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Getting Started with Data Analysis on AWS using AWS Glue, Amazon Athena, and QuickSight: Part 2


In part one, we learned how to ingest, transform, and enrich raw, semi-structured data, in multiple formats, using Amazon S3, AWS Glue, Amazon Athena, and AWS Lambda. We built an S3-based data lake and learned how AWS leverages open-source technologies, including Presto, Apache Hive, and Apache Parquet. In part two of this post, we will use the transformed and enriched data sources, stored in the data lake, to create compelling visualizations using Amazon QuickSight.

athena-glue-architecture-v2High-level AWS architecture diagram of the demonstration.


If you recall the demonstration from part one of the post, we had adopted the persona of a large, US-based electric energy provider. The energy provider had developed and sold its next-generation Smart Electrical Monitoring Hub (Smart Hub) to residential customers. Customers can analyze their electrical usage with a fine level of granularity, per device and over time. The goal of the Smart Hub is to enable the customers, using data, to reduce their electrical costs. The provider benefits from a reduction in load on the existing electrical grid and a better distribution of daily electrical load as customers shift usage to off-peak times to save money.

Data Visualization and BI

The data analysis process in the demonstration was divided into four logical stages: 1) Raw Data Ingestion, 2) Data Transformation, 3) Data Enrichment, and 4) Data Visualization and Business Intelligence (BI).

athena-glue-0.pngFull data analysis workflow diagram (click to enlarge…)

In the final, Data Visualization and Business Intelligence (BI) stage, the enriched data is presented and analyzed. There are many enterprise-grade services available for data visualization and business intelligence, which integrate with Amazon Athena. Amazon services include Amazon QuickSight, Amazon EMR, and Amazon SageMaker. Third-party solutions from AWS Partners, many available on the AWS Marketplace, include Tableau, Looker, Sisense, and Domo.

In this demonstration, we will focus on Amazon QuickSight. Amazon QuickSight is a fully managed business intelligence (BI) service. QuickSight lets you create and publish interactive dashboards that include ML Insights. Dashboards can be accessed from any device, and embedded into your applications, portals, and websites. QuickSight serverlessly scales automatically from tens of users to tens of thousands without any infrastructure management.


Using QuickSight

QuickSight APIs

Amazon recently added a full set of aws quicksight APIs for interacting with QuickSight. For example, to preview the three QuickSight data sets created for this part of the demo, with the AWS CLI, we would use the list-data-sets comand.

To examine details of a single data set, with the AWS CLI, we would use the describe-data-set command.

QuickSight Console

However, for this final part of the demonstration, we will be working from the Amazon QuickSight Console, as opposed to the AWS CLI, AWS CDK, or CloudFormation templates.

Signing Up for QuickSight

To use Amazon QuickSight, you must sign up for QuickSight.


There are two Editions of Amazon QuickSight, Standard and Enterprise. For this demonstration, the Standard Edition will suffice.


QuickSight Data Sets

Amazon QuickSight uses Data Sets as the basis for all data visualizations. According to AWS, QuickSight data sets can be created from a wide variety of data sources, including Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora, Amazon Redshift, Amazon Athena, and Amazon S3. You can also upload Excel spreadsheets or flat files (CSV, TSV, CLF, ELF, and JSON), connect to on-premises databases like SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL and import data from SaaS applications like Salesforce. Below, we see a list of the latest data sources available in the QuickSight New Data Set Console.


Demonstration Data Sets

For the demonstration, I have created three QuickSight data sets, all based on Amazon Athena. You have two options when using Amazon Athena as a data source. The first option is to select a table from an AWS Glue Data Catalog database, such as the database we created in part one of the post, ‘smart_hub_data_catalog.’ The second option is to create a custom SQL query, based on one or more tables in an AWS Glue Data Catalog database.


Of the three data sets created for part two of this demonstration, two data sets use tables directly from the Data Catalog, including ‘etl_output_parquet’ and ‘electricity_rates_parquet.’ The third data set uses a custom SQL query, based on the single Data Catalog table, ‘smart_hub_locations_parquet.’ All three tables used to create the data sets represent the enriched, highly efficient Parquet-format data sources in the S3-based Data Lake.


