Quick Start with PySpark and Snowflake

Think Different - Dhiraj Patra
6 min readNov 25, 2023


Snowflake is a cloud-based data warehouse that provides a secure, scalable, and high-performance platform for data storage, processing, and analytics. It is a fully managed service, so you don’t have to worry about managing infrastructure or software. Snowflake is used by a wide range of customers, including businesses of all sizes, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Here is an example of an end-to-end Snowflake workflow:

  1. Data ingestion: Snowflake supports a variety of data ingestion methods, including CSV, JSON, Parquet, and ORC. You can load data into Snowflake from on-premises systems, cloud storage, or SaaS applications.
  2. Data storage: Snowflake stores data in a columnar format, which makes it very efficient for querying. Snowflake also supports multiple storage tiers, so you can optimize your costs by storing data in the tier that best meets your needs.
  3. Data processing: Snowflake provides a variety of data processing capabilities, including SQL, Spark, and Python. You can use Snowflake to perform a wide range of data processing tasks, such as data cleaning, data transformation, and data enrichment.
  4. Data analytics: Snowflake provides a variety of data analytics capabilities, including reporting, dashboards, and machine learning. You can use Snowflake to analyze your data and gain insights that can help you improve your business.

Here are some specific examples of how Snowflake can be used in different industries:

  • Retail: Snowflake can be used to analyze sales data, customer data, and inventory data to identify trends, patterns, and opportunities.
  • Finance: Snowflake can be used to analyze financial data, risk data, and fraud data to make better investment decisions and reduce risk.
  • Healthcare: Snowflake can be used to analyze patient data, clinical trial data, and healthcare costs to improve patient care and reduce costs.
  • Manufacturing: Snowflake can be used to analyze production data, quality control data, and supply chain data to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Snowflake is a powerful and versatile data warehouse that can be used to solve a wide range of business problems. If you are looking for a cloud-based data warehouse that is secure, scalable, and high-performance, then Snowflake is a good option to consider.

Here is an example of a specific end-to-end Snowflake workflow for a retail company:

  1. The company ingests its sales data into Snowflake from its on-premises ERP system.
  2. The company uses Snowflake to perform data cleaning and data transformation on the sales data.
  3. The company uses Snowflake to enrich the sales data with additional data, such as customer demographics and product information.
  4. The company uses Snowflake to analyze the sales data to identify trends, patterns, and opportunities.
  5. The company uses the insights from the analysis to improve its marketing campaigns, product offerings, and store operations.

PySpark is an open-source API that allows you to write and run Spark programs in Python. It provides a high-level interface to Spark, making it easier to use and more accessible to Python programmers.

PySpark is used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Big data processing and analytics: PySpark can be used to process and analyze large datasets, both structured and unstructured.
  • Machine learning: PySpark can be used to train and deploy machine learning models.
  • Stream processing: PySpark can be used to process and analyze streaming data.
  • Graph processing: PySpark can be used to process and analyze graph data.

To use PySpark, you will need to install the PySpark package. You can do this using pip:

pip install pyspark

Once PySpark is installed, you can start a SparkSession:


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession
spark = SparkSession.builder.getOrCreate()

The SparkSession is the entry point to Spark. It provides a number of methods for interacting with Spark, such as reading and writing data, creating and executing Spark jobs, and managing Spark resources.

Once you have a SparkSession, you can start using PySpark to process and analyze your data. For example, you can read data from a variety of sources, such as files, databases, and other Spark DataFrames:


df = spark.read.csv("my_data.csv")

You can then perform a variety of operations on the DataFrame, such as filtering, sorting, and aggregating the data:


df = df.filter(df["column_name"] > 10)
df = df.sort("column_name", ascending=False)
df = df.groupBy("column_name").agg({"count": "count"})

You can also write the DataFrame to a variety of destinations, such as files, databases, and other Spark DataFrames:


df.write.jdbc("jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/my_database", "my_table")

PySpark also provides a variety of libraries for machine learning, stream processing, and graph processing. You can use these libraries to train and deploy machine learning models, process and analyze streaming data, and process and analyze graph data.

Here is an example of a simple PySpark program that reads data from a CSV file, filters the data, and writes the filtered data to another CSV file:


import pyspark
# Create a SparkSession
spark = SparkSession.builder.getOrCreate()
# Read the data from the CSV file
df = spark.read.csv("my_data.csv")
# Filter the data
df = df.filter(df["column_name"] > 10)
# Write the filtered data to the CSV file

Here are some key points that a data engineer or data analyst might work with PySpark:

Data Engineer:

1. ETL Processes:

- Implemented Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) processes using PySpark to ingest, clean, and transform large datasets.

