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Setting up Anovos on Azure Databricks

Azure Databricks is a hosted version of Apache Spark on Microsoft Azure. It is a convenient way to handle big data workloads of Spark without having to set up and maintain your own cluster.

To learn more about Azure Databricks, have a look at the official documentation or the following introductory tutorials:

Currently, Anovos supports two ways of running workflows on Azure Databricks:

  1. Processing datasets stored directly on DBFS
  2. Processing datasets stored on Azure Blob Storage

Generally, we recommend the first option, as it requires slightly less configuration. However, if you're already storing your datasets on Azure Blob Storage, mounting the respective containers to DBFS allows you to directly process them with Anovos.

Anovos on Azure Databricks using DBFS

The following steps are required for running Anovos workloads on Azure Databricks that process datasets stored on DBFS.

Step 1: Installing Anovos on Azure Databricks

To make Anovos available on Azure Databricks, you need to provide access to the Anovos Python package.

The easiest way is to point Azure Databricks to the current release of Anovos on the Python Package Index (PyPI). (This is where pip install anovos goes to fetch Anovos when installing from the terminal.) This has the advantage that you will get a well-tested and stable version of Anovos.

Unless you need to make custom modifications to Anovos or need access to new features or bugfixes that have not been released yet, we recommend to go with this option. In this case, you can directly go to Step 2. (We will configure Azure Databricks to retrieve the correct Anovos Python package as part of Step 4.)

Alternative: Manually uploading a wheel file

Instead of pointing Azure Databricks to the Python Package Index (PyPI), you can make Anovos available by downloading the respective wheel file from PyPI yourself and manually uploading it to Azure Databricks.

You'll find the link to the latest wheel file on the "Download files" tab. If you'd like to use an older version, you can navigate to the respective version in the Release history and access the "Download files" tab from there.

Download the Anovos wheel file to your local machine and move on to Step 2.

Alternative: Use a development version of Anovos

If you would like to try the latest version of Anovos on Azure Databricks (or would like to make custom modifications to the library), you can also create a wheel file yourself.

First, clone the Anovos GitHub repository to your local machine:

git clone --depth 1 <>

Note: Using the --branch flag allows you to select a specific release of Anovos. For example, adding --branch v0.2.2 will give you the state of the 0.2.2 release. If you omit the flag, you will get the latest development version of Anovos, which might not be fully functional or exhibit unexpected behavior.

After cloning, go to the anovos directory that was automatically created in the process and execute the following command to clean and prepare the environment:

make clean

It is a good practice to always run this command prior to generating a wheel file or another kind of build artifact.

Note: To be able to create a wheel file, wheel, build, and setuptools need to be installed in the current Python environment. You can do so by running pip install build wheel setuptools.

Then, to create the wheel file, run the following command directly inside the anovos folder:

python -m build --wheel --outdir dist/ .

Once the process is finished, the folder dist will contain the wheel file. It will have the file extension *.whl and might carry the latest version in its name.

Note: The version in the file name will be that of the latest version of Anovos, even if you cloned the repository yourself and used the latest state of the code. This is due to the fact that the version is only updated right before new release is published. To avoid confusion, it's a good practice to rename the wheel file to a custom name.

Step 2: Prepare and copy the workflow configuration and data to DBFS

To run an Anovos workflow, both the data to be processed and the workflow configuration need to be stored on DBFS.

You can either use the UI or the CLI to copy files from your local machine to DBFS. For detailed instructions, see the respective subsections below.

In this tutorial, we will use "income dataset" and an accompanying pre-defined workflow.

You can obtain these files by cloning the Anovos GitHub repository:

git clone

You'll find the dataset under examples/data/income_dataset and the configuration file under config/configs_income_azure.yaml. You'll also need the metric_dictionary.csv file found under data/.

The configs_income_azure.yaml file contains the definition of the Anovos workflow. (To learn more about this file, see ๐Ÿ“– Configuring Workloads.)

First, you should have a look at the configured input paths to make sure that Anovos can find the data to be processed. It is also important to check that the output paths are set to a location on DBFS that suits your needs.

