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Pentaho Documentation

Spark Tuning

Parent article

Spark tuning is the customization of PDI transformation and step parameters to improve the performance of running your PDI transformations on Spark. These parameters affect memory, cores, and instances used by the Spark engine. These Spark parameters include:

  • Application tuning parameters which are transformation parameters for working with PDI transformations on Spark.
  • Spark tuning options which are parameters for a specific PDI step.

Use the Spark tuning options to customize Spark parameters within a PDI step to further refine how your transformation runs. For example, if your KTR contains many complex computations, you can adjust the Spark tuning options for a PDI step to increase performance and decrease run times when executing your transformation.

NoteSpark tuning options for a step override the application tuning parameters for the transformation. You can set application tuning parameters in AEL in the data-integration/adaptive-execution/config/ file or in PDI in the Transformation Properties window. For more information, see Configuring application tuning parameters for Spark.

This article provides a reference for the step-level Spark tuning options available in PDI. The Spark tuning categories, options, and applicable steps are listed below. For more information about the Spark tuning workflow, see About Spark tuning in PDI.

Spark tuning options for PDI steps include the following categories:

  • Dataset

    Set these options for data persistance, repartitioning, and coalesce. Tune these options to help you save downstream computation, such as reducing the amount of possible recalculations after wide Spark transformations. Options include partitioning data, persisting data, and caching data.

  • Join

    Set this broadcast join option to push datasets out to the executors which can reduce shuffling during join operations.

  • JDBC

    Set these options to specify the number of JDBC connections, including partitioning attributes.

  • Dataframe Writer

    Set these options for partitioning management, including bucketing file writes.

Audience and prerequisites

Spark tuning features are intended for ETL developers who have a solid understanding of PDI, Spark, and your system's cluster resources. For effective Spark tuning, you need to know how a transformation uses your resources, including both your environment and data size. PDI steps vary in their resource requirements, so you should tune the Spark engine to meet the needs of each transformation.

To use the Spark tuning features, you need access to the following information:

  • Cluster resources
  • Amount of resources available to the Spark engine during execution, including memory allotments and number of cores.
  • Size of data.

You may want to consult your cluster administrator, who can perform the following tasks:

  • Monitor cluster resources on the YARN ResourceManager.
  • Manage Spark execution resources on the Spark History Server.

Opening the PDI step Spark tuning options

You can access the Spark tuning options from a PDI step by right-clicking on the step in the canvas and selecting Spark tuning parameters from the menu. Spark Tuning Parameters menu

NoteSpark tuning options are not available for some PDI steps, such as most Consumer steps and the Avro, Hbase, Orc, and Parquet input steps.

The Spark tuning parameters dialog box appears. Click in the column to view the Spark tuning options available for that step in the dialog box. These options vary from step to step, depending on the scope of the step. Spark tuning dialog box

NoteSupport for the step-level Spark tuning options are based on the Spark version installed on the cluster. While Pentaho 9.0 is coded for Spark 2.3, the actual implementation varies with the Spark version running on the cluster.

Setting PDI step Spark tuning options

After you open the Spark tuning parameters dialog box, select the parameter and click in the Value column. Use this article and the best practices described in the Spark documentation to adjust the value for your transformation. You can control the values in the Spark tuning parameters using PDI variables.Spark Tuning values
NoteSpark tuning options are available for selected PDI steps commonly used with Spark.

Dataset tuning options

The Dataset tuning options include partitioning data and persisting or caching data, which can save downstream computation.

Effective memory management is critical for optimizing performance when running PDI transformations on the Spark engine. The Spark tuning options provide the ability to adjust Spark defaults settings and customize them to your environment. Depending on the application and environment, specific tuning parameters may be adjusted to meet your performance goals.

One of the most important capabilities in Spark is persisting (or caching) a Dataset in memory across operations. You can define partitioning and you can apply cache or persist.storageLevel or none.

The following table describes common data formats used by PDI transformation steps and job entries:

OptionDescriptionValue typeExample value
cachePersist the Dataset with the default storage level (MEMORY_AND_DISK). See the Spark API documentation for more information. Booleantrue/false

Returns a new Dataset that has exactly numPartitions partitions, when the fewer partitions are requested. If a larger number of partitions is requested, it will stay at the current number of partitions. See the Spark API documentation for more information.

Note: In PDI, this option must be used with the reparatition.numPartitions option.


Returns a new Dataset partitioned by the given partitioning value into numPartitions. The resulting Dataset is hash partitioned. See the Spark API documentation for more information.

