Apache ParquetData Format

Deep Dive into Apache Parquet: Efficient Data Storage for Analytics

In today’s digital age, the amount of data being generated is growing at an unprecedented rate. This explosion of data has given rise to the concept of “big data.” Big data refers to extremely large and complex datasets that cannot be easily managed, processed, or analyzed using traditional data processing tools and techniques.

How does parquet perform relative to a CSV file? It takes 87% less space and queries 34x faste(1 TB of data, S3 storage) — src

Why Efficient Data Storage and Processing Matter in Big Data Environments

  1. Scale: Big data environments deal with massive volumes of data. Traditional storage and processing methods become slow and inefficient as the data size increases. Efficient storage and processing mechanisms are essential to ensure timely and accurate results.
  2. Speed: In big data scenarios, decisions often need to be made in real-time or near-real-time. Slow data processing can lead to missed opportunities or delayed insights. Efficient processing helps in extracting value from data quickly.
  3. Cost: Storing and processing large amounts of data can be expensive. Efficient techniques reduce hardware, storage, and computational costs, making it more feasible to manage and analyze big data.
  4. Complexity: Big data is often heterogeneous and comes from various sources in different formats. Efficient processing methods simplify the complexity and make it easier to integrate, transform, and analyze diverse data types.

Introduction to Columnar Storage

Columnar storage is a modern approach to data storage that addresses many of the challenges posed by big data environments. Unlike traditional row-based storage, where data for each row is stored together, columnar storage stores data in columns. Each column holds values for a single attribute across all rows.

Advantages of Columnar Storage Over Row-Based Storage:

  1. Compression Efficiency: Columnar storage allows for better compression techniques. Since column values are often of the same type, compression algorithms can be tailored to that type, resulting in higher compression ratios. This reduces storage requirements and speeds up data transfers.
  2. Column Pruning: When executing queries, columnar databases can skip irrelevant columns, reducing I/O and improving query performance. In row-based storage, entire rows must be read, even if only a few columns are needed.
  3. Aggregation Performance: Columnar storage is highly efficient for aggregate queries, as aggregations involve operations on single columns. This leads to faster query performance for analytics tasks.
  4. Predicate Pushdown: Columnar databases can apply filters early in the query execution process by analyzing metadata, minimizing the amount of data read from storage. This feature significantly speeds up query processing.
  5. Analytics and Data Warehousing: Columnar storage is well-suited for analytical workloads, reporting, and data warehousing. It allows for rapid analysis and reporting on large datasets.
  6. Schema Evolution: Columnar storage formats like Parquet support schema evolution, enabling the addition of new columns or changes to existing columns without disrupting existing data.

Introduction to Apache Parquet

What is Parquet?

Apache Parquet is an open-source columnar storage file format that is specifically designed for use in big data processing and analytics environments. Unlike traditional row-based storage formats like CSV or JSON, where each record is stored as a separate row, Parquet organizes data in a columnar format. This means that the values of each column are stored together in contiguous memory locations, allowing for efficient compression, encoding, and processing of data.

Parquet uses the hybrid approach of sequentially storing chunks of columns. Hybrid layout are really effective for OALP workflows because they support both projection and predicates. Projection is the process of selecting columns and Predicates is the criteria which is used to select rows.

Basic Features and Benefits of Parquet:

  1. Columnar Storage: Parquet’s columnar storage layout is optimized for analytical queries. It minimizes I/O operations by reading only the columns needed for a query, leading to faster query execution.
  2. Compression and Encoding: Parquet uses various compression algorithms and encoding techniques specific to each column, resulting in efficient use of storage space and improved data transfer speed.
  3. Predicate Pushdown: The ability to push down filters to the Parquet format means that queries can skip over irrelevant data, reducing the amount of data read and improving performance.
  4. Schema Evolution: Parquet’s support for schema evolution enables easy adaptation to changing data requirements without significant data transformation efforts.
  5. Performance: With its storage efficiency, compression, and predicate pushdown capabilities, Parquet contributes to overall better performance for analytical workloads compared to traditional row-based formats.
  6. Interoperability: Parquet’s compatibility with various big data processing tools ensures seamless integration into existing data processing ecosystems.
  7. Data Types: Parquet supports a wide range of data types, making it versatile for storing diverse datasets.
  8. Metadata: Parquet files contain metadata that describes the schema and encoding of the data, enhancing query optimization.

Parquet Architecture and Internals

We’ll delve into the intricate details of how Parquet files are structured, how metadata and data pages are organized, and why concepts like dictionary encoding and predicate pushdown play a crucial role in optimizing data storage and query performance.

Structure of Parquet Files:

Parquet files are organized in a columnar storage format, which means that instead of storing data in rows like traditional databases, Parquet stores data in columns. This columnar structure offers significant advantages in terms of compression and query performance.

  • Columns and Row Groups: Data in a Parquet file is divided into columns, and groups of columns are organized into “row groups.” Each row group contains a section of the data, and columns within a row group are stored together to optimize compression and minimize I/O operations.

Metadata and Data Pages:

Parquet files contain metadata that describes the structure of the data and allows for efficient retrieval. There are three main types of metadata: file metadata, column(chunk) metadata and page header metadata.

  • File Metadata: High-level information about the Parquet file, including version, schema, row groups, and footer, enabling efficient file navigation and data retrieval.
  • Column (Chunk) Metadata: Column-specific details within a row group, such as encoding, statistics, data type, and compression, optimizing data storage and query performance.
  • Page-header Metadata: Information within each data page, like size, dictionary references, encoding, and value count, facilitating efficient decoding and processing of columnar data during queries.

