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Introduction to DBFS

In big data and cloud computing, efficient data management is important. As organizations work with huge volumes of data from diverse sources, a storage solution has become increasingly demanding. Enter the Databricks File System (DBFS), a pivotal component within the Azure Databricks ecosystem designed to address the complexities of data storage and access.

Before the DBFS, data management in cloud-based environments presented significant challenges. Traditional file systems struggled to integrate with cloud storage solutions, leading to the bulk processing for data ingestion, storage, and retrieval. As organizations migrated their data infrastructure to the cloud, the need for a unified and efficient file system became evident.

Introduction to DBFS

In this article, we're going to explore DBFS in detail. We'll start by understanding how it works, what it can do, and the advantages it brings. We'll also take a look at any limitations it might have. Additionally, we'll delve into DBFS roots and directories to understand how they play a crucial role in organizing and managing data within the Databricks environment.

What is DBFS (Databricks File System)?

The Databricks File System (DBFS) is a distributed file system integrated within Databricks workspaces and available on Databricks clusters. It acts as an intermediary layer atop scalable object storage, translating Unix-like filesystem commands into native cloud storage API calls.

DBFS serves as Databricks' implementation for FUSE, offering various methods for interacting with files in cloud object storage. Mounting object storage to DBFS enables users to seamlessly access objects in object storage as if they were part of the local file system.


FUSE stands for Filesystem in Userspace. It is software that allows non-privileged users to create their file systems without requiring kernel code modifications. In simpler terms, FUSE enables developers to implement file systems in user space rather than within the operating system kernel.

FUSE provides:

  1. User Space File Systems: FUSE allows developers to implement file systems entirely in user space which means they can create custom file systems without needing special privileges or modifying the operating system's kernel.

  2. Flexibility: Since FUSE operates in user space, it offers greater flexibility and ease of development compared to traditional kernel-based file systems. Developers can use programming languages and libraries to create FUSE-based file systems.

  3. Compatibility: FUSE aims to provide compatibility with existing file system APIs, making it easier for applications to interact with FUSE-based file systems as if they were regular file systems.

  4. Portability: FUSE is designed to be portable across different operating systems, allowing FUSE-based file systems to be deployed on various platforms with minimal modifications.

  5. Security: FUSE implements security features to ensure that user space file systems operate securely and do not compromise system integrity.

Understanding DBFS through Azure Databricks Solution

Consider a large library (Azure Data Lake Storage or ADLS) filled with books (data). To efficiently retrieve these books (data), librarians (Databricks) rely on a well-organized filing system (DBFS). DBFS acts as a layer between the vast storage (ADLS) and the librarians (Databricks), making data retrieval and management significantly easier.

Ingest:  just like new books are brought into the library. ADLS acts as the physical location where all the data resides.

Azure Data Lake Storage (ADLS): A cloud storage that acts as the physical location where data resides. Imagine this as the large storage room within the library that holds all the books.

DBFS: DBFS sits on top of ADLS, providing a layer of abstraction. It presents a familiar file system interface for users. This makes it easy to work with data in ADLS, as you can use familiar commands like ls, cp, and mv to manage your data. Think of DBFS as a giant USB drive that users can access through the Databricks workspace. In the library analogy, DBFS is the filing system that categorizes and organizes the books (data) making them easier for the librarians (Databricks) to find.

Process: Once the data is in DBFS, Databricks can process and transform the data using Apache Spark. Spark is a powerful tool for large-scale data processing. Data scientists and engineers can write code in languages like Python, Scala, and SQL to process the data. Just like librarians can retrieve books and analyze their content, Databricks can access and process the data stored in DBFS. Data scientists and engineers can then use Apache Spark and various coding languages to analyze and manipulate the data.

In summary, DBFS is not the physical storage location for the data itself (that's ADLS) a way to organize, access, and manage data within the Databricks workspace, making it easier for data scientists and engineers to work with data.

Note: Databricks advises against storing production data in the DBFS root volume, accessible to all users by default. The DBFS root serves as the default storage location for Databricks workspaces and is provisioned as part of workspace creation within the associated cloud account.

