Common Solutions

This section describes some common solutions to problems encountered when building ETL jobs. If this does not answer your question or you want to make an addition you can raise an issue in the questions repository.

Database Inconsistency

When writing data to targets like databases using the JDBCLoad raises a risk of stale reads where a client is reading a dataset which is either old or one which is in the process of being updated and so is internally inconsistent.

Example

  • create a new table each run using a JDBCLoad stage with a dynamic destination table specified as the ${JOB_RUN_DATE} environment variable (easily created with GNU date like: $(date +%Y-%m-%d))
  • the JDBCLoad will only complete successfully once the record count of source and target data have been confirmed to match
  • execute a JDBCExecute stage to perform a change to a view on the database to point to the new version of the table in a transaction-safe manner
  • if the job fails during any of these stages then the users will be unaware and will continue to consume the customers view which has the latest successful data
{
  "type": "JDBCLoad",
  "name": "load active customers to web server database",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputView": "ative_customers",
  "jdbcURL": "jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/customer",
  "tableName": "customers_"${JOB_RUN_DATE},
  "params": {
    "user": "mydbuser",
    "password": "mydbpassword"
  }
},
{
  "type": "JDBCExecute",
  "name": "update the current view to point to the latest version of the table",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/sql/update_customer_view.sql",          
  "jdbcURL": "jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/customer",
  "sqlParams": {
      "JOB_RUN_DATE": ${JOB_RUN_DATE}
  },    
  "password": "mypassword",
  "user": "myuser"
}

Where the update_customer_view.sql statement is:

CREATE OR REPLACE VIEW customers AS
SELECT * FROM customers_${JOB_RUN_DATE}

Each of the main SQL databases behaves slighly different and has slighty different syntax but most can achieve a repointing of a view to a different table in an atomic operation (as it is a single statement).

Note that this method will require some cleanup activity to be performed or the number of tables will grow with each execution. A second JDBCExecute stage could be added to clean up older verions of the underlying customers_ tables after successful ‘rollover’ execution.

Delta Processing

Delta Processing

Databricks have open sourced their Spark Delta Processing framework DeltaLake which provides a much safer (transactional) way to perform updates to a dataset which should be used to prevent stale reads or corruption. See DeltaLakeExtract and DeltaLakeLoad for implementations.

A common pattern is to reduce the amount of computation by processing only new files thereby reducing the amount of processing (and therefore cost) of expensive operations like the TypingTransform.

A simple way to do this is to use the glob capabilities of Spark to extract a subset of files and then use a SQLTransform to merge them with a previous state stored in something like Parquet. It is suggested to have a large date overlap with the previous state dataset to avoid missed data. Be careful with this pattern as it assumes that the previous state is correct/complete and that no input files are late arriving.

Example

Assuming an input file structure like:

hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-01.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-02.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-03.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-04.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-05.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-06.csv
hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_2019-02-07.csv

Add an additional environment variable to the docker run command which will calculate the delta processing period. By using GNU date the date maths of crossing month/year boundaries is easy and the formatting can be changed to suit your file naming convention.

-e ETL_CONF_DELTA_PERIOD="$(date --date='3 days ago' +%Y-%m-%d),$(date --date='2 days ago' +%Y-%m-%d),$(date --date='1 days ago' +%Y-%m-%d),$(date +%Y-%m-%d),$(date --date='1 days' +%Y-%m-%d)"

Which will expose and environment variable that looks like ETL_CONF_DELTA_PERIOD=2019-02-04,2019-02-05,2019-02-06,2019-02-07,2019-02-08.

Alternatively, a Dynamic Configuration Plugin like the arc-deltaperiod-config-plugin can be used to generate a similar list of dates.

