Spark And NVMe

Alicja Luszczak, et al, introduce NVMe caching in the Databricks distribution of Spark:

A particularly important and widespread use case is caching the results of scan operations. This allows the users to eliminate the low throughput associated with reading remote data. For this reason, many users who intend to run the same or similar workload repeatedly decide to invest extra development time into manually optimizing their application, by instructing Spark exactly what files to cache and when to do it, and thus “explicit caching.”

For all its utility, Spark cache also has a number of shortcomings. First, when the data is cached in the main memory, it takes up space that could be better used for other purposes during query execution, for example, for shuffles or hash tables. Second, when the data is cached on the disk, it has to be deserialized when read — a process that is too slow to adequately utilize the high read bandwidths commonly offered by the NVMe SSDs. As a result, occasionally Spark applications actually find their performance regressing when turning on Spark caching.

Third, having to plan ahead and explicitly declare which data should be cached is challenging for the users who want to interactively explore the data or build reports. While Spark cache gives data engineers all the knobs to tune, data scientist often find it difficult to reason about the cache, especially in a multi-tenant setting, where engineers still require the results to be returned as quickly as possible in order to keep the iteration time short.

Read on for more details, as well as performance comparisons.

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