Functionalities of DBFS

DBFS provides several features and functionalities, such as:

  1. Mapping Cloud Object Storage URIs to Relative Paths: DBFS simplifies access by translating cloud object storage URIs into relative paths, providing convenience for users.

  2. Interacting with Object Storage: Instead of dealing directly with cloud-specific API commands, DBFS enables users to interact with object storage using familiar directory and file semantics.

  3. Mounting Cloud Object Storage Locations: DBFS allows you to mount cloud object storage locations, facilitating the association of storage credentials with paths within the Databricks workspace.

  4. Persisting Files to Object Storage: DBFS streamlines the process of saving files to object storage, ensuring that virtual machines and attached volume storage can be safely removed upon cluster termination.

  5. Storing Init Scripts, JARs, Libraries, and Configurations: It provides a convenient repository for storing initialization scripts, JARs, libraries, and configurations needed for cluster setup.

  6. Storing Checkpoint Files: DBFS offers a convenient location for storing checkpoint files generated during model training with OSS deep learning libraries.


DBFS provides the following benefits:

  1. It can be easily integrated with other Databricks services.

  2. DBFS supports various data formats, providing flexibility in data management.

  3. It has robust security and access control measures in place.

  4. It also offers impressive scalability and performance, making it suitable for handling large datasets.

  5. DBFS provides convenience by mapping cloud object storage URIs to relative paths, allowing you to interact with object storage using directory and file semantics instead of cloud-specific API commands.

  6. DBFS simplifies persisting files to object storage, allowing virtual machines and attached volume storage to be safely deleted on cluster termination.


Here are some limitations of DBFS:

  1. For Azure Databricks Filesystem (DBFS), supports only files less than 2GB in size. If you use local file I/O APIs to read or write files larger than 2GB you might see corrupted files.

  2. Like any shared file system, the performance of DBFS for small files lags behind the performance of a local file system. Each file data or metadata operation in DBFS must go through the FUSE user mode file system and then be forwarded across the network to the database.

  3. Databricks recommends against storing production data in the DBFS root volume, accessible to all users by default. The DBFS root is the default storage location for a Databricks workspace, provisioned as part of workspace creation in the cloud account containing the Databricks workspace.

DBFS Roots and Directories

DBFS roots represent the top-level directories within the Databricks File System (DBFS), providing the foundation for organizing data and resources within an Azure Databricks workspace. These roots are essential for structuring and managing data effectively within the platform.

Directories within DBFS Roots:

DBFS Root Storage Container: Each Azure Databricks workspace is a DBFS root storage container, which serves as the primary storage location for various directories and files within the workspace.

Directories Configured by Default:

  • /FileStore: This directory is the default location for data and libraries uploaded through the Databricks UI. Additionally, any plots generated within the workspace are stored here.

  • /databricks-datasets: Databricks provides a collection of open-source datasets within this directory, facilitating easy access for analysis and experimentation.

  • /databricks-results: Files generated from downloading the complete results of a query are stored in this directory.

  • /databricks/init: This directory hosts legacy global init scripts, providing a location for managing initialization tasks and configurations.

  • /user/hive/warehouse: Managed tables created within the workspace are stored in the hive_metastore directory by default, providing a structured storage location for data managed by the Hive metastore.

Importance of DBFS roots and directories:

  • Organizational Structure: DBFS roots and directories help to organize and structure the data and resources within the workspace, making it easier to manage and access relevant information.

  • Default Configurations: By configuring directories within the DBFS root storage container by default, Azure Databricks simplifies the setup process for users, ensuring that essential directories are readily available for common use cases.

  • Consistency and Standardization: Standardizing directory structures and default locations promotes consistency across projects and teams within the workspace, enhancing collaboration and facilitating knowledge sharing.

  • Efficient Data Management: With predefined directories for specific purposes such as storing datasets, results, and initialization scripts, users can efficiently manage and access data and resources within the workspace, streamlining workflows and reducing overhead.


DBFS bridges the gap between complex cloud storage and user-friendly file system access within Databricks. This simplifies data management, boosts analysis efficiency, and empowers data teams to collaborate seamlessly. While storage costs and reliance on external systems are considerations, DBFS remains a powerful tool for the Databricks environment.


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