For example, in the input_dataset block, you can see that by default the file_path is set to dbfs:/FileStore/tables/income_dataset/csv/. If you would like to store your data at a different location, you need to adapt this path accordingly.

Output paths are defined in several blocks.

The output path for the report data is specified as master_path in the blocks report_preprocessing and report_generation. The path for the report is specified as final_report_path in the report_generation block. In this tutorial, by default, all these paths are set to dbfs:/FileStore/tables/report_stats.

The location where the processed data is stored is given by file_path in the blocks write_main, write_intermediate, and write_stats. In this tutorial, by default, these are set to sub-folders of dbfs:/FileStore/tables/result.

Finally, you need to ensure that the path to the metric_dictionary.csv file as well as the data_dictionary.csv file, which is part of the "income dataset", are correctly specified in the report_generation block.

You can also make other changes to the workflow. For example, you can define which columns from the input dataset are used in the workflow. To try it yourself, find the delete_column configuration in the input_dataset block and add the column workclass to the list of columns to be deleted:

delete_column: ['logfnl','workclass']

To learn more about defining workflows through config files, see ๐Ÿ“– Configuring Workloads.

Once the configs_income_azure.yaml file is complete, you can copy this file and the dataset to DBFS. For this, you can choose to either upload the files through the UI or use the Azure Databricks CLI. We describe both options in the following sections.

In any case, make sure that you place the data files in the location defined in the configuration file. You should also remember the location of the configs_income_azure.yaml, as you will need this information in the subsequent steps.

(For this tutorial, we have decided to place all files under dbfs:FileStore/tables/.)

Copying files to DBFS using the UI

Uploading files through the Databricks UI

  1. Launch the Azure Databricks workspace.
  2. Enter the data menu.
  3. Upload files by dragging files onto the marked area or click on it to upload using the file browser.

For more detailed instructions, see the Databricks documentation.

Copying files to DBFS using the CLI

  1. Install databricks-cli into a local Python environment by running pip install databricks-cli.
  2. Generate a personal access token for your Databricks workspace by going to Settings > User Settings > Generate new token. For details, see the Databricks documentation.
  3. Configure the CLI to access your workspace by running databricks configure --token.
  4. Enter the URL of the databricks host (the domain of your workspace, usually of the pattern https://<UNIQUE ID OF YOUR WORKSPACE> and the token when prompted for it.
  5. To verify the configuration, run databricks fs ls and check whether you are able to see the files stored on DBFS.
  6. Then copy the files using the dbfs cp command:

For example:

dbfs cp anovos/config/configs_income_azure.yaml dbfs:/FileStore/tables/configs_income_azure.yaml
dbfs cp anovos/data/data_dictionary.csv dbfs:/FileStore/tables/data_dictionary.csv
dbfs cp -r anovos/examples/data/income_dataset dbfs:/FileStore/tables/income_dataset

For more information on the Databricks CLI, see the Databricks documentation.

Step 3: Create a workflow script

To launch the workflow on Azure Databricks, we need a single Python script as the entry point. Hence, we'll create a script that invokes the Anovos' workflow runner:

import sys
from anovos import workflow[1], run_type="databricks")

Upload this script to DBFS as well using either of the methods described above. Again, you can place this file at a location of your choosing. In this tutorial, we have placed it at dbfs:/FileStore/tables/scripts/

Step 4: Configure and launch an Anovos workflow as a Databricks job

There are several types of jobs available on the Azure Databricks platform. For Anovos, the following job types are suitable choices:

  • "Python:" The job runs from a single Python script. Anovos and the required Scala dependencies are installed through the respective package repositories.

  • "Spark Submit:" The job is invoked through a bare spark-submit call. The installation of Anovos is handled by a cluster initialization script and the required Scala dependencies have to be provided as JAR files through DBFS.

Note that there are several limitations for "Spark Submit" tasks: You can only run them on new clusters and autoscaling is not available. For more information, see the Databricks documentation on jobs.

Unless you require the fine-grained control that this option offers with regard to cluster initialization and spark-submit options, we recommend to select "Python" as the job type.

Using the "Python" job type

Once all files have been copied to DBFS, we can create an Azure Databricks job that starts a cluster and launches the Anovos workflow.

