Apache Flink vs Apache Spark: A detailed comparison for data processing

First published on May 6, 2023

Last updated at June 1, 2023


9 minute read

Guest post by Shashank MishraData Engineer @ Expedia


Dive into a comprehensive comparison of 


, exploring their differences and strengths in data processing, to help you decide which framework best suits your data processing needs.


  • Introduction to Apache Flink and Apache Spark

  • Comparison of key features

  • Performance benchmarks and scalability

  • Recommendations for choosing the right tool for specific use cases

  • Conclusion

Introduction to Apache Flink and Apache Spark

is an open-source, high-performance framework designed for large-scale data processing, excelling at real-time stream processing. It features low-latency and stateful computations, enabling users to process live data and generate insights on-the-fly. Flink is fault-tolerant, scalable, and provides powerful data processing capabilities that cater to various use cases.

, on the other hand, is a versatile, open-source data processing framework that offers an all-in-one solution for batch processing, machine learning, and graph processing. It is known for its ease of use and comprehensive library of built-in tools and algorithms. Like Flink, Spark is fault-tolerant, scalable, and delivers high-performance data processing. Spark's versatility makes it suitable for a wide range of applications and industries.



Comparison of key features

Apache Flink and Apache Spark differ in numerous ways; let's examine their distinctions by comparing key features.

Processing Models:

  • Apache Flink

    : Primarily focused on real-time stream processing, Flink efficiently processes large volumes of data with low-latency. Flink's processing engine is built on top of its own streaming runtime and can also handle batch processing.

  • Apache Spark

    : Originally designed for batch processing, Spark later introduced a micro-batching model for handling streaming data. While it can process streaming data, its performance in terms of latency is generally higher than Flink's.

APIs and Libraries:

  • Apache Flink

    : Provides a robust set of APIs in Java, Scala, and Python for developing data processing applications. Flink's libraries include FlinkML for machine learning, FlinkCEP for complex event processing, and Gelly for graph processing.

  • Apache Spark

    : Offers APIs in Java, Scala, Python, and R, making it accessible to a wider range of developers. Spark also has comprehensive libraries, such as MLlib for machine learning, GraphX for graph processing, and Spark Streaming for processing real-time data.

Fault Tolerance:

  • Apache Flink

    : Utilizes a distributed snapshotting mechanism, allowing for quick recovery from failures. The state of the processing pipeline is periodically checkpointed, ensuring data consistency in case of failures.

  • Apache Spark

    : Employs a lineage information-based approach for fault tolerance. Spark keeps track of the data transformation sequence, enabling it to recompute lost data in case of failures.



  • Apache Flink

    : Offers advanced windowing capabilities, including event-time and processing-time windows, as well as session windows for handling complex event patterns. Flink's windowing features are particularly suitable for real-time stream processing.

  • Apache Spark

    : Provides basic windowing functionality, such as tumbling and sliding windows, which work well for batch and micro-batching scenarios but may not be as suited for real-time stream processing.



Performance benchmark & scalability

Dive into a comparison of Flink and Spark based on their performance benchmarks and scalability. Discover how they handle processing speed, in-memory computing, resource management, and more.

  • Processing Speed

    : Flink excels in 


    , high-throughput stream processing, while Spark is known for its fast batch processing capabilities. Both frameworks can process large volumes of data quickly, with Flink focusing on real-time analytics and Spark catering to 


    data processing tasks.

  • In-Memory Computing

    : Both Flink and Spark leverage in-memory computing, which allows them to cache intermediate results during data processing tasks. This approach significantly reduces the time spent on 

    disk I/O

    operations and improves overall performance.

  • Resource Management

    : Flink and Spark can efficiently manage resources by 


    allocating and deallocating them according to workload requirements. This enables both frameworks to scale horizontally, handling large-scale data processing tasks across multiple nodes in a distributed environment.

  • Adaptive Query Execution

    : Spark's Adaptive Query Execution (


    ) feature optimizes query execution plans at runtime, allowing it to adapt to changing data and workload characteristics. This results in improved performance and resource utilization. Flink, on the other hand, does not currently have an equivalent feature.

  • Backpressure Handling

    : Flink is designed to handle backpressure, ensuring that the system remains stable even under high loads. This is achieved through its built-in flow control mechanisms, which prevent data processing bottlenecks. Spark Streaming, in contrast, may 


    to handle 


    , leading to potential performance degradation.

  • Data Partitioning

    : Both Flink and Spark utilize data partitioning techniques to improve parallelism and optimize resource utilization during data processing tasks. While Spark employs RDDs and data partitioning strategies like Hash and Range partitioning, Flink uses 




    and pipelined execution to optimize data processing performance.



Recommendations for choosing the right tool for specific use cases

When selecting the right tool between Flink and Spark for specific use cases, consider the following unique technical aspects:

  • Real-time processing: 

    If low-latency, real-time processing is a priority, Flink is the better choice, as it was designed specifically for streaming data and offers near-instantaneous processing capabilities.

  • Batch processing: 

    Spark excels in batch processing and large-scale data processing tasks, with its powerful in-memory processing capabilities and optimized execution engine. If your primary focus is on batch processing, Spark is the recommended choice.

  • Machine Learning


    offers a comprehensive suite of machine learning algorithms and utilities. If machine learning is a key aspect of your project, Spark is a more suitable choice.

  • Graph processing

    : If your use case involves graph processing, Spark's

    provides a robust and flexible solution for large-scale graph computations. Flink, on the other hand, has Gelly for graph processing, but it is less mature compared to GraphX.

  • Stateful processing

    : Flink provides better support for stateful processing, making it ideal for use cases that require maintaining and updating state information during stream processing.

  • API maturity

    : While both Flink and Spark provide APIs for various programming languages, Spark's APIs are more mature and stable, providing a better user experience and a wider range of features.

  • Community and ecosystem

    : Spark boasts a more extensive community and ecosystem, offering more resources, support, and third-party integrations. This can be a decisive factor if community support is important for your project.

  • Deployment options

    : Flink provides more flexibility in deployment, as it can be LLdeployed as a standalone cluster, on YARN, or Kubernetes. Spark, although it also supports YARN and Kubernetes, might have some limitations in standalone mode.

Overall, the choice between Flink and Spark depends on the specific requirements of your use case, such as machine learning capabilities, graph processing, stateful processing, API maturity, community support, and deployment options.




In conclusion, Apache Flink and Apache Spark are both powerful data processing frameworks, each with its unique strengths and capabilities. The choice between the two depends on your specific use case and requirements. Flink is particularly well-suited for stateful and real-time stream processing, while Spark excels in machine learning and graph processing. Ultimately, understanding the key differences, performance benchmarks, and scalability aspects of both frameworks will help you make an informed decision for your project. Consider factors such as API maturity, community support, and deployment options, along with the technical requirements of your application, to select the best tool that meets your needs.

In episode 3 of Apache Flink series, we'll see how to get started with Apache Flink.