This can then be used to read just the files which match the glob pattern:

{
  "type": "DelimitedExtract",
  "name": "load customer extract deltas",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/input/customer/customers_{"${ETL_CONF_DELTA_PERIOD}"}.csv",
  "outputView": "customer_delta_untyped"
},
{
  "type": "TypingTransform",
  "name": "apply data types to only the delta records",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/metadata/customer.json",
  "inputView": "customer_delta_untyped",
  "outputView": "customer_delta"
},
{
  "type": "ParquetExtract",
  "name": "load customer snapshot",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/output/customer/customers.parquet",
  "outputView": "customer_snapshot"
},
{
  "type": "SQLTransform",
  "name": "merge the two datasets",
  "environments": [
    "production",
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/sql/select_most_recent_customer.sql",
  "outputView": "customer"
}

In this case the files for dates 2019-02-01,2019-02-02,2019-02-03 will not be read as they are not in the ${ETL_CONF_DELTA_PERIOD} input array.

A SQL WINDOW can then be used to find the most recent record:

-- select only the most recent update record for each 'customer_id'
SELECT *
FROM (
     -- rank the dataset by the 'last_updated' timestamp for each primary keys of the table ('customer_id')
    SELECT
         *
        ,ROW_NUMBER() OVER (PARTITION BY 'customer_id' ORDER BY COALESCE('last_updated', CAST('1970-01-01 00:00:00' AS TIMESTAMP)) DESC) AS row_number
    FROM (
        SELECT *
        FROM customer_snapshot

        UNION ALL

        SELECT *
        FROM customer_delta
    ) customers
) customers
WHERE row_number = 1

Duplicate Keys

To find duplicate keys and stop the job so any issues are not propogated can be done using a SQLValidate stage which will fail with a list of invalid customer_ids if more than one are found.

Example

SELECT
    COUNT(*) = 0
    ,TO_JSON(NAMED_STRUCT(
      'duplicate_customer_count', COUNT(*),
      'duplicate_customer', CAST(COLLECT_LIST(DISTINCT customer_id) AS STRING)
    ))
FROM (
    SELECT
        customer_id
        ,COUNT(customer_id) AS customer_id_count
    FROM customer
    GROUP BY customer_id
) valid
WHERE customer_id_count > 1

Fixed Width Input Formats

It is also quite common to recieve fixed width formats from older systems like IBM Mainframes like:

data
detail2016-12-1914.23
detail2016-12-20-3.98
detail2016-12-2118.20

Example

  • Use a TextExtract stage to return dataset of many rows but single column.
  • Use a SQLTransform stage to split the data into columns.
SELECT
    SUBSTRING(data, 0, 6) AS _type
    ,SUBSTRING(data, 7, 8) AS date
    ,SUBSTRING(data, 17, 4) AS total
FROM fixed_width_demo
  • Use a TypingTransform stage to apply data types to the string columns returned by SQLTransform.

Foreign Key Constraint

Another common data quality check is to check Foreign Key integrity, for example ensuring a customer record exists when loading an accounts dataset.

Example

Customers

customer_id customer_name
29728375 Eleazar Stehr
69752261 Lisette Roberts

Accounts

customer_id account_id account_name
29728375 44205457 Checking Account
51805256 25102441 Credit Card Account
69752261 80393015 Savings Account
69752261 81704186 Credit Card Account
44953646 75082852 Personal Loan Account

This can be done using a SQLValidate stage which will fail with a list of invalid accounts if any customer records are missing (be careful of not overloading your logging solution with long messages).

SELECT
    SUM(invalid_customer_id) = 0
    ,TO_JSON(NAMED_STRUCT(
      'customers', COUNT(DISTINCT customer_id),
      'invalid_account_numbers_count', SUM(invalid_customer_id),
      'invalid_account_numbers', CAST(collect_list(DISTINCT invalid_account_numbers) AS STRING)
    ))
FROM (
    SELECT
        account.account_number
        ,customer.customer_id
        ,CASE
            WHEN customer.customer_id IS NULL THEN account.account_number
            ELSE null
        END AS invalid_account_numbers
        ,CASE
            WHEN customer.customer_id IS NULL THEN 1
            ELSE 0
        END AS invalid_customer_id
    FROM account
    LEFT JOIN customer ON account.customer_id = customer.customer_id
) valid

