Alternatives to Pandas for Data Handling and Analysis

Payoda Technology Inc
4 min readApr 10, 2023

Are you struggling to make sense of your organization’s data? Do you want to leverage your data to gain insights and make informed decisions? In the Data Science world, one of the most popular data-wrangling packages in Python is Pandas. Python’s pandas simplify data exploration and transformation, unlike other languages like Java. Even though it is widely used in data cleaning, preparation, and analysis, it is slower for processing large and complex data sets, especially when working with heterogeneous data and performing operations that don’t utilize vectorization. The major known issues for pandas revolve around scalability and efficiency.

This blog explains some of the best alternatives that resolve the scalability and efficiency issues Pandas face.

Dask

Dask is a parallel computing library in Python that provides a high-level interface for working with larger-than-memory datasets.

  • Dask provides a familiar interface to users familiar with Pandas, making it easy to switch from Pandas to Dask for larger datasets.
  • Dask allows for parallel and distributed computing, making it suitable for processing large, complex datasets that cannot fit into memory.
  • Dask provides an interactive computing environment for data analysis and visualization, making it easier for users to explore and analyze large datasets iteratively.

Dask Architecture

Dask consists of three main components:

i) Client

ii) Scheduler

iii) One or more Workers

As a developer, we can communicate directly with the Dask Client. It sends instructions to the Scheduler and collects results from the workers.

  • The Scheduler acts as the intermediary between workers and clients, monitoring metrics and facilitating worker coordination.
  • The Workers are threads, processes, or individual machines in a cluster. They perform the computations from the computation graph.

The three components communicate using messages. These might be about metrics, computations, or actual data.

Points to consider when using Dask:

  1. Dask can be more complex than Pandas, especially for users new to parallel and distributed computing.
  2. Dask introduces some performance overhead compared to Pandas, especially for small datasets or simple operations.
  3. Debugging Dask code can be more challenging than debugging Pandas code due to the distributed nature of Dask operations.

Modin

Modin is an open-source library that provides a fast and convenient way to scale the Pandas library for big data processing. It aims to make it easy to work with large datasets by providing a familiar Pandas-like interface and using Dask under the hood to handle parallel and distributed processing.

Modin High-Level Architecture

Source: https://modin.readthedocs.io/en/stable/_images/modin_architecture.png

Modin consists of majorly three main components

  1. Query compiler
  2. Middle Layer
  3. Execution Engine

1. Modin Query Compiler

The Query Compiler receives queries from the pandas API layer. The API layer ensures a clean input to the Query Compiler. The Query Compiler must know the compute kernels and in-memory format of the data to compile the query efficiently.

In the design, the Query Compiler sends the compiled query to the Core Modin Dataframe without knowing when or where the query will be executed. The query Compiler hands control of the partition layout to the Core Modin Dataframe. The Core Modin Dataframe, on the other hand, is in charge of organizing the data layout, including shuffling, partitioning, and serializing tasks for each partition.

2. Modin DataFrame

The Core Modin Dataframe is responsible for the data layout, shuffling partitioning, and serializing the tasks sent to each partition.

A Modin DataFrame is a two-dimensional labeled data structure with columns of potentially different types. It provides several data analysis and manipulation methods, such as filtering, grouping, aggregating, and transforming data. Modin supports various data types, including numeric, categorical, and date-time data.

3. Execution Engine

The execution engine in Modin is based on the popular distributed computing framework, Apache Arrow. This layer performs computation on partitions of the data.

When a user operates on a Modin data frame, the operation is translated into a computation graph by the Modin query compiler. The computation graph represents the operation in terms of smaller, intermediate steps. The Dask task scheduler divides the computation graph into smaller tasks and distributes them across the available cores or machines.

RAPIDS

RAPIDS is a GPU-accelerated data processing and analysis platform developed by NVIDIA. It provides high-performance data processing capabilities for large-scale data analysis, machine learning, and other data-intensive applications. It provides various tools and libraries for performing common data analysis tasks.

RAPIDS also provides libraries for machine learning, such as call, which provides GPU-accelerated implementations of popular machine learning algorithms such as regression, classification, clustering, and dimensionality reduction.

Final Thoughts

Image sourced from Freepik

The above libraries are just commonly used alternatives for pandas. Still, many other alternatives, like Polar, Vaex, Ray, etc., exist, but the right choice depends on the specific needs and requirements. But if nothing works to a specific requirement, then we can use PySpark for big data solutions.

If you looking to know more about data handling and analysis, our experts are just a click away. We offer strategic consulting services to businesses of all sizes, providing guidance on how to optimize data management and analysis. Whether you need help with data visualization, predictive analytics, or data security, we have the expertise to help you achieve your goals.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward unlocking the full potential of your data.

References:

  1. https://docs.dask.org/en/stable/
  2. https://modin.readthedocs.io/en/stable/development/architecture.html
  3. https://docs.rapids.ai/start

Authored by: Akash Balakrishnan

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Payoda Technology Inc

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