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7 Best Stream Processing Frameworks [2024 Comparison]

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

Today, information doesn't merely sit idle; instead, it flows instantly, enabling businesses to make split-second decisions, respond promptly to customer needs, and predict trends in real-time. This is the transformative power that a stream processing framework brings to the table.


Stream processing frameworks provide seamless, lightning-fast analysis and handling of the vast stream of information flowing every second – tweets, sensor data from smart devices, stock market fluctuations, or even monitoring a fleet of vehicles in transit.


But picking the right streaming processing framework is not easy – all promise to get the job done but not all are suited for every task. So it is crucial to thoroughly compare them and that is what we are doing in this guide.


We will review and compare the 7 most prominent contenders, discuss their features, and also look at their strengths and weaknesses. So read through this guide to find the perfect stream processing framework for your needs.


7 Best Stream Processing Frameworks For Efficient Data Processing


1. Timeplus - Best for Unified (Batch + Streaming) Analytics

Stream Processing Framework - Timeplus

Timeplus is a streaming-first data analytics platform that provides powerful end-to-end capabilities for processing and analyzing streaming data in real-time. It is built on top of the open-source streaming database, Proton.


Timeplus offers a unified streaming and historical data processing platform that combines the power of streaming analytics with the capabilities of historical online analytical processing (OLAP). 


Timeplus Key Features


  • Unified Streaming & Batch/Historical Processing: Combines streaming SQL and ClickHouse historical OLAP within a single binary.

  • Low Latency: Ensures rapid data processing by achieving an impressive end-to-end latency of just 4 milliseconds.

  • High Throughput: Boasts a benchmark of over 10 million events per second, showcasing its exceptional processing speed.

  • High-Performance Streaming SQL Engine: Timeplus's streaming SQL engine uses vectorized data processing and parallel processing techniques to achieve low-latency processing of streaming data.

  • Powered by Open-Source: Timeplus is powered by Proton, an open-source core engine, which fosters flexibility and customization.

  • Flexible Deployment Options: Offers easy deployment via Docker for hassle-free setup and testing, as well as fully-managed cloud service or on-prem Enterprise edition.

  • Rich Integration Data Systems: Timeplus supports more than 50 sources or 60 destinations which enables it to read from or write to many common data systems.

  • Interactive Web Client: It allows you to visualize streaming data in real-time and perform ad-hoc queries.

  • Stream Processing Optimization: Uses timestamp predicate push-down, projection push-down, and vectorization.

  • Real-time Analytics: Serves use cases demanding real-time insights, particularly in Capital Markets and IoT domains.

  • Real-time Alerting & Notifications: Timeplus can be configured to trigger alerts and notifications based on anomalies detected in streaming data.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Eliminates the need for extensive code writing

Smaller community vs. more established, longer running open-source projects.


Unified streaming and batch data processing. No need to set up expensive Lambda due-stack architecture.


Continuous query processing for real-time updates to analytics results as new data arrives


2. Apache Flink - Best For Large-Scale Deployments

Stream Processing Framework - Apache Flink

Apache Flink is an open-source stream processing framework designed for real-time analytics and processing large-scale data sets. It is known for handling both unbounded and bounded data streams for stateful computations. Designed to operate across various cluster environments, Flink emphasizes high-speed in-memory processing at any scale.


Flink offers a unified stream and batch processing model for developers to run both batch and stream processing jobs using the same engine. It uses a directed acyclic graph (DAG) execution model to represent and execute data processing pipelines efficiently. It provides APIs in Java, Scala, and Python which makes it accessible to a different range of developers.


Apache Flink Key Features


  • Layered APIs: Flink offers a variety of APIs, including SQL for both streaming and batch data processing.

  • Scalability: Built to scale horizontally with support for extensive state management and incremental checkpoints.

  • Process Function: Provides control over time and state handling in the data processing pipeline.

  • DataStream & DataSet API: Allows developers to create applications for both bounded and unbounded data streams.