Header/Trailer Load Assurance

It is common to see formats like where the input dataset contains multiple record types with a trailer for some sort of load assurance/validation which allows processing this sort of data and ensure all records are successful.

col0 col1 col2 col3
header 2016-12-21 daily totals
detail 2016-12-19 daily total 14.23
detail 2016-12-20 daily total -3.98
detail 2016-12-21 daily total 18.20
trailer 3 28.45

Example

  • First use a DelimitedExtract stage to load the data into text columns.
  • Use two SQLTransform stages to split the input dataset into two new DataFrames using SQL WHERE statements.

detail

SELECT
    col0 AS _type
    ,col1 AS date
    ,col2 AS description
    ,col3 AS total
FROM raw
WHERE col0 = 'detail'
_type date description total
detail 2016-12-19 daily total 14.23
detail 2016-12-20 daily total -3.98
detail 2016-12-21 daily total 18.20

trailer

SELECT
    col0 AS _type
    ,col1 AS trailer_records
    ,col2 AS trailer_balance
FROM raw
WHERE col0 = 'trailer'
_type trailer_records trailer_balance
trailer 3 28.45
  • Use two TypingTransform stages to apply data correct types to the two datasets.
  • Use a SQLValidate stage to ensure that the count and sum of the detail dataset equals that of the trailer dataset.
SELECT
    sum_total = trailer_balance AND records_total = trailer_records
    ,TO_JSON(NAMED_STRUCT(
      'expected_count', trailer_records,
      'actual_count', records_total,
      'expected_balance', trailer_balance,
      'actual_balance', sum_total
    ))
FROM (
    (SELECT COUNT(total) AS records_total, SUM(total) AS sum_total FROM detail) detail
    CROSS JOIN
    (SELECT trailer_records, trailer_balance FROM trailer) trailer
) valid

Machine Learning Model as a Service

To see an example of how to host a simple model as a service (in this case resnet50) see:
https://github.com/tripl-ai/arc/tree/master/src/it/resources/flask_serving

To see how to host a TensorFlow Serving model see:
https://github.com/tripl-ai/arc/tree/master/src/it/resources/tensorflow_serving

To easily scale these services without managed infrastructure you can use Docker Swarm which includes a basic load balancer to distribute load across many (--replicas n) single-threaded services:

# start docker services
docker swarm init && \
docker service create --replicas 2 --publish 5000:5000 flask_serving/simple:latest
# to stop docker swarm
docker swarm leave --force

Machine Learning Prediction Thresholds

When used for classification, the MLTransform stage will add a probability column which exposes the highest probability score from the Spark ML probability vector which led to the predicted value. This can then be used as a boundary to prevent low probability predictions being sent to other systems if, for example, a change in input data resulted in a major change in predictions.

id input prediction probability
4 spark i j k 1.0 0.8403592261212589
5 l m n 0.0 0.8378325685476612
6 spark hadoop spark 1.0 0.9307336686702373
7 apache hadoop 0.0 0.9821575333444208

Example

SELECT
    SUM(low_probability) = 0
    ,TO_JSON(NAMED_STRUCT(
      'probability_below_threshold', SUM(low_probability),
      'threshold', 0.8
    ))
FROM (
    SELECT
        CASE
            WHEN customer_churn.probability < 0.8 THEN 1
            ELSE 0
        END AS low_probability
    FROM customer_churn
) valid

The threshold value could be easily passed in as a sqlParam parameter and referenced as ${CUSTOMER_CHURN_PROBABILITY_THRESHOLD} in the SQL code.