Note: In PDI, this option can be used with repartition.columns.

Note: When coalesce is set to true then coalesce( numPartitions ) is called. When coalesce is set to blank or false, then .repartition( numPartitions ) is called.


Returns a new Dataset partitioned by the given Dataset columns, and only works with the repartition.numPartition option. The resulting Dataset is hash partitioned by the given columns. See the Spark API documentation for more information.

Note: In PDI, the step logs an error if an invalid column is entered.

Comma separated stringscolumn1, column2

Each persisted Dataset can be stored using a different storage level. These levels are set by passing a StorageLevel object to persist().

See the Spark API documentation to view more information about RDD persistence, the full set of storage levels, and how to choose a storage level.

Spark Storage LevelMEMORY_ONLY

The following examples show you how the Dataset tuning options work with a given set of values in a PDI step:

Example of step tuning options and valuesResulting Spark API call
  • cache = true
  • repartition.numPartitions = 5
  • repartition.columns = id,name
dataset.repartition( 5, Column[]{ “id”, “name”} ).cache()
  • persist.storageLevel = IN_MEMORY
  • repartition.numPartitions = 15
  • coalesce = true
dataset.coalesce( 15 ).persist( StorageLevel.IN_MEMORY )

Steps using Dataset tuning options

Many of the PDI transformation steps feature the Dataset tuning options. For the full list of steps, see Steps using Dataset tuning options.

Join tuning options

Use the broadcast join tuning option instead of the hash join to optimize join queries when the size of one side of the data is below a specific threshold. Customizing your broadcast join can efficiently join a large table with small tables, such as a fact table with a dimensions table, which can reduce the amount of data sent over the network.

OptionDescriptionValue typeExample value
join.broadcast.stepNameMarks a DataFrame as small enough for use in broadcast joins. See the Spark API documentation for more information.StringstepName

Steps using join tuning options

You can use the join tuning options with the following steps:

Step categoryStep name
  • Join rows
  • Merge join
  • Merge rows (diff)

DataframeWriter tuning options

Partitioning management is a critical factor in optimized performance because too few partitions may result in underused resources and too many partitions may result in too many resources for managing small tasks. Partitioning your data more evenly helps avoid these problems. Because partitioning is pushed down to the data in the output files during the DataFrameWriter .save() call, repartitioning occurs when writing files.

OptionDescriptionValue typeExample value
write.partitionBy.columnsPartitions the output by the given columns on the file system. See the Spark API documentation for more information.Comma separated stringscolumn1, column2
write.bucketBy.columnsBuckets the output by the given columns. See the Spark API documentation for more information.Comma separated stringscolumn1, column2
write.sortBy.columnsSorts the output in each bucket by the given columns. See the Spark API documentation for more information.Comma separated stringscolumn1, column2
write.bucketBy.numBucketsBuckets the output by the given columns. See the Spark API documentation for more information.Integer5

Steps using DataframeWriter tuning options

You can use the DataFrameWriter tuning options with the following steps:

Step categoryStep name
Big Data
  • Avro Output
  • Orc Output
  • Parquet Output

JDBC tuning options

Spark is a massive parallel computation system that can run on many nodes, processing hundreds of partitions at a time, but when working with SQL databases, you may want to customize processing to reduce the risk of failure. You can specify the number of concurrent JDBC connections, numeric column names, minimal value to read, and maximum value to read. Spark then reads data from the JDBC partitioned by a specific column and partitions the data by the specified numeric column, producing parallel queries when applied correctly. If you have a cluster installed with Hive, the JDBC tuning options can improve transformation performance.

The read-jdbc parameter constructs a DataFrame representing the database table accessible via a JDBC URL named table. Partitions of the table are retrieved in parallel based on the parameters passed to this function. See the Spark API documentation for more information.

OptionDescriptionValue typeExample value
read.jdbc.columnNameThe name of a column of integral type that will be used for partitioning.Stringcolumn1
read.jdbc.lowerBoundThe minimum value of columnName used to decide partition stride. This option works with read.jdbc.columnName.Any value
read.jdbc.upperBoundThe maximum value of columnName used to decide partition stride. This option works with read.jdbc.columnName.Any value
read.jdbc.numPartitionsThe number of partitions. This, along with lowerBound (inclusive), upperBound (exclusive), form partition strides for generated WHERE clause expressions used to split the column columnName evenly. When the input is less than 1, the number is set to 1.Integer5

Steps using JDBC tuning options

You can use the JDBC tuning options with the following step:

Step categoryStep name
  • Table Input