- Developed efficient data pipelines for moving and transforming data between different storage systems.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“ETLJob”).getOrCreate()

# Load data from source

source_data = spark.read.csv(“s3://your-source-bucket/data.csv”, header=True)

# Transform data

transformed_data = source_data.select(“column1”, “column2”).filter(“column1 > 0”)

# Write transformed data to destination


2. Data Processing and Transformation:

- Utilized PySpark for processing and transforming large-scale data, optimizing for performance and scalability.

- Performed data cleansing, validation, and enrichment as part of the ETL workflows.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

from pyspark.sql.functions import col

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“DataProcessingJob”).getOrCreate()

# Load and process data

raw_data = spark.read.json(“s3://your-data-bucket/raw_data.json”)

processed_data = raw_data.withColumn(“new_column”, col(“existing_column”) * 2)

# Write processed data


3. Data Integration:

- Integrated PySpark with various data sources and sinks, such as databases, cloud storage, and data warehouses.

- Ensured seamless data flow across different components of the data ecosystem.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“DataIntegrationJob”).getOrCreate()

# Read data from multiple sources

data_source1 = spark.read.csv(“s3://bucket1/data1.csv”, header=True)

data_source2 = spark.read.parquet(“s3://bucket2/data2.parquet”)

# Merge or join data

merged_data = data_source1.join(data_source2, “common_column”)

# Write integrated data


4. Performance Tuning:

- Optimized PySpark jobs for performance by tuning configurations, leveraging caching, and parallelizing operations.

- Implemented best practices for partitioning and bucketing to enhance query performance.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

# Initialize Spark session with custom configurations

spark = SparkSession.builder \

.appName(“PerformanceTuningJob”) \

.config(“spark.sql.shuffle.partitions”, 100) \

.config(“spark.executor.memory”, “4g”) \


# Perform data processing with optimized configurations

5. Workflow Automation:

- Automated data workflows using PySpark, reducing manual intervention and improving overall efficiency.

- Scheduled and orchestrated PySpark jobs with tools like Apache Airflow for timely execution.


from airflow import DAG

from airflow.operators.spark_submit_operator import SparkSubmitOperator

from datetime import datetime

default_args = {

‘owner’: ‘airflow’,

‘start_date’: datetime(2023, 1, 1),

‘depends_on_past’: False,

‘retries’: 1,

‘retry_delay’: timedelta(minutes=5),


dag = DAG(‘etl_workflow’, default_args=default_args, schedule_interval=’@daily’)

etl_job = SparkSubmitOperator(






Data Analyst:

1. Data Exploration and Analysis:

- Utilized PySpark DataFrames to explore and analyze large datasets, gaining insights into the underlying patterns and trends.

- Performed exploratory data analysis (EDA) to understand data distributions, correlations, and anomalies.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“DataExplorationJob”).getOrCreate()

# Load data for analysis

analysis_data = spark.read.parquet(“s3://your-data-bucket/analysis_data.parquet”)

# Perform exploratory data analysis



2. Feature Engineering:

- Engineered features using PySpark to create meaningful variables for predictive modeling and machine learning.

- Applied PySpark functions for feature extraction and transformation as part of the analysis.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

from pyspark.ml.feature import VectorAssembler

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“FeatureEngineeringJob”).getOrCreate()

# Load data for feature engineering

feature_data = spark.read.parquet(“s3://your-data-bucket/feature_data.parquet”)

# Create a feature vector

assembler = VectorAssembler(inputCols=[“feature1”, “feature2”], outputCol=”features”)

featured_data = assembler.transform(feature_data)

3. Statistical Analysis:

- Conducted statistical analysis using PySpark, including hypothesis testing, significance testing, and regression analysis.

- Employed descriptive statistics to summarize and interpret key characteristics of the data.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

from pyspark.sql.functions import col

from pyspark.ml.stat import Correlation

# Initialize Spark session

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName(“StatisticalAnalysisJob”).getOrCreate()

# Load data for statistical analysis

stat_data = spark.read.parquet(“s3://your-data-bucket/stat_data.parquet”)

# Compute correlation matrix

correlation_matrix = Correlation.corr(stat_data

4. Data Visualization:

- Created informative visualizations using PySpark in combination with visualization libraries like Matplotlib and Seaborn.

- Generated charts, graphs, and dashboards to communicate findings effectively.

5. Model Evaluation and Validation:

- Implemented PySpark MLlib for building machine learning models, evaluating model performance, and validating results.

- Employed cross-validation and hyperparameter tuning techniques to enhance model accuracy.



Think Different - Dhiraj Patra

I am a Software architect for AI, ML, IoT microservices cloud applications. Love to learn and share. https://dhirajpatra.github.io