matt's blog

Writing partitioned parquet (part 2)

In Part 1, we dove into the differences between DuckDB, Pandas, Polars, and PyArrow for writing datasets to a directory of partitioned parquet files. We also benchmarked each library, noting some surprising (and unsurprising) results.

Of course, that was with a tiny dataset. There were only 568 rows with 44 partitions… Probably not something you’ll see in a day as a data engineer.

So, we’re back to fix that! Today, I’ll be working with the NYC Taxi Dataset with 2019 data. This dataset has ~6 million rows with around 390 partitions (dates). This will be a bit more computationally intensive, so I’ve taken some extra precautions to be sure we’re getting accurate results.

The Benchmark

If you’d like to see the code we used, you can check out a Gist here. This was covered extensively in Part 1 of this post, so feel free to bop on over there if you’d like to get into specifics.

Here are the differences in this benchmark:

It’s actually quite impressive how fast these operations were able to execute. I can only imagine what that would look like on a newer machine.

No wonder companies like MotherDuck are leaning into a hybrid execution model. If I can crunch 6m rows of data on my laptop in 10 seconds, how often will I really need Spark?

To restate the benchmark from Part 1, we’ll be reading in our dataset and converting it to a tree of partitioned parquet files— a common storage pattern for data engineers. If you’re unfamiliar with Parquet, I highly recommend checking it out as an alternative to CSVs or JSON.

We expect the output to look like:

  ├── lpep_pickup_date=2019-01-01
  │    ├── data_0.parquet
  │    ├── data_1.parquet
  │    ├── data_2.parquet
  │    ├── data_3.parquet
  │    ├── data_4.parquet
  │    ├── data_5.parquet
  │    ├── data_6.parquet
  │    └── data_7.parquet
  └── lpep_pickup_date=2019-12-31
      ├── data_0.parquet
      ├── data_1.parquet
      ├── data_2.parquet
      ├── data_3.parquet
      ├── data_4.parquet
      ├── data_5.parquet
      ├── data_6.parquet
      └── data_7.parquet


If we isolate & execute our commands in a jupyter notebook with the %%timeit magic function, we can get execution times and standard deviations for each write. timeit executes 7 operations and logs the time and standard deviation, so we can be sure we’re not getting anomalous data.


As discussed in Part 1, Polars and Pandas both use PyArrow on the backend for this operation, so it’s no surprise they’re all practically the same.

The more interesting result is DuckDB. Coming in at roughly 6.5x faster, DuckDB truly excelled at the writes. Better yet, there’s no intermediate “load” step for DuckDB— it’s not necessary to define a new variable, since you can read directly from the dataframe:

    COPY taxi_df TO 'duckdb_taxi_data' (FORMAT PARQUET, PARTITION_BY (lpep_pickup_date), OVERWRITE_OR_IGNORE 1);

This brings us to a new set of conclusions:

If you’re not using DuckDB:

If you’re trying to speed up a pipeline and don’t mind adding in an extra library, consider Duck to DuckDB for your WRITE operations. It will outperform PyArrow-based alternatives.

Because Pandas shares the same backend as PyArrow and Polars, you should never convert a Pandas dataframe to PyArrow/Polars just to write it. That’s just adding complexity and additional overhead.

If you’re dead-set on PyArrow-based libraries:

So that’s it for Part 2.

#data #duckdb #engineering #pandas