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Airflow vs Apache Spark: What are the differences?

What is Airflow? A platform to programmaticaly author, schedule and monitor data pipelines, by Airbnb. Use Airflow to author workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks. The Airflow scheduler executes your tasks on an array of workers while following the specified dependencies. Rich command lines utilities makes performing complex surgeries on DAGs a snap. The rich user interface makes it easy to visualize pipelines running in production, monitor progress and troubleshoot issues when needed.

What is Apache Spark? Fast and general engine for large-scale data processing. Spark is a fast and general processing engine compatible with Hadoop data. It can run in Hadoop clusters through YARN or Spark's standalone mode, and it can process data in HDFS, HBase, Cassandra, Hive, and any Hadoop InputFormat. It is designed to perform both batch processing (similar to MapReduce) and new workloads like streaming, interactive queries, and machine learning.

Airflow can be classified as a tool in the "Workflow Manager" category, while Apache Spark is grouped under "Big Data Tools".

Some of the features offered by Airflow are:

  • Dynamic: Airflow pipelines are configuration as code (Python), allowing for dynamic pipeline generation. This allows for writting code that instantiate pipelines dynamically.
  • Extensible: Easily define your own operators, executors and extend the library so that it fits the level of abstraction that suits your environment.
  • Elegant: Airflow pipelines are lean and explicit. Parameterizing your scripts is built in the core of Airflow using powerful Jinja templating engine.

On the other hand, Apache Spark provides the following key features:

  • Run programs up to 100x faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory, or 10x faster on disk
  • Write applications quickly in Java, Scala or Python
  • Combine SQL, streaming, and complex analytics

Airflow and Apache Spark are both open source tools. It seems that Apache Spark with 22.5K GitHub stars and 19.4K forks on GitHub has more adoption than Airflow with 12.9K GitHub stars and 4.71K GitHub forks.

According to the StackShare community, Apache Spark has a broader approval, being mentioned in 266 company stacks & 112 developers stacks; compared to Airflow, which is listed in 72 company stacks and 33 developer stacks.

Advice on Airflow and Apache Spark
Nilesh Akhade
Technical Architect at Self Employed · | 5 upvotes · 237K views

We have a Kafka topic having events of type A and type B. We need to perform an inner join on both type of events using some common field (primary-key). The joined events to be inserted in Elasticsearch.

In usual cases, type A and type B events (with same key) observed to be close upto 15 minutes. But in some cases they may be far from each other, lets say 6 hours. Sometimes event of either of the types never come.

In all cases, we should be able to find joined events instantly after they are joined and not-joined events within 15 minutes.

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Replies (2)
Recommends
ElasticsearchElasticsearch

The first solution that came to me is to use upsert to update ElasticSearch:

  1. Use the primary-key as ES document id
  2. Upsert the records to ES as soon as you receive them. As you are using upsert, the 2nd record of the same primary-key will not overwrite the 1st one, but will be merged with it.

Cons: The load on ES will be higher, due to upsert.

To use Flink:

  1. Create a KeyedDataStream by the primary-key
  2. In the ProcessFunction, save the first record in a State. At the same time, create a Timer for 15 minutes in the future
  3. When the 2nd record comes, read the 1st record from the State, merge those two, and send out the result, and clear the State and the Timer if it has not fired
  4. When the Timer fires, read the 1st record from the State and send out as the output record.
  5. Have a 2nd Timer of 6 hours (or more) if you are not using Windowing to clean up the State

Pro: if you have already having Flink ingesting this stream. Otherwise, I would just go with the 1st solution.

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Akshaya Rawat
Senior Specialist Platform at Publicis Sapient · | 3 upvotes · 137.5K views
Recommends
Apache SparkApache Spark

Please refer "Structured Streaming" feature of Spark. Refer "Stream - Stream Join" at https://spark.apache.org/docs/latest/structured-streaming-programming-guide.html#stream-stream-joins . In short you need to specify "Define watermark delays on both inputs" and "Define a constraint on time across the two inputs"

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Apache SparkApache SparkLuigiLuigi
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AirflowAirflow

I am so confused. I need a tool that will allow me to go to about 10 different URLs to get a list of objects. Those object lists will be hundreds or thousands in length. I then need to get detailed data lists about each object. Those detailed data lists can have hundreds of elements that could be map/reduced somehow. My batch process dies sometimes halfway through which means hours of processing gone, i.e. time wasted. I need something like a directed graph that will keep results of successful data collection and allow me either pragmatically or manually to retry the failed ones some way (0 - forever) times. I want it to then process all the ones that have succeeded or been effectively ignored and load the data store with the aggregation of some couple thousand data-points. I know hitting this many endpoints is not a good practice but I can't put collectors on all the endpoints or anything like that. It is pretty much the only way to get the data.

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Replies (1)
Gilroy Gordon
Solution Architect at IGonics Limited · | 2 upvotes · 128.7K views
Recommends
CassandraCassandra

For a non-streaming approach:

You could consider using more checkpoints throughout your spark jobs. Furthermore, you could consider separating your workload into multiple jobs with an intermittent data store (suggesting cassandra or you may choose based on your choice and availability) to store results , perform aggregations and store results of those.

Spark Job 1 - Fetch Data From 10 URLs and store data and metadata in a data store (cassandra) Spark Job 2..n - Check data store for unprocessed items and continue the aggregation

Alternatively for a streaming approach: Treating your data as stream might be useful also. Spark Streaming allows you to utilize a checkpoint interval - https://spark.apache.org/docs/latest/streaming-programming-guide.html#checkpointing

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Pros of Airflow
Pros of Apache Spark
  • 45
    Features
  • 14
    Task Dependency Management
  • 12
    Beautiful UI
  • 11
    Cluster of workers
  • 10
    Extensibility
  • 5
    Open source
  • 4
    Python
  • 4
    Complex workflows
  • 3
    K
  • 2
    Dashboard
  • 2
    Good api
  • 2
    Custom operators
  • 1
    Apache project
  • 58
    Open-source
  • 48
    Fast and Flexible
  • 7
    One platform for every big data problem
  • 6
    Easy to install and to use
  • 6
    Great for distributed SQL like applications
  • 3
    Works well for most Datascience usecases
  • 2
    Machine learning libratimery, Streaming in real
  • 2
    In memory Computation
  • 0
    Interactive Query

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Cons of Airflow
Cons of Apache Spark
  • 2
    Open source - provides minimum or no support
  • 1
    Logical separation of DAGs is not straight forward
  • 1
    Running it on kubernetes cluster relatively complex
  • 1
    Observability is not great when the DAGs exceed 250
  • 3
    Speed

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What is Airflow?

Use Airflow to author workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks. The Airflow scheduler executes your tasks on an array of workers while following the specified dependencies. Rich command lines utilities makes performing complex surgeries on DAGs a snap. The rich user interface makes it easy to visualize pipelines running in production, monitor progress and troubleshoot issues when needed.

What is Apache Spark?

Spark is a fast and general processing engine compatible with Hadoop data. It can run in Hadoop clusters through YARN or Spark's standalone mode, and it can process data in HDFS, HBase, Cassandra, Hive, and any Hadoop InputFormat. It is designed to perform both batch processing (similar to MapReduce) and new workloads like streaming, interactive queries, and machine learning.

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What companies use Airflow?
What companies use Apache Spark?
See which teams inside your own company are using Airflow or Apache Spark.
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What tools integrate with Apache Spark?

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Mar 24 2021 at 12:57PM

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What are some alternatives to Airflow and Apache Spark?
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