  • Late Data Handling: It handles delayed or out-of-order data smartly, vital for maintaining accuracy in time-based analyses.

  • Correctness Guarantees: It ensures accuracy in computations with mechanisms for maintaining the integrity of data processing.

  • Hybrid Analytics: Seamlessly handles both batch queries on stored data and continuous real-time queries from live streams.

  • Event-Driven Applications: Perfect for applications reliant on reacting to incoming events, updating states, and triggering actions.

  • FlinkCEP: Built upon Flink, it is a Complex Event Processing (CEP) library for detecting event patterns within a continuous stream of events.

  • Event-Time Processing: Flink can process data based on the time at which events occurred which is critical for time-sensitive applications.

  • Exactly-Once State Consistency: This feature ensures that stateful operations are executed precisely once to avoid duplication or loss of data.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Processes a high volume of data efficiently

Setting up, configuring, and maintaining Flink clusters can be complex

Uses memory for faster data processing and analysis

Hard and expensive to hire experienced Flink developers

Performs lightning-fast computations with minimal delays

Infrastructure cost and people cost are high to operate/develop on Flink

3. Apache Spark - Backed by Databricks & Trusted By Fortune 500 Companies

Stream Processing Framework - Apache Spark

Apache Spark is an advanced open-source stream processing engine primarily designed for big data processing. Trusted by 80% of Fortune 500 companies, it is known for its lightning-fast processing speed and versatile capabilities, particularly in handling vast amounts of data.


Apache Spark Key Features


  • Machine Learning: MLlib library for scalable machine learning tasks.

  • Graph Processing: GraphX library for graph processing and analysis.

  • SQL Support: Spark SQL offers seamless integration with SQL queries.

  • Integration: Easy integration with other big data tools like Hadoop, Hive, and more.

  • Fault Tolerance: Offers lineage information that helps in the recreation of lost data.

  • Ease of Use: Provides high-level APIs for various tasks that simplify the development process.

  • Streaming: It can ingest and process streaming data in real-time using Spark Streaming.

  • Community Support: Large and active community provides continuous development and support.

  • Distributed Data Structures: Resilient Distributed Datasets (RDDs) allow distributed data processing with fault tolerance.

  • Versatility: Supports various languages like Scala, Java, Python, and R, enabling developers to work in their preferred language.

  • Structured & Unstructured Data Handling: Works smoothly with both structured tables and unstructured data formats like JSON or images.

  • Speed: Spark's in-memory processing allows it to perform operations faster than traditional disk-based systems like Hadoop MapReduce.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Highly versatile and fault-tolerant

Optimizing Spark jobs for maximum performance requires a deep understanding of its underlying architecture

Unified environment for various types of data processing


Caches data in memory across multiple parallel operations


4. Azure Stream Analytics

Stream Processing Framework - Azure Stream Analytics

Azure Stream Analytics is a cloud-based real-time analytics and complex event-processing engine offered as a service by Microsoft Azure. It is designed to analyze and process high volumes of fast-streaming data from sources like IoT devices, social media feeds, sensors, applications, and more. 


Azure Stream Analytics Key Features


  • Anomaly Detection: Built-in capabilities for identifying irregularities in data patterns.

  • Temporal Analytics: Supports temporal queries for analyzing data over a specific period.

  • Output Flexibility: Offers various options, including Azure Storage, databases, Power BI, etc.

  • SQL-based Queries: Allows you to write SQL-like queries for data transformation and analytics.

  • Ease of Deployment: Simple configuration and deployment through Azure Portal or templates.

  • Low Latency: Processes data with minimal latency to provide quick insights from incoming streams.

  • Feature-rich: Includes pre-built functions for common tasks like aggregation, filtering, and windowing.

  • Fully Managed: Being a part of Azure, it is a fully managed service that reduces administrative overhead.

  • Integration with Azure Services: Includes Azure Event Hubs, Azure IoT Hub, and Azure Data Lake Storage.

