Cluster Mode Overview

This document gives a short overview of how Spark runs on clusters, to make it easier to understand the components involved.


Spark applications run as independent sets of processes on a cluster, coordinated by the SparkContext object in your main program (called the driver program). Specifically, to run on a cluster, the SparkContext can connect to several types of cluster managers (either Spark’s own standalone cluster manager or Mesos/YARN), which allocate resources across applications. Once connected, Spark acquires executors on nodes in the cluster, which are worker processes that run computations and store data for your application. Next, it sends your application code (defined by JAR or Python files passed to SparkContext) to the executors. Finally, SparkContext sends tasks for the executors to run.

Spark cluster components

There are several useful things to note about this architecture:

  1. Each application gets its own executor processes, which stay up for the duration of the whole application and run tasks in multiple threads. This has the benefit of isolating applications from each other, on both the scheduling side (each driver schedules its own tasks) and executor side (tasks from different applications run in different JVMs). However, it also means that data cannot be shared across different Spark applications (instances of SparkContext) without writing it to an external storage system.
  2. Spark is agnostic to the underlying cluster manager. As long as it can acquire executor processes, and these communicate with each other, it is relatively easy to run it even on a cluster manager that also supports other applications (e.g. Mesos/YARN).
  3. Because the driver schedules tasks on the cluster, it should be run close to the worker nodes, preferably on the same local area network. If you’d like to send requests to the cluster remotely, it’s better to open an RPC to the driver and have it submit operations from nearby than to run a driver far away from the worker nodes.

Cluster Manager Types

The system currently supports three cluster managers:

In addition, Spark’s EC2 launch scripts make it easy to launch a standalone cluster on Amazon EC2.

Shipping Code to the Cluster

The recommended way to ship your code to the cluster is to pass it through SparkContext’s constructor, which takes a list of JAR files (Java/Scala) or .egg and .zip libraries (Python) to disseminate to worker nodes. You can also dynamically add new files to be sent to executors with SparkContext.addJar and addFile.

URIs for addJar / addFile

Note that JARs and files are copied to the working directory for each SparkContext on the executor nodes. Over time this can use up a significant amount of space and will need to be cleaned up.


Each driver program has a web UI, typically on port 4040, that displays information about running tasks, executors, and storage usage. Simply go to http://<driver-node>:4040 in a web browser to access this UI. The monitoring guide also describes other monitoring options.

Job Scheduling

Spark gives control over resource allocation both across applications (at the level of the cluster manager) and within applications (if multiple computations are happening on the same SparkContext). The job scheduling overview describes this in more detail.


The following table summarizes terms you’ll see used to refer to cluster concepts:

Application User program built on Spark. Consists of a driver program and executors on the cluster.
Driver program The process running the main() function of the application and creating the SparkContext
Cluster manager An external service for acquiring resources on the cluster (e.g. standalone manager, Mesos, YARN)
Worker node Any node that can run application code in the cluster
Executor A process launched for an application on a worker node, that runs tasks and keeps data in memory or disk storage across them. Each application has its own executors.
Task A unit of work that will be sent to one executor
Job A parallel computation consisting of multiple tasks that gets spawned in response to a Spark action (e.g. save, collect); you'll see this term used in the driver's logs.
Stage Each job gets divided into smaller sets of tasks called stages that depend on each other (similar to the map and reduce stages in MapReduce); you'll see this term used in the driver's logs.