Testing code on Spark

Hi everyone,
today, I would like to share my experience in writing Unit Test on Spark, creating a very simple project.
First question: What is a Unit Test? This topic is well known in ICT fields, but just in case, I cite Wikipedia:

In computer programming, unit testing is a software testing method by which individual units of source code, sets of one or more computer program modules together with associated control data, usage procedures, and operating procedures, are tested to determine whether they are fit for use.

In few words, my code is formed by different methods which are time change (fixing bugs, adding features, …). My code must produce at least a result (number, string, boolean, file, database, image, …). My goal is to be sure that a code’s change does not impact the correctness of the result. So, I have to define a set of couples of input and output. I will execute my code with all input and check if the output is the same as the expected. Finally, when the tests are finished, I will see the result of my tests, and take an action based on it.

The count occurrences project

The project that I propose is a simple text analyzer tool that takes a Spark Dataframe and creates a dataframe with 3 columns with:

  1. Word: the lower case of each distinct word
  2. Occurrences: number of time the word was used
  3. Sentences: number of sentences where the word appears

The result will be in the words’ alphabetic order.
For example, if the sentences are:

1. The woman has a house
2. The man has a car and a house

the output will be:

Word Occurrences Sentences
a 3 2
and 1 1
car 1 1
has 2 2
house 2 2
man 1 1
the 2 2
woman 1 1


Testing Environment

For the test, I am going to use anaconda with pyspark, see this post if you want some installation details.


The spark function is quite simple:

def countText(text):
    return text.select(["id", explode(split(lower(col("text")), " ")).alias("word")])\
            .groupBy("word").agg(count("Word").alias("Occurrences"), countDistinct("id").alias("Sentences"))\

Now, let’s see how to use it:

# Create the input test
SingleText = Row("id", "text")
text1 = SingleText(1, "The woman has a house")
text2 = SingleText(2, "The man has a car and a house")
listTexts = [text1, text2]<br># Create the dataframe
df = sqlContext.createDataFrame(listTexts)
# Perform calculation
output = countText(df)
# Show output
output.show(100, False)

The final output is:

Word Occurrences Sentences
a 3 2
and 1 1
car 1 1
has 2 2
house 2 2
man 1 1
the 2 2
woman 1 1

Ok, we can save the function countText on a file called libs.

For the testing, we can take into account the Spark Documentation:

Spark is friendly to unit testing with any popular unit test framework. Simply create a SparkContext in your test with the master URL set to local, run your operations, and then call SparkContext.stop() to tear it down. Make sure you stop the context within a final block or the test framework’s tearDown method, as Spark does not support two contexts running concurrently in the same program.

Now, lets’ write our first spark unit test using the package Unit test. First, we have to create a class that extends unittest.TestCase, and create at least one test. Our test will perform the following steps:

  1. Create the Spark context
  2. Create a Spark Dataframe with the sample text
  3. Perform the count
  4. Create the expected results dataframe
  5. Compare the output with the expected results
  6. Close the Spark context
import libs
import unittest
import logging
import pandas as pd
from pyspark.sql import *
from pandas.util.testing import assert_frame_equal

class TestSpark(unittest.TestCase):

    def test1(self):
        # Create the Spark context
        sc = SparkContext(master="local[2]",
                          appName="Unit Test")
        sqlContext = SQLContext(sparkContext=sc)

        # List the sample text
        SingleText = Row("id", "text")
        text1 = SingleText(1, "The woman has a house")
        text2 = SingleText(2, "The man has a car and a house")
        listTexts = [text1, text2]
        df = sqlContext.createDataFrame(listTexts)

        # Perform the calculation
        output = libs.countText(df)

        # Create the expected results dataframe
        expectedResults = pd.DataFrame({'Word': ['a', 'and', 'car', 'has', 'house', 'man', 'the', 'woman'],
                                        'Occurrences': [3, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1],
                                        'Sentences': [2, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1]})

        # Compare the output with the expected results
        assert_frame_equal(expectedResults, output.toPandas(), check_dtype=False)

        # Close Spark Context

if __name__ == '__main__':

Now, we can run the code, and see the output where the test works:

bash-3.2$ python unit.py
Ran 1 test in 25.254s


Now, let’s go a bit deep inside the code. For perform the comparison, we have used the Pandas function assert_frame_equal that compares two DataFrames and output any differences. This function has a lot of input parameters, my suggestion is to learn it very well.


This is in short a methodology for writing a test for your spark application. Of course, for a real project, you have to write hundreds of tests.

However, It is important to remember that if all tests pass this does not mean that your code is without any bug. In a single word, the tests are a necessary but not sufficient condition. For this post, it is all.

Have a nice weekend.



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