Databricks presentation on Apache Spark 2.0, the major new release of this tool:

You can see that 2 out of 3 new major features are related to SQL: SQL 2003 compliance and Tungsten Phase 2, that was targeted to greatly speed up SparkSQL by delivering a big number of performance optimizations. The last improvement is streaming, but again – structured streaming, which would underneath reuse parts of the code introduced for SparkSQL (same presentation):

So it is getting interesting – all the 3 major improvements introduced in Spark 2.0 are about SQL!

Spark Survey 2015

So far so good, let’s take a look at the Spark Survey handled by Databricks one year ago. Most interesting parts are this:

And this:

You can see that 69% of the customers are using SparkSQL, and 62% using DataFrames, which essentially use the same processing layer with SparkSQL (Catalyst optimizer and in-memory columnar storage). Also, two biggest use cases for Apache Spark are Business Intelligence (68%) and Data Warehousing (52%), both of them are pure SQL areas.

Apache Spark Code

Again, what was the original idea of Apache Spark, when it was introduced by AMPLab of Berkley? Let’s take a look at Matei Zaharia’s presentation on Apache Spark from Spark Summit 2013:

One of the biggest Apache Spark advantages is simplicity. Its code is compact, and everything is based on the Core engine, introducing RDDs and DAGs. But what about now? We can easily check this, as Apache Spark is an open source project. Here you can find some statistics built on its source code:

Left group of columns represents Apache Spark v1.0.0, approximately the same release Matei was speaking about on the Spark Summit 2013. The right columns represent the current master branch which is approximately the same as Spark v2.0.0 (6 commits ahead). Take a look at who is leading now – the biggest traction in community is caused by SparkSQL and MLlib! Streaming is growing times slower, while GraphX has almost nothing new, its code base has grown by roughly 1000 lines of code.

Apache Spark JIRA

Good, now let’s turn from historical perspective to the future perspectives of Apache Spark. Let’s take a look at the open issues in Apache Spark JIRA, splitting them by the component:

It is no longer a surprise for you, but SQL component is related to 34% of the issues, while Core is only 15%.

Apache Spark Contributions

I will drop some more charts before moving to the conclusions. Here is the number of commits to Apache Spark per month since the project was established:

Orange line is a moving average over the past 6 months, it is used to normalize the contribution peaks and show the general contribution trend. We can see from this chart, that Databricks works on Apache Spark using 3-months development cycles, and the missing peak of 2016’Feb corresponds to the time they were working on Apache Spark 2.0 release.

And now another graph, number of unique contributors to Apache Spark a month:

Again, orange line is a trend line showing moving average across the last 6 months.


Apache Spark was introduced by AMPLab as a general-purpose distributed data processing framework. Databricks was formed from the AMPLab people who worked on Apache Spark, to make this engine a huge commercial success, and this is when the things went wrong. Corporates can vote for the project direction with their money, while everything community can offer is limited individual contributions. Little-by-little Apache Spark is moving from being general purpose execution engine, to the corporate space, where SQL is the main and only standard for data processing. Apache Spark starts to compete with MPP solutions (Teradata, HP Vertica, Pivotal Greenplum, IBM Netezza, etc.) and SQL-on-Hadoop solutions (Cloudera Impala, Apache HAWQ, Apache Hive, etc.). At the moment Apache Spark is not positioned as their competitor because of the obvious fact – in its current state it will lose this battle. But it is getting closer and closer to its real competitors, and here is where the things are getting interesting: enterprises want the functionality they used to, and it is shaping the future of Apache Spark, putting it into the category of solutions where it cannot efficiently compete. Databricks team is putting tremendous efforts in making it a good competitor in SQL space, but it has a very low chance of winning this battle against 30-years veterans like Teradata and 40-years like Oracle.

And here are the promised conclusions:

SparkSQL is the future of Apache Spark. Apache Spark competes in SQL space against MPP databases and SQL-on-Hadoop solutions, and the battle is tough
Apache Spark is getting substantially bigger (650’000 LOC already) and more complex, increasing the entry barrier for new contributors
Enterprise investments to Apache Spark turn out to be the investments in making it capable of integrating with their products (Spark on IBM Mainframe, Spark-Netezza Connector, Spark on Azure, Spark in Power BI, etc.), not really making Apache Spark better

My personal perspective on this is the following:

In 1 year Spark would start being officially competitive with MPP and SQL-on-Hadoop solutions
In 2 years Spark would lose the battle against MPP and MPP-on-Hadoop solutions and take a niche of Hive in Hadoop ecosystem
In 2 years it will lose the market share in stream processing to specialized solutions like Apache Heron and …read more

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Data Industry Trends

hadoop and big data trendline

Yesterday my blog has got the 100th subscriber. To commemorate this, I prepared the post on the major industry trends happening in the field of “data”. I might miss something, so feel free to comment and extend the article with your opinion!

