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How to use external stage in Databricks?

How to use external stage in Databricks?

Databricks is a powerful platform that allows users to process and analyze large volumes of data. One of the key features of Databricks is the ability to use external stages, which provide a way to access data stored outside of the Databricks environment. In this article, we will explore the concept of external stages, learn how to set them up, load data into them, query data from them, and manage and optimize their performance.

Understanding the Concept of External Stage in Databricks

A crucial aspect of working with Databricks is understanding what an external stage is and how it functions. An external stage acts as a virtual representation of data stored in external storage systems like Amazon S3 or Azure Blob Storage. By creating an external stage, you can easily access and work with this external data within the Databricks environment.

Defining External Stage

An external stage is a metadata object that defines the location, format, and access credentials of the data stored in external storage systems. It allows Databricks to seamlessly interact with data residing outside of the platform and enables users to perform various data processing operations on this external data.

Importance of External Stage in Databricks

The use of external stages in Databricks opens up a world of possibilities for data engineers and data scientists. It eliminates the need to manually move data into the Databricks environment, as external stages provide a direct link to the data in its original storage location. This approach not only saves time but also ensures data consistency and reduces redundancy.

One of the key advantages of using external stages is the ability to leverage the power of distributed computing. Databricks can distribute the processing of data across multiple nodes, allowing for faster and more efficient data analysis. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with large datasets that would be impractical to process on a single machine.

Furthermore, external stages enable seamless collaboration between different teams and departments within an organization. Since the data remains in its original storage location, multiple teams can access and work on the same data simultaneously, without the need for data duplication or synchronization. This promotes cross-functional collaboration and enhances productivity.

Setting Up Your External Stage in Databricks

Before you can start using external stages in Databricks, there are a few prerequisites that need to be fulfilled. Let's take a look at what those are.

Prerequisites for Setting Up External Stage

To set up an external stage, you will need access to an external storage system, such as Amazon S3 or Azure Blob Storage. Additionally, you will need the appropriate credentials and permissions to access the data within the storage system. Make sure you have these prerequisites in place before proceeding.

Step-by-Step Guide to Set Up External Stage

Once you have fulfilled the prerequisites, setting up an external stage in Databricks is a straightforward process. Let's walk through the steps involved:

  1. First, log in to your Databricks account and navigate to the Databricks workspace.
  2. Next, create a new cluster or select an existing cluster.
  3. Once you have your cluster set up, click on the 'Data' tab.
  4. In the left-hand navigation pane, click on 'External Stages' to open the external stages page.
  5. On the external stages page, click on the 'Create' button to create a new external stage.
  6. Provide a name for the external stage and choose the appropriate data source from the drop-down menu.
  7. Enter the required connection details, such as the storage account name, container name, and access credentials.
  8. Save the external stage configuration.

By following these steps, you can easily set up an external stage in Databricks and establish a connection to your external data source.

Now, let's dive a bit deeper into the concept of external stages. An external stage in Databricks is a logical representation of an external data source. It allows you to seamlessly integrate data from external storage systems into your Databricks environment. This means that you can leverage the power of Databricks to analyze and process data stored in external storage systems without having to physically move the data into Databricks.

When setting up an external stage, it is important to choose the appropriate data source that matches the storage system you are using. Databricks supports a wide range of data sources, including Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage, Google Cloud Storage, and more. By selecting the right data source, you ensure that Databricks can establish a secure and efficient connection to your external data.

Furthermore, the connection details you provide when configuring the external stage are crucial for establishing a successful connection. Make sure to double-check the accuracy of the storage account name, container name, and access credentials. Any inaccuracies in these details can lead to connection failures and hinder your ability to access the external data.

Once you have set up an external stage, you can start leveraging its power in your Databricks environment. You can use the external stage to read data from the external storage system directly into Databricks tables, or write data from Databricks tables back to the external storage system. This flexibility allows you to seamlessly integrate your Databricks workflows with your external data sources, enabling you to perform complex data transformations and analysis.

In conclusion, setting up an external stage in Databricks is a crucial step in harnessing the power of external data sources. By following the step-by-step guide and ensuring that you have fulfilled the prerequisites, you can establish a seamless connection between Databricks and your external storage system. This connection opens up a world of possibilities for data analysis and processing, empowering you to derive valuable insights from your external data.

Loading Data into the External Stage

Now that you have set up your external stage, the next step is to load data into it. Let's explore the types of data supported by external stages and the process of loading data.

Types of Data Supported

External stages in Databricks support various data formats, including CSV, Parquet, Avro, and JSON. This versatility allows you to work with a wide range of datasets stored in external storage systems.

Process of Loading Data

To load data into an external stage, you can use familiar SQL syntax combined with the EXTERNAL STAGE statement. The EXTERNAL STAGE statement enables you to access the data stored in the external stage and perform operations like insertion, update, and deletion.

First, you need to create a table that will serve as a container for the external data. Then, using the INSERT INTO statement, you can transfer data from the external stage to the table within Databricks. This process allows you to seamlessly integrate external data with your existing Databricks workflows.

Querying Data from the External Stage

Once the data is loaded into the external stage, you can easily query and retrieve the desired information. Let's explore some basic and advanced query techniques in Databricks.

Basic Queries for Data Retrieval

In Databricks, you can use familiar SQL syntax to query data from an external stage. You can write SELECT statements to retrieve specific columns or use WHERE clauses to filter the data based on certain conditions. Additionally, you can combine multiple tables or external stages using JOIN statements to perform more complex queries.

Advanced Query Techniques

Databricks provides advanced query techniques to enhance your data retrieval capabilities. For example, you can leverage window functions to perform aggregations over sliding or cumulative windows of data. You can also use user-defined functions (UDFs) to apply custom transformations or calculations on the data. These advanced techniques enable you to derive valuable insights from your external data.

Managing and Optimizing Your External Stage

Once your external stage is up and running, it is important to implement regular maintenance practices and optimize its performance. Let's explore some best practices to ensure smooth operation and maximum efficiency.

Regular Maintenance Practices

Regularly monitor the health and performance of your external stage. Keep an eye on data growth, ensure that access credentials are up to date, and perform periodic backups of your data. Regular maintenance practices help prevent data loss, identify potential issues, and ensure smooth data processing.

Tips for Optimizing Performance

To optimize the performance of your external stage, consider partitioning your data based on key columns. Partitioning allows for faster data retrieval and query execution, as it restricts the data scan to specific partitions instead of scanning the entire dataset. Additionally, consider using compression techniques to reduce the storage footprint of your external stage and enhance query performance.

By following these maintenance practices and performance optimization tips, you can ensure the longevity and efficiency of your external stage in Databricks.


In this article, we have explored the concept of external stages in Databricks and learned how to effectively use them. We have seen how external stages provide a seamless way to access data stored in external storage systems, and how they enable users to set up, load data into, query, and manage these external stages.

By leveraging the power of Databricks and external stages, data engineers and data scientists can enhance their data processing workflows, gain valuable insights from external data sources, and optimize their data operations. With the step-by-step guide, tips for optimization, and best practices mentioned in this article, you are now equipped to confidently use external stages in Databricks.

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