What is a Spark Data Frame?

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In a Big-data environment, DataFrame represents the pinnacle of Spark’s technological developments. Spark DataFrames are distributed big data processing tools that combine an integrated data structure with an easy-to-use API. Java, Python, and Scala, as well as other general-purpose programming languages, can access DataFrames.

This is an extension to the Spark RDD API that makes writing code more efficient while still being strong. This is a multi-operational data structure that lets programmers execute numerous operations on data using a single API. This blog posts describes what Spark DataFrame is, what its characteristics are, and how to use it for data collection.

What is Spark?

Apache Spark is an open-source and distributed solution for big data workloads. In-memory caching and efficient query execution enable rapid queries on any size of data. In a nutshell, Spark is a general-purpose, quick and scalable data processing engine.

It is faster than earlier methods such as traditional MapReduce for processing big data. Spark’s speed is due to its ability to run in memory (RAM), which is much faster than disc storage.

Spark’s capabilities include executing distributed SQL queries, creating data pipelines, importing data into a database, running machine learning algorithms, manipulating graphs, and more.

Apache Spark Features

1. Fast processing

The speed of Apache Spark is the most crucial attribute that has led the big data world to prefer it over other technologies. Spark includes the Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD), which speeds up reading and writing operations by about ten to one hundred times as compared to other big data processing platforms.

2. Flexibility

Using Apache Spark, developers can write applications in Java, Scala, R, or Python, which also supports several languages.

3. In-memory computing

Spark saves data in the RAM of servers, allowing for quick access and, as a result, faster analysis.

4. Real-time processing

Spark can handle streaming data in real time. Unlike MapReduce, which can only process stored data, Spark can handle real-time data and, as a result, can generate instant results.

5. Better analytics

Apache Spark includes a large number of database queries, machine learning methods, and complicated analytics. As a result of all these features, Spark can help you execute analytics more efficiently.

What is Spark Dataframe?

A Spark DataFrame is a distributed collection of data that is structured under named columns and allows procedures to analyze, sort, organize, and aggregate the available data. DataFrames can be created from structured data files, RDDs, Hive tables, or an external database.

Spark Dataframe is similar in principle to a table in a relational database or a data frame in R/Python, but with more advanced optimizations. A DataFrame is expressed with the help of Dataset of Rows in Scala and Java.

  • Hive, CSV, XML, JSON, RDDs, Cassandra, Parquet, and lots of other data formats are supported.
  • Integration with a variety of Big Data technologies is supported.
  • The capacity to process kilobytes of data on small devices and petabytes of data on larger clusters.
  • Comes with a catalyst data processing optimizer that enhances the processing across many languages.
  • It utilizes a schematic view of data to handle structured data.
  • When compared to RDDs, custom memory management reduces overburden and improves performance.
  • Supports Java, R, Python, and Spark APIs

What is the purpose of DataFrames?

DataFrames are intended to serve multiple purposes. Have a look at some of their most important tasks:

1. Structured and Semi-Structured Data Processing

A primary goal of DataFrames is to make processing Big Data easier. Spark’s DataFrames utilizes a table format for storing data in a flexible way, coupled with the schema for dealing with the data.

2. Data slicing and dicing

You can slice and dice your data using the DataFrame APIs. It may pick and filter rows and columns and ensure that no missing values, range violations, and irrelevant inputs are present in statistical data. The user can actively manage the missing data by using DataFrames.

3. Multiple Programming languages

The best aspect of Spark DataFrame is that it supports multiple languages, making it more accessible to programmers from all backgrounds. DataFrames in Spark support R–Programming Language, Python, Scala, and Java.

4. Scalability

DataFrames can be used in conjunction with a variety of other Big Data technologies, and they can process gigabytes to petabytes of data at the same time.

5. Custom Memory Management

RDDs keep data in memory, whereas DataFrames store data off-heap (outside of the main Java Heap region but still within RAM), reducing garbage collection overload.

How Does a DataFrame Work?

The Spark SQL module includes the DataFrame API. The API makes it simple to handle data inside the Spark SQL architecture while also allowing for integration with general-purpose languages like Java, Python, and Scala. While Python Pandas and R data frames have some resemblance, Spark accomplishes something unique. Its API is designed to interface with large-scale data for data science and machine learning, and it includes a number of enhancements.

Spark DataFrames can be distributed across different clusters and are Catalyst-optimized. The Catalyst optimizer accepts queries (including SQL commands applied to DataFrames) and generates a parallel computing plan that is equally efficient. If you’ve worked with data frames in Python or R, you’ll recognise the Spark DataFrame code. Know that the data structure of RDDs (Resilient Distributed Datasets) provides lots of optimization opportunities.

DataFrames were created by the Spark designers to address Big Data concerns in the most effective way possible. With familiar but improved APIs, developers can harness the power of distributed computing.

Spark Datasets

In Spark, datasets are the extension of the DataFrame APIs. Datasets provide a variety of functions in addition to those provided by DataFrames and RDDs. They give an object-oriented programming interface that encompasses class and object concepts.

When Spark 1.6 was launched, datasets were introduced. They combine the benefits of RDDs, Scala’s static typing, and DataFrames’ efficiency features. Datasets are basically a group of Java Virtual Machine (JVM) objects that are processed efficiently by Spark’s Catalyst Optimizer.

Spark Datasets vs Spark Dataset

Basis of Difference Spark DataFrame Spark Dataset
What exactly they are It is a programming high-level abstraction in the Spark SQL A data structure on Spark SQL that combines both RDDs and DataFrames.
Input Optimization Engine To produce logical queries, it employs input optimization engines. Catalyst Optimizer is used for input optimization
Data Representation A table with named columns and rows A DataFrames extension that combines the functionality of RDDs and DataFrames.
Benefit Provides a data structure for distributed data. Improves memory efficiency
Immutability It is not feasible to retrieve the domain object once it has been turned into a DataFrame. Can reconstruct Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD)
Performance Limitation Compared to RDDs, it provides a significant performance boost. To boost performance, operations are done on serialized data.

How to Create a Spark DataFrame?

A Spark DataFrame can be created in a variety of ways. An example of how to make one in Python by utilizing the Jupyter notebook environment is mentioned below:

Create and initialise an API session:

#Add pyspark to sys.path and initialize

import findspark


#Load the DataFrame API session into Spark and create a session

from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

spark = SparkSession.builder.getOrCreate()

Make a list of dictionaries out of toy data:

#Generate toy data using a dictionary list

data = [{“Category”: ‘A’, “ID”: 1, “Value”: 121.44, “Truth”: True},

{“Category”: ‘B’, “ID”: 2, “Value”: 300.01, “Truth”: False},

{“Category”: ‘C’, “ID”: 3, “Value”: 10.99, “Truth”: None},

{“Category”: ‘E’, “ID”: 4, “Value”: 33.87, “Truth”: True}


Use the createDataFrame function to create a DataFrame and pass the data list:

#Create a DataFrame from the data list

df = spark.createDataFrame(people)

To see the DataFrame you’ve built, print the schema and table:

#Print the schema and view the DataFrame in table format




A Spark DataFrame is a distributed collection of data organized by named columns that enable procedures to analyze, sort, organize, and aggregate the data. With Spark SQL queries and programming languages like Java, Python, and Scala, Spark provides data structures for handling huge amounts of data. Hopefully, the blog helped you to understand what a DataFrame is and how it is used to structure data.

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