Data Set Features

There are a large number of features available when creating and configuring data sets. We cannot possibly cover all of them in this post. Let’s look at three features: geospatial field types, calculated fields, and custom SQL.

Geospatial Data Types

QuickSight can intelligently detect common types of geographic fields in a data source and assign QuickSight geographic data type, including Country, County, City, Postcode, and State. QuickSight can also detect geospatial data, including Latitude and Longitude. We will take advantage of this QuickSight feature for our three data set’s data sources, including the State, Postcode, Latitude, and Longitude field types.


Calculated Fields

A commonly-used QuickSight data set feature is the ‘Calculated field.’ For the ‘etl_output_parquet’ data set, I have created a new field (column), cost_dollar.


The cost field is the electrical cost of the device, over a five minute time interval, in cents (¢). The calculated cost_dollar field is the quotient of the cost field divided by 100. This value represents the electrical cost of the device, over a five minute time interval, in dollars ($). This is a straightforward example. However, a calculated field can be very complex, built from multiple arithmetic, comparison, and conditional functions, string calculations, and data set fields.


Data set calculated fields can also be created and edited from the QuickSight Analysis Console (discussed later).


Custom SQL

The third QuickSight data set is based on an Amazon Athena custom SQL query.

Although you can write queries in the QuickSight Data Prep Console, I prefer to write custom Athena queries using the Athena Query Editor. Using the Editor, you can write, run, debug, and optimize queries to ensure they function correctly, first.


The Athena query can then be pasted into the Custom SQL window. Clicking ‘Finish’ in the window is the equivalent of ‘Run query’ in the Athena Query Editor Console. The query runs and returns data.


Similar to the Athena Query Editor, queries executed in the QuickSight Data Prep Console will show up in the Athena History tab, with a /* QuickSight */ comment prefix.



You will notice the three QuickSight data sets are labeled, ‘SPICE.’ According to AWS, the acronym, SPICE, stands for ‘Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory, Calculation Engine.’ QuickSight’s in-memory calculation engine, SPICE, achieves blazing fast performance at scale. SPICE automatically replicates data for high availability allowing thousands of users to simultaneously perform fast, interactive analysis while shielding your underlying data infrastructure, saving you time and resources. With the Standard Edition of QuickSight, as the first Author, you get 1 GB of SPICE in-memory data for free.

QuickSight Analysis

The QuickSight Analysis Console is where Analyses are created. A specific QuickSight Analysis will contain a collection of data sets and data visualizations (visuals). Each visual is associated with a single data set.

Types of QuickSight Analysis visuals include: horizontal and vertical, single and stacked bar charts, line graphs, combination charts, area line charts, scatter plots, heat maps, pie and donut charts, tree maps, pivot tables, gauges, key performance indicators (KPI), geospatial diagrams, and word clouds. Individual visual titles, legends, axis, and other visual aspects can be easily modified. Visuals can contain drill-downs.

A data set’s fields can be modified from within the Analysis Console. Field types and formats, such as date, numeric, currency fields, can be customized for display. The Analysis can include a Title and subtitle. There are some customizable themes available to change the overall look of the Analysis.


Analysis Filters

Data displayed in the visuals can be further shaped using a combination of Filters, Conditional formatting, and Parameters. Below, we see an example of a typical filter based on a range of dates and times. The data set contains two full days’ worth of data. Here, we are filtering the data to a 14-hour peak electrical usage period, between 8 AM and 10 PM on the same day, 12/21/2019.


Drill-Down, Drill-Up, Focus, and Exclude

According to AWS, all visual types except pivot tables offer the ability to create a hierarchy of fields for a visual element. The hierarchy lets you drill down or up to see data at different levels of the hierarchy. Focus allows you to concentrate on a single element within a hierarchy of fields. Exclude allows you to remove an element from a hierarchy of fields. Below, we see an example of all four of these features, available to apply to the ‘Central Air Conditioner’. Since the AC unit is the largest consumer of electricity on average per day, applying these filters to understand its impact on the overall electrical usage may be useful to an analysis. We can also drill down to minutes from hours or up to days from hours.


