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Storage Connector Usage#

Here, we look at how to use a Storage Connector after it has been created. Storage Connectors provide an important first step for integrating with external data sources. The 3 fundamental functionalities where storage connectors are used are:

  1. Reading data into Spark Dataframes
  2. Creating external feature groups
  3. Writing training data

We will walk through each functionality in the sections below.

Retrieving a Storage Connector#

We retrieve a storage connector simply by its unique name.

import hsfs
# Connect to the Hopsworks feature store
hsfs_connection = hsfs.connection()
# Retrieve the metadata handle
feature_store = hsfs_connection.get_feature_store()
# Retrieve storage connector
connector = feature_store.get_storage_connector('connector_name')
import com.logicalclocks.hsfs._
val connection = HopsworksConnection.builder().build();
val featureStore = connection.getFeatureStore();
// get directly via connector sub-type class e.g. for GCS type
val connector = featureStore.getGcsConnector("connector_name")

Reading a Spark Dataframe from a Storage Connector#

One of the most common usages of a Storage Connector is to read data directly into a Spark Dataframe. It's achieved via the read API of the connector object, which hides all the complexity of authentication and integration with a data storage source. The read API primarily has two parameters for specifying the data source, path and query, depending on the storage connector type. The exact behaviour could change depending on the storage connector type, but broadly they could be classified as below

Data lake/object based connectors#

For data sources based on object/file storage such as AWS S3, ADLS, GCS, we set the full object path in the path argument and users should pass a Spark data format (parquet, csv, orc, hudi, delta) to the data_format argument.

# read data into dataframe using path 
df ='data_format', path='fileScheme://bucket/path/')   
// read data into dataframe using path     
val df ="", "data_format", new HashMap(), "fileScheme://bucket/path/")  

Prepare Spark API#

Additionally, for reading file based data sources, another way to read the data is using the prepare_spark method. This method can be used if you are reading the data directly through Spark.

Firstly, it handles the setup of all Spark configurations or properties necessary for a particular type of connector and prepares the absolute path to read from, along with bucket name and the appropriate file scheme of the data source. A Spark session can handle only one configuration setup at a time, so HSFS cannot set the Spark configurations when retrieving the connector since it would lead to only always initialising the last connector being retrieved. Instead, user can do this setup explicitly with the prepare_spark method and therefore potentially use multiple connectors in one Spark session. prepare_spark handles only one bucket associated with that particular connector, however, it is possible to set up multiple connectors with different types as long as their Spark properties do not interfere with each other. So, for example a S3 connector and a Snowflake connector can be used in the same session, without calling prepare_spark multiple times, as the properties don’t interfere with each other.

If the storage connector is used in another API call, prepare_spark gets implicitly invoked, for example, when a user materialises a training dataset using a storage connector or uses the storage connector to set up an External Feature Group. So users do not need to call prepare_spark every time they do an operation with a connector, it is only necessary when reading directly using Spark . Using prepare_spark is also not necessary when using the read API.

For example, to read directly from a S3 connector, we use the prepare_spark as follows

# or"json").load(connector.prepare_spark("s3a://[bucket]/path"))

Data warehouse/SQL based connectors#

For data sources accessed via SQL such as data warehouses and JDBC compliant databases, e.g. Redshift, Snowflake, BigQuery, JDBC, users pass the SQL query to read the data to the query argument. In most cases, this will be some form of a SELECT query. Depending on the connector type, users can also just set the table path and read the whole table without explicitly passing any SQL query to the query argument. This is mostly relevant for Google BigQuery.

# read results from a SQL 
df ="SELECT * FROM TABLE")    
# or directly read a table if set on connector
df =
// read results from a SQL 
val df ="SELECT * FROM TABLE", "" , new HashMap(),"")    

Streaming based connector#

For reading data streams, the Kafka Storage Connector supports reading a Kafka topic into Spark Structured Streaming Dataframes instead of a static Dataframe as in other connector types.

df = connector.read_stream(topic='kafka_topic_name')

Creating an External Feature Group#

Another important aspect of a storage connector is its ability to facilitate creation of external feature groups with the Connector API. External feature groups are basically offline feature groups and essentially stored as tables on external data sources. The Connector API relies on storage connectors behind the scenes to integrate with external datasource. This enables seamless integration with any data source as long as there is a storage connector defined.

To create an external feature group, we use the create_external_feature_group API, also known as Connector API, and simply pass the storage connector created before to the storage_connector argument. Depending on the external data source, we should set either the query argument for data warehouse based data sources, or the path and data_format arguments for data lake based sources, similar to reading into dataframes as explained in above section.

Example for any data warehouse/SQL based external sources, we set the desired SQL to query argument, and set the storage_connector argument to the storage connector object of desired data source.

fg = feature_store.create_external_feature_group(name="sales",
    description="Physical shop sales features",
    query="SELECT * FROM TABLE",

Connector API (external feature groups) only stores the metadata about the features within Hopsworks, while the actual data is still stored externally. This enables users to create feature groups within Hopsworks without the hassle of data migration. For more information on Connector API, read detailed guide about external feature groups.

Writing Training Data#

Storage connectors are also used while writing training data to external sources. While calling the Feature View API create_training_data , we can pass the storage_connector argument which is necessary to materialise the data to external sources, as shown below.

# materialise a training dataset
version, job = feature_view.create_training_data(
    description = 'describe training data',
    data_format = 'spark_data_format', # e.g. data_format = "parquet" or data_format = "csv"
    write_options = {"wait_for_job": False},
    storage_connector = connector

Read more about training data creation here.

Next Steps#

We have gone through the basic use cases of a storage connector. For more details about the API functionality for any specific connector type, checkout the API section.