Big data is falling down the hype curve

Even though Gartner has removed “Big Data” from the last year’s hype diagram, it does not mean it suddenly moved from the peak of the “hype” to the plateau of adoption. Here is how the hype cycle look like:

And here is how the trends look like for Big Data and Hadoop, according to Google Trends:

The diagram of “Big Data” looks exactly as expected by the hyped technology on the rise. Here is my version of what has happened, how it happened and why it happened:

Hadoop was born by Google’s ideas and Yahoo’s technologies to accommodate the needs for distributed compute and storage frameworks by biggest internet companies. 2003-2008 are the early ages of Hadoop when almost no one knows what it is, why it is and how to use it;
In 2008, a group of enthusiasts formed a company called Cloudera, to occupy the market niche of “cloud” and “data” by building commercial product on top of open source Hadoop. Later they abandoned the “cloud” and focused solely on “data”. In March 2009 they have released their first Cloudera Hadoop Distribution. You can see this moment on the trends diagram immediately after 2009 mark, the raise of Hadoop trend. This was a huge marketing push related to the first commercial distribution;
From 2009 to 2011, Cloudera was the one who tried to heat the “Hadoop” market, but it was still too small to create a notable buzz around the technology. But first adopters has proven the value of Hadoop platform, and additional players has joined the race: MapR and Hortonworks. Early adopters among startups and internet companies are starting to play with this technology at this time;
2012 – 2014 are the years “Big Data” has became a buzzword, a “must have” thing. This is caused by the massive marketing push by the companies noted above, plus the companies supporting this industry in general. In 2012 alone, major tech companies spent over $15b buying companies doing data processing and analytics. Some of them were bubbles (like Autonomy), some – not. But the demand for “big data” solutions were growing, and the analyst publications were heating the market very hard. Early adopters among enterprises are starting to play with the promising new technology at this time;
2014 – 2015 are the years “Big Data” is approaching the hype peak. Intel has invested $760m in Cloudera giving its the valuation of $4.1b, Hortonworks went public with valuation of $1b. Major new data technologies has emerged like Apache Spark, Apache Flink, Apache Kafka and others. IBM invests $300m in Apache Spark technology. This is the peak of the hype. These years a massive adoption of “Big Data” in enterprises has started, architecture concepts of “Data Lake” / “Data Hub” / “Lambda Architecture” have emerged to simplify integration of modern solutions into conventional infrastructures of enterprises:

2016 and beyond – this is an interesting timing for “Big Data”. Cloudera’s valuation has dropped by 38%. Hortonworks’s valuation has dropped by almost 40%, forcing them to cut the professional services department. Pivotal has abandoned its Hadoop distribution, going to market jointly with Hortonworks. What happened and why? I think the main driver of this decline is enterprise customers that started adoption of technology in 2014-2015. After a couple of years playing around with “Big Data” they has finally understood that Hadoop is only an instrument for solving specific problems, it is not a turnkey solution to take over your competitors by leveraging the holy power of “Big Data”. Moreover, you don’t need Hadoop if you don’t really have a problem of huge data volumes in your enterprise, so hundreds of enterprises were hugely disappointed by their useless 2 to 10TB Hadoop clusters – Hadoop technology just doesn’t shine at this scale. All of this has caused a big wave of priorities re-evaluation by enterprises, shrinking their investments into “Big Data” and focusing on solving specific business problems. “Big Data” market is cooling down:

The emerge of Data in the Cloud

This is the second major trend of “data” industry. IBM acquires Cloudant. Databricks, the company behind Apache Spark, has their product offering for cloud only, in collaboration with AWS. Most common use case for Docker containers is running data services inside of them. All the major public Cloud companies are offering you technologies like “managed databases”, or even analytical databases in the cloud. All the major Hadoop vendors has already pushed their “cloud” offering to the market. DBaaS industry is getting more and more hot, with all the major DBMS vendors offering their solutions in the clouds.

Initially, “cloud” was meant to host applications only (aka 12-factor applications), and the databases had to be managed separately. But the time passes, and now many companies moving to the cloud, hosting their databases in the cloud and even running analytics using cloud-hosted distributed processing engines. Amazon Redshift alone is reportedly running more than 100k of nodes!

Data is going open

If you have seen my visualization of open source data community, you understand what I am talking about:

10 years ago the only open source data processing offerings were Postgres and MySQL. Over the time, the open source industry has emerged, and over the last couple of years you can see more and more companies going open source!

Pivotal open sources Greenplum, HAWQ and Gemfire (aka Geode). DataTorrents open sources its technology as Apache Apex. Cloudera open sources Kudu. Citus Data open sources CitusDB. Google open sources TensorFlow. Google open sources Dataflow as Apache Beam. There are more examples of it, just scroll through the visualization the see how the open source data industry moves from 10 to 100+ projects within the last 10 years.

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