Here's an example of a job configuration: Job configuration

You can see that we set the "Type" to "Python" and have provided the path of the script. In the parameters section, we pass the DBFS path of the config file.

The cluster configuration comprises settings for the Databricks Runtime, the number of workers, worker and driver types, as well as the cluster's scaling behavior.

Here's an example of a cluster configuration for this tutorials: Cluster configuration

For more detailed information, refer to the Databricks documentation.

To give the Databricks platform access to Anovos, click on "Advanced options" and select "Add dependent libraries".

If you chose the default way of obtaining Anovos directly from the Python Package Index, select "PyPI" as the "Library Source" and enter anovos as the "Package": Adding Anovos through PyPI

If you chose to provide your own wheel file, select "Upload" as the library source and follow the instructions.

In addition to the Anovos wheel file, we need to provide the histogrammar package to Azure Databricks. Anovos uses this library internally to compute correlation matrices.

Following the same procedure as for Anovos, you can add histogrammar as a dependent library. This time, we use "Maven" as the "Library Source".

Then, select io.github.histogrammar:histogrammar-sparksql_2.12:1.0.20 and io.github.histogrammar:histogrammar_2.12:1.0.20 as the "Coordinates": Adding Histogrammar through Maven

(In case you're running Anovos on Spark 2.4.x, you need to add io.github.histogrammar:histogrammar-sparksql_2.11:1.0.20 and io.github.histogrammar:histogrammar_2.11:1.0.20)

Once the job is configured, click "Create" to instantiate it. Then, you'll see the full task configuration: Task Details

On the subsequent screen, click on "Run now" to launch the job: Active and completed runs

For more information on creating and maintaining jobs, see the Databricks documentation.

Using the "Spark Submit" job type

Anovos internally uses the histogrammar library to compute correlation matrices. Hence, we need to provide the package to Azure Databricks.

As the "Spark Submit" job type requires any dependency to be available through DBFS, you first need to upload the histogrammar JAR files to DBFS.

If you're using Spark 3.x, download the following files and upload them to DBFS:

If you're using Spark 2.x, download the following files and upload them to DBFS:

Once these files have been uploaded to DBFS, we can create an Azure Databricks job that starts a cluster and launches the Anovos workflow.

Here's an example of a job configuration: Job configuration

You can see that we set the "Type" to "Spark Submit".

In the parameters section, we pass the DBFS paths of the histogrammar JAR files, the sample class, the script, and configuration file.

For example:


The cluster configuration comprises settings for the Databricks Runtime, the number of workers, worker and driver types. (Note that autoscaling is not available for "Spark Submit" jobs on Azure Databricks.)

Here's an example of a cluster configuration for this tutorial: Cluster configuration

For more detailed information, refer to the Databricks documentation.

To give the Databricks platform access to Anovos, you need to create a shell script that is executed upon cluster initialization and fetches the package from PyPI.

The script contains just one line:

sudo pip3 install anovos

Note that you should specify the version of Anovos if you're running production workloads to ensure reproducibility:

sudo pip3 install anovos==0.3.0

Place this script on DBFS as well.

During cluster configuration, click on "Advanced options" and specify the path to the script in the "Init Script" section:

Path of .sh file

To enable logging, configure a DBFS path in the "Log" section:

Path for saving logs

Once the job is configured, click "Create" to instantiate it.

On the subsequent screen, click on "Run now" to launch the job:

Active and completed runs

For more information on creating and maintaining jobs, see the Azure Databricks documentation.

Step 5: Retrieve the output

Once the job finishes successfully, it will show up under "Completed runs".

The intermediate data and the report data are saved at the master_path and the final_report_path specified in the configs_income_azure.yaml file. In this tutorial, we have set these paths to dbfs:FileStore/tables/report_stats/.

To retrieve the HTML report and the report data, you can either go to this path in the UI and copy the files, or use the CLI to copy everything to your local machine:

dbfs cp -r dbfs:/FileStore/tables/report_stats/ ./

For more details regarding accessing files on DBFS, see the instructions on uploading files to DBFS in Step 2.

Anovos on Azure Databricks using an Azure Blob Storage container mounted to DBFS

We're currently working on this section. If you're interested in learning more about this option, let us know!