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A few weeks ago, Sabri Skhiri and Florian Demesmaeker were in London to attend the Spark+AI summit. They came back with a lot to say about the new features of Spark and the presented use cases! In this article, they will give you their opinion about Databricks’ main announcement, the intakes of their favourite talks and training, and what they thought of the new name of the conference.
A new name
This year, Spark expanded the summit’s scope and renamed it “Spark + AI Summit”. The goal of Databricks, announced by its co-founder Ali Ghodsi, is to incorporate unified aspects of data and AI.
Florian Demesmaeker, our R&D engineer, explains: “In some of the keynote talks, the speakers talked about use cases where the job of the data engineer is strongly reduced. The data scientists can easily experiment with data, travelling back and forth in time. This means more focus on AI, rather than on the data engineering part that makes all data accessible to the data scientists”.
In line with this change of name, Databricks announced the release of a complete data science lifecycle on the cloud.
Sabri Skhiri, our R&D Director, explains “It is interesting to see that the change in the event name is actually very visible in the change of Databricks’ strategy. Their tools are now completely dedicated to stream ETL, and there is a huge focus on integrated data management”.
Databricks’ new features include Databricks Delta which creates data pipeline and provides data views and exploration features. Secondly, the Databricks Runtime ML is a ready-to-use environment providing a set of pre-loaded ML frameworks where the data scientist can play with data. Finally, the MLflow tool allows to simplify the ML models development at enterprise scale.
Our R&D Director precises: “Together, these features provide a complete and unified approach to machine learning lifecycle and pipeline automation. This looks like a very competitive SaaS offer for integrated data management, available on AWS and Azure. However, the metadata management and the security aspect is still the missing piece”.
The training day
The first day of the conference was dedicated to training workshops that include a mix of instruction and hands-on exercises to help attendants improve their Apache Spark skills.
Florian gives insights into his favourite training Tuning and Best Practices. He explains: “The aim of the training was to make programmers aware of how Spark works internally, in order to be able to write optimised applications. They presented a few situations, each one showing one relatively slow process. Then they presented a step-by-step procedure to debug the situation and to find the points that could be improved in the current situation. In summary, tips and tricks to adapt to different situations”.
The sessions at the conference covered data engineering and data science contents along with best practices for productionising AI. The talks were divided into roughly two categories: Spark programming and deployment, and applications on top of Spark (AI applications).
Florian Demesmaeker explains: “I attended 28 talks. The keynotes from Databricks were quite interesting, they presented Delta and MLflow. I also enjoyed the talks about tools to optimise the internals of Spark, these provided good technical details. Other talks were about use cases on top of Spark, it was interesting to see what challenges other companies face and how they address them”.
Sabri Skhiri adds: “The talk Learning to Rank Datasets for Search was very inspiring. Oscar Castañeda-Villagrán, a data scientist working at Xoom (a Paypal service) talked about learning to rank R data set. The idea is that we can extract metadata when the data pipeline is arriving in the lake. Going further, you can not only extract metadata but also calculate a kind of judgment relevance score that will be used for bootstrapping the learning to rank process. In this way, a user can search and retrieve the relevant R data set in the lake. A very good idea for the metadata-driven exploration”.
Early September 2018, 8 EURA NOVA engineers travelled to Berlin to attend the Flink Forward Conference, dedicated to Apache Flink users and stream processing communities. You can read their feedback here.