Unleash the Power of Apache Spark with Airflow's SparkSubmitOperator: A Comprehensive Guide


link to this section

Apache Airflow offers a variety of operators to manage and execute tasks in your data pipelines. One such operator is the SparkSubmitOperator, which simplifies the submission and execution of Apache Spark applications in your data workflows. In this blog post, we will explore the SparkSubmitOperator, covering its features, use cases, implementation, customization, and best practices for efficiently managing your Apache Spark workflows.

Table of Contents

link to this section
  1. What is the SparkSubmitOperator?

  2. Common Use Cases for SparkSubmitOperator

  3. Implementing SparkSubmitOperator in Your DAGs

  4. Customizing SparkSubmitOperator Behavior

  5. Best Practices

  6. Conclusion

What is the SparkSubmitOperator?

link to this section

The SparkSubmitOperator is an Apache Airflow operator designed to submit and execute Apache Spark applications. It inherits from the BaseOperator class and uses the spark-submit command-line tool to interact with Spark. The SparkSubmitOperator allows you to submit Spark applications within your DAGs, making it easy to integrate large-scale data processing tasks into your data pipelines.

Common Use Cases for SparkSubmitOperator

link to this section

The SparkSubmitOperator can be employed in various scenarios, including:

  • Data extraction : Running Spark applications to extract data from various sources for processing and transformation in your data pipeline.
  • Data transformation : Executing Spark applications to process and transform large datasets, leveraging Spark's in-memory processing capabilities.
  • Data analysis: Running machine learning or graph processing algorithms using Spark MLlib or GraphX.
  • Data loading : Submitting Spark applications to load processed data into various storage systems or databases.

Implementing SparkSubmitOperator in Your DAGs

link to this section

To use the SparkSubmitOperator in your DAGs, import it and instantiate it like any other operator. Here's a simple example:

from datetime import datetime 
from airflow import DAG 
from airflow.providers.apache.spark.operators.spark_submit import SparkSubmitOperator 

with DAG(dag_id='spark_submit_operator_example', start_date=datetime(2023, 1, 1)) as dag: 
    submit_spark_app = SparkSubmitOperator( 
        application_args=['--arg1', 'value1', '--arg2', 'value2'], 

In this example, we create a SparkSubmitOperator task called submit_spark_app , which submits a Spark application located at path/to/your/spark_app.py . The task uses the my_spark_conn connection to interact with the Spark cluster and provides some arguments to the Spark application.

Customizing SparkSubmitOperator Behavior

link to this section

The SparkSubmitOperator offers several parameters that you can use to customize its behavior:

  • conn_id : The ID of the Airflow connection to use for connecting to the Spark cluster.
  • application : The path to the Spark application (JAR or Python file) to be submitted.
  • name : The name of the Spark application.
  • application_args : A list of arguments to pass to the Spark application.
  • conf : A dictionary of key-value pairs to set Spark configuration properties.

Additional Spark configurations, such as executor memory, driver memory, and the number of cores, can be passed using the conf parameter.

Best Practices

link to this section
  • Use descriptive task_ids : Make sure to use clear and meaningful task_ids for your SparkSubmitOperator tasks to improve the readability and maintainability of your DAGs.
  • Organize your Spark applications : Store your Spark applications in a well-organized directory structure and manage their dependencies using tools like sbt for Scala or pip for Python, making it easier to maintain and deploy your applications.
  • Monitor and optimize your Spark applications : Continuously monitor the performance of your Spark applications and optimize them to improve the efficiency of your data workflows. This may involve adjusting Spark configurations, such as the number of executors, executor memory, or partitioning strategies.
  • Manage dependencies : Ensure that your SparkSubmitOperator tasks have the correct dependencies set up in your DAGs. For instance, if a task depends on the successful execution of a Spark application, make sure to use the set_upstream() or set_downstream() methods, or the bitshift operators ( >> and << ) to define these dependencies.
  • Handle application failures: Implement proper error handling and retry mechanisms in your Spark applications and SparkSubmitOperator tasks to gracefully handle failures and avoid interruptions in your data pipelines.


link to this section

The Apache Airflow SparkSubmitOperator is a powerful and versatile tool for managing Apache Spark applications within your data pipelines. By understanding its various features, use cases, and customization options, you can create efficient workflows that seamlessly integrate Spark tasks into your DAGs. As you continue to work with Apache Airflow, remember to leverage the power of the SparkSubmitOperator to streamline your Apache Spark workflows and build robust, scalable data pipelines.