Dictionary Encoding:

Dictionary encoding is a technique used to compress repetitive or redundant data. In a columnar storage format like Parquet, there’s often a high probability of data repetition in a single column. Dictionary encoding replaces repeated values with shorter identifiers (or indices) that refer to a dictionary of unique values.

  • Benefits of Dictionary Encoding: This technique significantly reduces the storage footprint by storing repetitive data only once in the dictionary. It also improves query performance as dictionary-encoded columns can be efficiently compressed and decompressed during query execution.

Predicate Pushdown:

Predicate pushdown is a query optimization technique that filters data at the data source before it’s read into memory. In the context of Parquet files, predicate pushdown involves pushing down filtering conditions to the Parquet reader level, allowing it to skip irrelevant data during the reading process.

  • Significance of Predicate Pushdown: By applying filtering conditions early in the read process, only relevant data is loaded into memory, reducing the amount of data transferred and improving query performance. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with large datasets.

Creating Parquet Files

Creating Parquet files is a crucial step in leveraging the benefits of columnar storage for efficient data processing. In this module, we’ll focus on how to write data to Parquet files using Python and explore various configuration options to optimize the writing process.

Writing Parquet Files in Python

Python provides several libraries that enable you to write data into Parquet files. One popular library is pyarrow

pip install pyarrow

Here’s a simple example of how to write a Pandas DataFrame into a Parquet file using pyarrow:

import pandas as pd
import pyarrow as pa
import pyarrow.parquet as pq

# Create a sample DataFrame
data = {'Name': ['Alice', 'Bob', 'Charlie'],
'Age': [25, 30, 28]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Convert the DataFrame to an Arrow table
table = pa.Table.from_pandas(df)

# Write the table to a Parquet file
pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet')

Configuration Options for Writing Parquet Files

While writing Parquet files, you have the flexibility to configure various options that can impact the resulting file size, compression, and performance. Here are some important configuration options to consider:

Compression: Parquet supports multiple compression algorithms, such as snappygzip, and lz4. You can choose the compression algorithm based on the trade-off between compression ratio and CPU overhead.

pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet', compression='snappy')

Page Size: The page_size parameter determines the size of each data page within the Parquet file. Larger page sizes can improve read performance at the cost of memory usage.

pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet', page_size=4096)  # Specify page size in bytes

Row Group Size: Parquet files are divided into row groups. You can control the number of rows in each group using the row_group_size parameter.

pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet', row_group_size=100000)

Dictionary Encoding: Parquet supports dictionary encoding for columns with repeated values. This can significantly reduce storage space.

pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet', use_dictionary=True)

Data Page Version: You can specify the data page version to use for encoding data. This can affect compatibility with different Parquet readers.

pq.write_table(table, 'sample.parquet', data_page_version='2.0')

Reading Parquet Files:

Reading data from Parquet files is a fundamental task in data processing pipelines. Parquet’s columnar storage format is designed to improve query performance and minimize I/O operations, making it a preferred choice for analytical workloads.

import pyarrow.parquet as pq
import pandas as pd

# Read Parquet file
parquet_table = pq.read_table('sample.parquet')

# Convert Parquet table to DataFrame
df = parquet_table.to_pandas()

Partitioning and Bucketing in Parquet

Partitioning and bucketing are two powerful techniques in Apache Parquet that can significantly improve query performance when dealing with large datasets.

Partitioning in Parquet:

Partitioning involves dividing data into subdirectories based on the values of one or more columns. Each subdirectory represents a distinct value of the partitioning column(s). For example, if you have a dataset containing sales data and you partition it by the “year” and “month” columns, Parquet will create a directory structure like:


Benefits of Partitioning:

  • Data Pruning: During query execution, if your query filters involve the partitioning columns, Parquet can skip reading entire directories that don’t match the filter criteria, leading to faster query performance.
  • Reduced I/O: Partitioning helps to minimize the amount of data read from disk, as queries can target specific partitions.
  • Organized Data: Data becomes more organized, making it easier to manage and query specific subsets.

Bucketing in Parquet:

Bucketing, also known as “clustered” or “sorted” storage, involves dividing data into a fixed number of buckets based on the hash value of a chosen column. Data within each bucket is sorted based on the values of the bucketing column. Bucketing is typically used when you have a large dataset and want to evenly distribute data across buckets for balanced querying.

Benefits of Bucketing:

  • Even Distribution: Bucketing ensures that data is evenly distributed across buckets, preventing data skew and hotspots during query processing.
  • Join Optimization: If two tables are bucketed on the same column, the join operation becomes more efficient, as the data is already sorted within each bucket.
  • Predictable Query Performance: Since data is evenly distributed and sorted, query performance is more predictable and stable.

Performance & Cost Saving compared to CSV stored in S3 bucket

It takes 87% less space with Parquet and queries 34x faster (1 TB of data, S3 storage), 99% less data scanned which means 99.7% cost savings.



In conclusion, Apache Parquet stands as a powerful columnar storage format with numerous benefits for data storage and processing. Its efficient compression, predicate pushdown capabilities, and schema evolution support contribute to optimized query performance and reduced storage footprint.

However, while Parquet offers advantages in analytical workloads and big data ecosystems, it might not be the best fit for all scenarios. As with any technology, understanding its strengths and limitations is essential to making informed decisions when integrating Parquet into data pipelines.

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