Example QuickSight Analysis

A QuickSight Analysis is shared by the Analysis Author as a QuickSight Dashboard. Below, we see an example of a QuickSight Dashboard, built and shared for this demonstration. The ‘Residential Electrical Usage Analysis’ is built from the three data sets created earlier. From those data sets, we have constructed several visuals, including a geospatial diagram, donut chart, heat map, KPI, combination chart, stacked vertical bar chart, and line graph. Each visual’s title, layout, and field display has all customized. The data displayed in the visuals have been filtered differently, including by date and time, by customer id (loc_id), and by state. Conditional formatting is used to enhance the visual appearance of visuals, such as the ‘Total Electrical Cost’ KPI.



In part one, we learned how to ingest, transform, and enrich raw, semi-structured data, in multiple formats, using Amazon S3, AWS Glue, Amazon Athena, and AWS Lambda. We built an S3-based data lake and learned how AWS leverages open-source technologies, including Presto, Apache Hive, and Apache Parquet. In part two of this post, we used the transformed and enriched datasets, stored in the data lake, to create compelling visualizations using Amazon QuickSight.

All opinions expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily the views of my current or past employers or their clients.

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Executing Amazon Athena Queries from JetBrains PyCharm

Amazon Athena

According to Amazon, Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Amazon Athena supports and works with a variety of popular data file formats, including CSV, JSON, Apache ORC, Apache Avro, and Apache Parquet.

The underlying technology behind Amazon Athena is Presto, the popular, open-source distributed SQL query engine for big data, created by Facebook. According to AWS, the Athena query engine is based on Presto 0.172 (released April 9, 2017). Athena is ideal for quick, ad-hoc querying, but it can also handle complex analysis, including large joins, window functions, and arrays. In addition to Presto, Athena also uses Apache Hive to define tables.


Athena Query Editor

In the previous post, Getting Started with Data Analysis on AWS using AWS Glue, Amazon Athena, and QuickSight, we used the Athena Query Editor to construct and test SQL queries against semi-structured data in an S3-based data lake. The Athena Query Editor has many of the basic features Data Engineers and Analysts expect, including SQL syntax highlighting, code auto-completion, and query formatting. Queries can be run directly from the Editor, saved for future reference, and query results downloaded. The Editor can convert SELECT queries to CREATE TABLE AS (CTAS) and CREATE VIEW AS  statements. Access to AWS Glue data sources is also available from within the Editor.


Full-Featured IDE

Although the Athena Query Editor is fairly functional, many Engineers perform a majority of their software development work in a fuller-featured IDE. The choice of IDE may depend on one’s predominant programming language. According to the PYPL Index, the ten most popular, current IDEs are: 1) Microsoft Visual Studio, 2) Android Studio, 3) Eclipse, 4) Visual Studio Code, 5) Apache NetBeans, 6) JetBrains PyCharm, 7) JetBrains IntelliJ, 8) Apple Xcode, 9) Sublime Text, and 10) Atom.

Within the domains of data science, big data analytics, and data analysis, languages such as SQL, Python, Java, Scala, and R are common. Although I work in a variety of IDEs, my go-to choices are JetBrains PyCharm for Python (including for PySpark and Jupyter Notebook development) and JetBrains IntelliJ for Java and Scala (including Apache Spark development). Both these IDEs also support many common SQL-based technologies, out-of-the-box, and are easily extendable to add new technologies.


Athena Integration with PyCharm

Utilizing the extensibility of the JetBrains suite of professional development IDEs, it is simple to add Amazon Athena to the list of available database drivers and make JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) connections to Athena instances on AWS.

Downloading the Athena JDBC Driver

To start, download the Athena JDBC Driver from Amazon. There are two versions, based on your choice of Java JDKs. Considering Java 8 was released almost eight years ago (March 2014), most users will likely want the AthenaJDBC42-2.0.9.jar is compatible with JDBC 4.2 and JDK 8.0 or later.


