What is SparkSession – PySpark Entry Point, Dive into SparkSession


PySpark, the Python library for Apache Spark, has gained immense popularity among data engineers and data scientists due to its simplicity and power in handling big data tasks.

This blog post will provide a comprehensive understanding of the PySpark entry point, the SparkSession. We’ll explore the concepts, features, and the use of SparkSession to set up a PySpark application effectively.

What is SparkSession?

SparkSession is the entry point for any PySpark application, introduced in Spark 2.0 as a unified API to replace the need for separate SparkContext, SQLContext, and HiveContext.

The SparkSession is responsible for coordinating various Spark functionalities and provides a simple way to interact with structured and semi-structured data, such as reading and writing data from various formats, executing SQL queries, and utilizing built-in functions for data manipulation.

SparkSession offers several benefits that make it an essential component of PySpark applications:

Simplified API: SparkSession unifies the APIs of SparkContext, SQLContext, and HiveContext, making it easier for developers to interact with Spark’s core features without switching between multiple contexts.

Configuration management: You can easily configure a SparkSession by setting various options, such as the application name, the master URL, and other configurations.

Access to Spark ecosystem: SparkSession allows you to interact with the broader Spark ecosystem, such as DataFrames, Datasets, and MLlib, enabling you to build powerful data processing pipelines.

Improved code readability: By encapsulating multiple Spark contexts, SparkSession helps you write cleaner and more maintainable code.

Creating a SparkSession

To create a SparkSession, we first need to import the necessary PySpark modules and classes. Here’s a simple example:

from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

spark = SparkSession.builder \
    .appName("My PySpark Application") \
    .master("local[*]") \

In this example, we import the SparkSession class from the pyspark.sql module and use the builder method to configure the application name and master URL. The getOrCreate() method is then used to either get the existing SparkSession or create a new one if none exists.

The SparkSession.builder object provides various functions to configure the SparkSession before creating it. Some of the important functions are:

appName(name): Sets the application name, which will be displayed in the Spark web user interface.

master(masterURL): Sets the URL of the cluster manager (like YARN, Mesos, or standalone) that Spark will connect to. You can also set it to “local” or “local[N]” (where N is the number of cores) for running Spark locally.

config(key, value): Sets a configuration property with the specified key and value. You can use this method multiple times to set multiple configuration properties.

config(conf): Sets the Spark configuration object (SparkConf) to be used for building the SparkSession.

enableHiveSupport(): Enables Hive support, including connectivity to a persistent Hive metastore, support for Hive SerDes, and Hive user-defined functions (UDFs).

getOrCreate(): Retrieves an existing SparkSession or, if there is none, creates a new one based on the options set via the builder.

How many pyspark sessions can be created?

In PySpark, you can technically create multiple SparkSession instances, but it is not recommended. The standard practice is to use a single SparkSession per application.

SparkSession is designed to be a singleton, which means that only one instance should be active in the application at any given time

# Create new SparkSession
spark2 = SparkSession.newSession

Configuring a SparkSession

You can configure a SparkSession with various settings, such as the number of executor cores, executor memory, driver memory, and more. Here’s an example

spark = SparkSession.builder \
    .appName("My PySpark Application") \
    .master("local[*]") \
    .config("spark.executor.memory", "4g") \
    .config("spark.executor.cores", "4") \
    .config("spark.driver.memory", "2g") \

In this example, we’ve added three additional configurations for executor memory, executor cores, and driver memory using the config() method.

Accessing SparkSession Components

SparkSession provides access to various components, such as the SparkContext, SQLContext, and HiveContext, which can be used to perform different tasks. Here’s how to access them:

# Access SparkContext
spark_context = spark.sparkContext

# Access SQLContext
sql_context = spark._wrapped

# Access HiveContext (if Hive support is enabled)
hive_context = spark._jwrapped

Reading and Writing Data with SparkSession

SparkSession enables you to read and write data from various formats, such as Parquet, Avro, JSON, CSV, and more. Here’s an example of reading a CSV file and writing the data to a Parquet file:

# Read a CSV file
data_frame = spark.read.csv("path/to/your/csv-file", header=True, inferSchema=True)

# Write the data to a Parquet file

Executing SQL Queries with SparkSession

With SparkSession, you can also execute SQL queries directly on your data. Here’s an example:

# Register a DataFrame as a temporary table

# Execute an SQL query on the temporary table
result = spark.sql("SELECT * FROM my_table WHERE age > 30")

# Display the result

Example: Word Count with SparkSession

Here’s an example of using SparkSession to perform a word count on a text file

from pyspark.sql import SparkSession
from pyspark.sql.functions import split, explode, col

# Create a SparkSession
spark = SparkSession.builder \
    .appName("PySpark Word Count Example") \
    .master("local[*]") \

# Read the input file
data = spark.read.text("input.txt")

# Split the lines into words
words = data.select(explode(split(col("value"), " ")).alias("word"))

# Perform word count
word_count = words.groupBy("word").count()

# Display the result

# Stop the SparkSession

Stopping a SparkSession

To free up resources and gracefully shut down your Spark application, you should stop the SparkSession using the stop() method:


Tips for Working with SparkSession

Here are some helpful tips when working with SparkSession:

Reuse SparkSession: It is recommended to reuse the same SparkSession instance across your application to avoid the overhead of creating multiple instances. You can create a utility class or module to manage the SparkSession lifecycle.

Lazy evaluation: SparkSession, like other Spark components, uses lazy evaluation. This means that transformations on DataFrames and Datasets are not executed until an action (e.g., count, collect) is called. This approach allows Spark to optimize the execution plan and improve performance.

Use caching wisely: You can cache intermediate


In this blog post, we explored the concept of SparkSession, its importance in PySpark applications, and how to create, configure, and use it. We also demonstrated an example of performing a word count using SparkSession.

With a solid understanding of SparkSession, you can now develop efficient and scalable PySpark applications that leverage the full capabilities of the Apache Spark ecosystem.

Remember to always stop the SparkSession once your application has completed its tasks to free up resources and ensure a clean shutdown.

Happy coding with PySpark and SparkSession!

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