  • End-to-End Analytics Pipeline: You can build production-ready pipelines using a no-code editor or SQL, extendable with JavaScript and C# for advanced scenarios.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Runs identical queries both in the cloud and on the edge

Handling extensive data or complex processes might incur higher charges

Scales elastically to handle millions of events with subsecond latencies


Built-in recovery mechanisms coupled with machine learning capabilities


5. Apache Samza - Pluggable Architecture

Stream Processing Framework - Apache Samza

Apache Samza is a distributed stream processing framework developed by LinkedIn and donated to the Apache Software Foundation. It is designed for efficiently processing and analyzing high volumes of streaming data in real-time. 


Samza uses Apache Kafka as its messaging layer for input and output. It allows developers to write stream processing applications using a simple API, focusing on business logic without worrying about the underlying complexities of distributed computing.


Apache Samza Key Features


  • Stateful Processing: This allows applications to maintain and utilize state efficiently.

  • YARN Integration: Uses Apache Hadoop YARN for resource management and job scheduling.

  • Durability: Ensures data durability by using durable storage systems to log data and maintain state.

  • Fault Tolerance: Guarantees protection through checkpoints and state storage, ensuring no data loss.

  • Stream-Table Duality: Provides a seamless abstraction between streams and tables for easy data manipulation.

  • Custom Metrics: Offers customizable metrics and monitoring capabilities for job performance analysis.

  • Native Integration with Apache Kafka: Seamlessly integrates with Apache Kafka for reliable data ingestion and output.

  • Powerful APIs: Provides various APIs – low-level, Streams DSL, Samza SQL, and Apache BEAM – to construct diverse applications.

  • Job Runner: This component manages the execution of Samza jobs and coordinates the deployment and scaling of tasks across a cluster.

  • Pluggable Architecture: Integrates with various sources like Kafka, HDFS, AWS Kinesis, Azure Eventhubs, K-V stores, and ElasticSearch.

  • Stream Processor: Samza processes data in small, independent tasks that consume input from Kafka and produce output back to Kafka or other systems.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Strong state management

Understanding its pluggable architecture for beginners

Flexible deployment options


Scales horizontally to accommodate increased workloads


6. Google Cloud Dataflow - Real-Time AI Capabilities

Stream Processing Framework - Google Cloud Dataflow

Google Cloud Dataflow is a managed service designed for ingesting, processing, and analyzing large volumes of streaming data in real-time. It is Google's answer to stream data processing which allows you to easily build and execute data processing pipelines.


Dataflow provides a unified programming model which makes it easy to implement stream processing tasks. It is based on Apache Beam, an open-source SDK, enabling developers to write data processing pipelines in languages like Java or Python. These pipelines are executed in a distributed manner, using Google's infrastructure.


Google Cloud Dataflow Key Features


  • Windowing: Provides windowing functionalities for segmenting and processing data within specified time frames.

  • Cost Optimization: Offers virtually limitless capacity for managing different workloads without unnecessary expenses.

  • Real-time AI Integration: You can deploy and manage complete machine learning pipelines, enabling real-time inference.

  • Change Data Capture: Real-time replication across various data sources which enhances streaming analytics capabilities.

  • Autoscaling: Adjusts worker resources dynamically – both horizontally and vertically – to optimize utilization and minimize latency.

  • Resource Monitoring: Provides comprehensive observability so you can diagnose issues and compare job runs for optimization.

  • Serverless Architecture: Eliminates the need for manual server cluster management. This allows teams to focus solely on programming.

  • Flexibility with ML Pipelines: Facilitates the deployment and management of ML pipelines, including inference, both locally and remotely.

  • Managed Service: Automates the provisioning and management of processing resources which frees teams from infrastructure concerns.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Custom transformations

Troubleshooting and debugging complex Dataflow pipelines can be challenging

Tight integration with other Google Cloud services


Automatically handles failures and ensures data consistency


7. Apache Beam

Stream Processing Framework - Apache Beam

Apache Beam is a unified open-source model for both batch and streaming data processing pipelines which simplifies complex data handling at scale. It facilitates writing code that can run across various execution environments, ensuring flexibility and avoiding vendor lock-in. With its broad adoption, Apache Beam has become a preferred choice for organizations globally.