Nested Data

Because the SQL language wasn’t really designed with nested data that Spark supports it can be difficult to convert nested data into normal table structures. The EXPLODE and POSEXPLODE SQL functions are very useful for this conversion:

Example

Assuming a nested input structure like a JSON response that has been parsed via JSONExtract:

{
  "result": "success",
  "data": [
    {
      "customerId": 1,
      "active": true
    },
    {
      "customerId": 2,
      "active": false
    },
    {
      "customerId": 3,
      "active": true
    }
  ]
}

To flatten the data array use a SQL subquery and a POSEXPLODE to extract the data. EXPLODE and POSEXPLODE will both produce a field called col which can be used from the parent query. POSEXPLODE will include an additional field pos to indicate the index of the value in the input array (which can is valuable if array order is important for business logic).

SELECT
  result
  ,pos
  ,col.*
FROM (
  SELECT
    result
    ,POSEXPLODE(data)
  FROM result
) result

To produce:

+-------+---+------+----------+
|result |pos|active|customerId|
+-------+---+------+----------+
|success|0  |true  |1         |
|success|1  |false |2         |
|success|2  |true  |3         |
+-------+---+------+----------+

Testing with Parquet

If you want to manually create test data to compare against a Spark DataFrame a good option is to use the Apache Arrow library and the Python API to create a correctly typed Parquet. This file can then be loaded and compared with the EqualityValidate stage.

Example

Using the publicly available Docker Conda image:

docker run -it -v $(pwd)/data:/tmp/data conda/miniconda3 python

Then with Python (normally you would install the required libraries into your own Docker image instead of installing dependencies on each run):

# install pyarrow - build your docker image so this is already installed
import subprocess
subprocess.call(['conda', 'install', '-y', '-c', 'conda-forge', 'pyarrow'])

# imports
import decimal
import datetime
import pytz
import pyarrow as pa
import pyarrow.parquet as pq

# create two rows (columnar) of each core data type corresponding with the schema format
# be careful with null type here as it will be silently converted to a null IntegerType and will not match Spark's NullType
booleanDatum = pa.array([True, False], type=pa.bool_())
dateDatum = pa.array([datetime.date(2016, 12, 18), datetime.date(2016, 12, 19)])
decimalDatum = pa.array([decimal.Decimal('54.321'), decimal.Decimal('12.345')], type=pa.decimal128(38, 18))
doubleDatum = pa.array([42.4242, 21.2121], type=pa.float64())
integerDatum = pa.array([17, 34], type=pa.int32())
longDatum = pa.array([1520828868, 1520828123], type=pa.int64())
stringDatum = pa.array(['test,breakdelimiter', 'breakdelimiter,test'], type=pa.string())
timestampDatum = pa.array([datetime.datetime(2017, 12, 20, 21, 46, 54, 0, tzinfo=pytz.UTC), datetime.datetime(2017, 12, 29, 17, 21, 49, 0, tzinfo=pytz.UTC)])
timeDatum = pa.array(['12:34:56', '23:45:16'], type=pa.string())
nullDatum = pa.array([None, None], type=pa.null())

# create the arrow table
# we are using an arrow table rather than a dataframe to correctly align with spark datatypes
table = pa.Table.from_arrays([booleanDatum, dateDatum, decimalDatum, doubleDatum, integerDatum, longDatum, stringDatum, timestampDatum, timeDatum, nullDatum],
  ['booleanDatum', 'dateDatum', 'decimalDatum', 'doubleDatum', 'integerDatum', 'longDatum', 'stringDatum', 'timestampDatum', 'timeDatum', 'nullDatum'])

# write table to disk
pq.write_table(table, '/tmp/data/example.parquet', flavor='spark')

The suggestion then is to use the environments key to only execute the EqualityValidate stage whilst in testing mode:

{
  "type": "ParquetExtract",
  "name": "load customers",
  "environments": [
    "test"
  ],
  "inputURI": "hdfs://datalake/customer/*.parquet",
  "outputView": "customers_known_correct"
},
{
  "type": "EqualityValidate",
  "name": "verify calculated customer data equals preprepared customer data (test only)",
  "environments": [
    "test"
  ],
  "leftView": "customers_caculated",
  "rightView": "customers_known_correct"
}