Installation Guide

AWS also supplies a JDBC Driver Installation and Configuration Guide. The guide, as well as the Athena JDBC and ODBC Drivers, are produced by Simba Technologies (acquired by Magnitude Software). Instructions for creating an Athena Driver starts on page 23.


Creating a New Athena Driver

From PyCharm’s Database Tool Window, select the Drivers dialog box, select the downloaded Athena JDBC Driver JAR. Select com.simba.athena.jdbc.Driver in the Class dropdown. Name the Driver, ‘Amazon Athena.’


You can configure the Athena Driver further, using the Options and Advanced tabs.


Creating a New Athena Data Source

From PyCharm’s Database Tool Window, select the Data Source dialog box to create a new connection to your Athena instance. Choose ‘Amazon Athena’ from the list of available Database Drivers.


You will need four items to create an Athena Data Source: 1) your IAM User Access Key ID, 2) your IAM User Secret Access Key, 3) the AWS Region of your Athena instance (e.g., us-east-1), and 4) an existing S3 bucket location to store query results. The Athena connection URL is a combination of the AWS Region and the S3 bucket, items 3 and 4, above. The format of the Athena connection URL is as follows.


Give the new Athena Data Source a logical Name, input the User (Access Key ID), Password (Secret Access Key), and the Athena URL. To test the Athena Data Source, use the ‘Test Connection’ button.


You can create multiple Athena Data Sources using the Athena Driver. For example, you may have separate Development, Test, and Production instances of Athena, each in a different AWS Account.

Data Access

Once a successful connection has been made, switching to the Schemas tab, you should see a list of available AWS Glue Data Catalog databases. Below, we see the AWS Glue Catalog, which we created in the prior post. This Glue Data Catalog database contains ten metadata tables, each corresponding to a semi-structured, file-based data source in an S3-based data lake.

In the example below, I have chosen to limit the new Athena Data Source to a single Data Catalog database, to which the Data Source’s IAM User has access. Applying the core AWS security principle of granting least privilege, IAM Users should only have the permissions required to perform a specific set of approved tasks. This principle applies to the Glue Data Catalog databases, metadata tables, and the underlying S3 data sources.


Querying Athena from PyCharm

From within the PyCharm’s Database Tool Window, you should now see a list of the metadata tables defined in your AWS Glue Data Catalog database(s), as well as the individual columns within each table.


Similar to the Athena Query Editor, you can write SQL queries against the database tables in PyCharm. Like the Athena Query Editor, PyCharm has standard features SQL syntax highlighting, code auto-completion, and query formatting. Right-click on the Athena Data Source and choose New, then Console, to start.


Be mindful when writing queries and searching the Internet for SQL references, the Athena query engine is based on Presto 0.172. The current version of Presto, 0.229, is more than 50 releases ahead of the current Athena version. Both Athena and Presto functionality continue to change and diverge. There are also additional considerations and limitations for SQL queries in Athena to be aware of.

Whereas the Athena Query Editor is limited to only one query per query tab, in PyCharm, we can write and run multiple SQL queries in the same console window and have multiple console sessions opened to Athena at the same time.


By default, PyCharm’s query results are limited to the first ten rows of data. The number of rows displayed, as well as many other preferences, can be changed in the PyCharm’s Database Preferences dialog box.


Saving Queries and Exporting Results

In PyCharm, Athena queries can be saved as part of your PyCharm projects, as .sql files. Whereas the Athena Query Editor is limited to CSV, in PyCharm, query results can be exported in a variety of standard data file formats.



Athena Query History

All Athena queries ran from PyCharm are recorded in the History tab of the Athena Console. Although PyCharm shows query run times, the Athena History tab also displays the amount of data scanned. Knowing the query run time and volume of data scanned is useful when performance tuning queries.


Other IDEs

The technique shown for JetBrains PyCharm can also be applied to other JetBrains products, including GoLand, DataGrip, PhpStorm, and IntelliJ (shown below).


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