Apache Beam Key Features


  • Unified Model: Offers a single programming model for batch and streaming tasks.

  • Extensibility: Enables the extension of functionalities with projects like TensorFlow Extended and Apache Hop.

  • Open Source: Developed via a community-driven approach to cater to various use cases.

  • Multi-language Support: Provides cross-language capabilities for the creation of robust, multi-language pipelines using Java, Python, Go, SQL, TypeScript, and Scala.

  • Beam Playground: Provides an interactive environment to experiment with Beam transforms and examples without installation.

  • Cross-Engine Execution: Executes business logic across multiple data processing engines seamlessly.

  • Freedom of Choice: Allows users to switch between runners and remain vendor-independent.

  • Generic Transforms: Expresses data pipelines with understandable, maintainable generic transforms.

  • Accelerated Adoption: Simplifies onboarding and reduces development time from days to hours.


Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Flexibility in language selection

Not ideal for applications that need low-latency processing or real-time decision-making

Reduced time-to-value


Maintainable pipelines


Provides support for both Flink and Spark


Choosing A Stream Processing Framework: 9 Key Factors To Consider


When looking for a stream processing framework, several aspects should be considered to ensure it meets your specific requirements. Here are 9 considerations that will help you find the right one:


1. Latency & Throughput Requirements

Understand the real-time nature of your data processing needs. Determine the level of latency acceptable for your application and the required throughput. Frameworks differ in their capabilities to handle low-latency or high-throughput scenarios.


2. Fault Tolerance & Reliability

Assess the framework's fault tolerance mechanisms. It should handle failures gracefully, ensuring no data loss and maintaining system reliability. Look for features like checkpointing, replication, or recovery mechanisms.


3. Scalability

Consider the scalability features of the framework. It should easily scale horizontally by adding more computational resources without compromising performance. Elasticity in handling increasing workloads is important for long-term sustainability.


4. Processing Model

Determine the processing model that best fits your needs. Do you require exactly-once processing semantics, stateful processing, or support for event time processing? This will narrow down the frameworks that align with your requirements.


5. State Management

Evaluate how the framework manages and stores stateful data. Some frameworks offer built-in mechanisms for managing state which is essential for applications that require context or history in their processing logic.


6. Processing Guarantees

Investigate the processing guarantees provided by the framework. At-least-once, at-most-once, or exactly-once semantics determine how the framework ensures data processing without duplicates or losses, which is critical for maintaining data integrity.


7. Integration Capabilities

Check the framework's compatibility and ease of integration with other tools, databases, or systems in your tech stack. Smooth integration simplifies data flow and enhances overall system efficiency.


8. Development & Operational Overheads

Assess the ease of development and operational management. Some frameworks might have a steeper learning curve or require more complex setup and maintenance which can impact time-to-market and operational costs.


9. Community & Support

Consider the community support and ecosystem around the framework. A vibrant community ensures continuous development, updates, and a wealth of resources like documentation, forums, and tutorials.


Conclusion

While the 7 frameworks that we discussed today offer incredible potential, their success depends on how effectively they are implemented and integrated into your existing systems. Regularly assess, improve, and stay updated with new technologies to make sure you are getting the most out of them.


When selecting a stream processing framework, it is not about choosing the “best” framework – it is about selecting the “best fit” for your data needs. Timeplus is one such high-performance stream processing platform that is designed to handle the most demanding data processing workloads.


It provides the scalability, reliability, and performance you need to process and analyze real-time data streams at scale. Unlike other frameworks that often require complex configurations and integrations, Timeplus simplifies the process with its user-friendly interface and intuitive design. 


Get a live demo today or try it for free to experience the agility and efficiency it brings to your streaming data workflows.

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