The Top 5 Challenges of Validating Data on Databricks and How to Overcome Them

If your work revolves around data management, chances are you’ve become familiar with validating data on Databricks. A popular cloud data management platform, Databricks is built on the open-source Apache Spark framework. It greatly facilitates daily data processing tasks on public clouds like Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), enabling analysts and engineers to query semi-structured data without implementing traditional database schemas. 

With 97% of reporting companies investing in big data analytics and AI-driven data management tools, data management teams must become adept at using tools like Databricks to their full potential. This guide examines common challenges of data validation in Databricks and outlines practical steps to enhance data quality.

Key Takeaways

  • Databricks, a leading cloud data management platform, requires adept handling to address challenges like data volume, source variability, and evolving schemas.
  • Implementing Databricks’ inherent features, such as Delta Lake and parallel processing, can mitigate issues with stateful data validation and data complexity.
  • Effective integration of external tools within Databricks demands a centralized validation tool repository to ensure compatibility and efficient data management.

Validation Challenges in Databricks

Databricks is one of the more capable data management platforms available. Nevertheless, no platform can anticipate the requirements of every data processing scenario, and even experienced users will hit a snag now and again. Here are five of the common challenges.

1. Data Volume and Complexity

The advances in cloud computing, data modeling methods, and compression algorithms have fueled a data surge in business applications over the last decade. As datasets get larger, they morph into more complex and heterogeneous entities. Every terabyte processed means millions of data points, each with potential inconsistencies or errors. 

Different big data formats.
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Furthermore, large datasets often contain multiple structure types, ranging from simple flat files to intricate, multi-layered formats like JSON or Parquet. Validating such datasets not only demands significant computational power but also precise methodologies that can navigate the often-convoluted pathways of modern data architectures.

Solution: Combat this using Databricks’ inherent parallel processing strengths. This involves logically dividing the dataset into smaller segments and validating them concurrently across multiple nodes. Simultaneously, create an expansive library of user-defined functions (UDFs) tailored to diverse data structures. 

Keeping these functions updated ensures robust and agile validation, ready to adapt to emerging data complexities. Collaborative team reviews of these UDFs, combined with the adoption of advanced data parsing techniques, guarantee thorough validation regardless of volume or structural intricacy.

2. Data Source Variability

With business growth comes a proliferation of data sources. Modern companies rely on combinations of sources, ranging from relational databases to IoT feeds and real-time data streams. This diversity of data sources comes with validation challenges. Each data source introduces its own syntax, formatting, and potential anomalies, leading to inaccuracies, redundancies, and the dreaded “garbage in, garbage out” phenomenon.

Solution: Within the Databricks environment, build a regimented ingestion framework. This cohesive pipeline should act as the gatekeeper, scrutinizing, cleansing, and transforming every bit of data funneled through it. Establish preprocessing routines that standardize data formats, nullify inconsistencies, and enhance overall data integrity. 

3. Evolving Schemas

In modern data processing, schemas are much less rigid than their predecessors serving traditional backend relational databases. While this flexibility ensures alignment with contemporary requirements, it complicates validation. A validation rule effective today might be obsolete tomorrow due to subtle schema alterations. This fluid landscape necessitates a proactive, forward-looking validation approach.

Solution: Anchor your strategy in a twofold schema management system. One edge is a comprehensive schema registry, meticulously documenting every schema iteration. The other is an agile version control mechanism for categorizing changes. 

With this two-pronged approach, validation teams can anticipate schema changes and recalibrate their rules accordingly. Regular audits, combined with automated schema change alerts, will ensure that the validation logic remains consistent and synchronous with the evolving data structures.

4. Stateful Data Validation

With the rise of real-time analytics, data streaming has become an essential data management capability. Unlike static databases, streaming data updates continually, necessitating state-aware validation. In data streaming environments, ensuring an object’s consistent representation across data bursts becomes difficult.

How data streaming works
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Solution: Leverage the features of Databricks’ Delta Lake. Lauded for its ACID compliance, Delta Lake excels in providing data consistency in variable streaming feeds. By integrating Delta Lake, you can maintain a consistent data snapshot, even when updates spike in frequency. This consistent data image becomes your foundation for stateful validation. Further, you can implement features like:

  • Checkpoints
  • Real-time tracking algorithms
  • Temporal data markers

With these measures, you can guarantee your validations remain accurate and reliable, regardless of the data’s transient nature.

5. Tool and Framework Limitations

Applications like Databricks rarely operate in isolation. Businesses that process large data volumes will also use several other specialized tools and frameworks, each excelling in specific niches. At first glance, introducing an external tool into the Databricks environment may seem like integrating a cog into a well-oiled machine. However, potential compatibility issues, overlapping functionalities, and the constant need for updates can strain ongoing operations, leading to efficiency drops and occasional malfunctions. Finding the perfect balance between leveraging Databricks’ native capabilities and supplementing with features from other platforms can become challenging.

Solution: To integrate external tools with Databricks, institute a centralized validation tool repository within the platform. This repository should house a collection of pre-vetted, compatible, and regularly updated tools and libraries. Beyond simple storage, this hub should facilitate:

  • Collaborative tool evaluations
  • Performance benchmarking
  • Feedback loops

With such a repository, teams can confidently reach for the right tool, assured of its compatibility within the Databricks ecosystem.

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