Optimization Notes#

Modin has chosen default values for a lot of the configurations here that provide excellent performance in most cases. This page is for those who love to optimize their code and those who are curious about existing optimizations within Modin. Here you can find more information about Modin’s optimizations both for a pipeline of operations as well as for specific operations. If you want to go ahead and tune the Modin behavior on your own, refer to Modin Configuration Settings page for the full set of configurations available in Modin.

Range-partitioning in Modin#

Modin utilizes a range-partitioning approach for specific operations, significantly enhancing parallelism and reducing memory consumption in certain scenarios. Range-partitioning is typically engaged for operations that has key columns (to group on, to merge on, etc).

You can enable range-partitioning by specifying cfg.RangePartitioning configuration variable:

import modin.pandas as pd
import modin.config as cfg

cfg.RangePartitioning.put(True) # past this point methods that support range-partitioning
                                # will use it

pd.DataFrame(...).groupby(...).mean() # use range-partitioning for groupby.mean()


pd.DataFrame(...).groupby(...).mean() # use MapReduce implementation for groupby.mean()

Building range-partitioning assumes data reshuffling, which may result into breaking the original order of rows, for some operation, it will mean that the result will be different from Pandas.

Range-partitioning is not a silver bullet, meaning that enabling it is not always beneficial. Below you find a link to the list of operations that have support for range-partitioning and practical advices on when one should enable it: operations that support range-partitioning.

Understanding Modin’s partitioning mechanism#

Modin’s partitioning is crucial for performance; so we recommend expert users to understand Modin’s partitioning mechanism and how to tune it in order to achieve better performance.

How Modin partitions a dataframe#

Modin uses a partitioning scheme that partitions a dataframe along both axes, resulting in a matrix of partitions. The row and column chunk sizes are computed independently based on the length of the appropriate axis and Modin’s special configuration variables (NPartitions and MinPartitionSize):

  • NPartitions is the maximum number of splits along an axis; by default, it equals to the number of cores on your local machine or cluster of nodes.

  • MinPartitionSize is the minimum number of rows/columns to do a split. For instance, if MinPartitionSize is 32, the column axis will not be split unless the amount of columns is greater than 32. If it is is greater, for example, 34, then the column axis is sliced into two partitions: containing 32 and 2 columns accordingly.

Beware that NPartitions specifies a limit for the number of partitions along a single axis, which means, that the actual limit for the entire dataframe itself is the square of NPartitions.


Full-axis functions#

Some of the aggregation functions require knowledge about the entire axis, for example at .apply(foo, axis=0) the passed function foo expects to receive data for the whole column at once.

When a full-axis function is applied, the partitions along this axis are collected at a single worker that processes the function. After the function is done, the partitioning of the data is back to normal.


Note that the amount of remote calls is equal to the number of partitions, which means that since the number of partitions is decreased for full-axis functions it also decreases the potential for parallelism.

Also note, that reduce functions such as .sum(), .mean(), .max(), etc, are not considered to be full-axis, so they do not suffer from the decreasing level of parallelism.

How to tune partitioning#

Configure Modin’s default partitioning scheme#

As you can see from the examples above, the more the dataframe’s shape is closer to a square, the closer the number of partitions to the square of NPartitions. In the case of NPartitions equals to the number of workers, that means that a single worker is going to process multiple partitions at once, which slows down overall performance.

If your workflow mainly operates with wide dataframes and non-full-axis functions, it makes sense to reduce the NPartitions value so a single worker would process a single partition.


Copy-pastable example, showing how tuning NPartitions value for wide frames may improve performance on your machine:

from multiprocessing import cpu_count
from modin.distributed.dataframe.pandas import unwrap_partitions
import modin.config as cfg
import modin.pandas as pd
import numpy as np
import timeit

# Generating data for a square-like dataframe
data = np.random.randint(0, 100, size=(5000, 5000))

# Explicitly setting `NPartitions` to its default value

# Each worker processes `cpu_count()` amount of partitions
df = pd.DataFrame(data)
print(f"NPartitions: {cfg.NPartitions.get()}")
# Getting raw partitions to count them
partitions_shape = np.array(unwrap_partitions(df)).shape
    f"The frame has {partitions_shape[0]}x{partitions_shape[1]}={np.prod(partitions_shape)} partitions "
    f"when the CPU has only {cpu_count()} cores."
print(f"10 times of .abs(): {timeit.timeit(lambda: df.abs(), number=10)}s.")
# Possible output:
#   NPartitions: 112
#   The frame has 112x112=12544 partitions when the CPU has only 112 cores.
#   10 times of .abs(): 23.64s.

# Taking a square root of the the current `cpu_count` to make more even partitioning
cfg.NPartitions.put(int(cpu_count() ** 0.5))

# Each worker processes a single partition
df = pd.DataFrame(data)
print(f"NPartitions: {cfg.NPartitions.get()}")
# Getting raw partitions to count them
partitions_shape = np.array(unwrap_partitions(df)).shape
    f"The frame has {partitions_shape[0]}x{partitions_shape[1]}={np.prod(partitions_shape)} "
    f"when the CPU has {cpu_count()} cores."
print(f"10 times of .abs(): {timeit.timeit(lambda: df.abs(), number=10)}s.")
# Possible output:
#   NPartitions: 10
#   The frame has 10x10=100 partitions when the CPU has 112 cores.
#   10 times of .abs(): 0.25s.

Manually trigger repartitioning#

If you’re getting unexpectedly poor performance, although you configured MODIN_NPARTITIONS correctly, then this might be caused by unbalanced partitioning that occurred during the workflow’s execution.

Modin’s idealogy is to handle partitioning internally and not let users worry about the possible consequences of applying a lot of “bad” operations that may affect DataFrame’s partitioning. We’re constantly making efforts to find and fix cases where partitioning may cause a headache for users.

However, if you feel that you’re dealing with unbalanced partitioning you may try to call an internal modin.pandas.dataframe.DataFrame._repartition() method on your DataFrame in order to manually trigger partitions rebalancing and see whether it improves performance for your case.

DataFrame._repartition(axis: Optional[int] = None) Self#

Repartitioning Modin objects to get ideal partitions inside.

Allows to improve performance where the query compiler can’t improve yet by doing implicit repartitioning.


axis ({0, 1, None}, optional) – The axis along which the repartitioning occurs. None is used for repartitioning along both axes.


The repartitioned dataframe or series, depending on the original type.

Return type:

DataFrame or Series

An actual use-case for this method may be the following:

import modin.pandas as pd
import timeit

df = pd.DataFrame({"col0": [1, 2, 3, 4]})

# Appending a lot of columns may result into unbalanced partitioning
for i in range(1, 128):
    df[f"col{i}"] = pd.Series([1, 2, 3, 4])

    "DataFrame with unbalanced partitioning:",
    timeit.timeit(lambda: df.sum(), number=10)
) # 1.44s

df = df._repartition()
    "DataFrame after '._repartition()':",
    timeit.timeit(lambda: df.sum(), number=10)
) # 0.21s.

Avoid iterating over Modin DataFrame#

Use df.apply() or other aggregation methods when possible instead of iterating over a dataframe. For-loops don’t scale and forces the distributed data to be collected back at the driver.

Copy-pastable example, showing how replacing a for-loop to the equivalent .apply() may improve performance:

import modin.pandas as pd
import numpy as np
from timeit import default_timer as timer

data = np.random.randint(1, 100, (2 ** 10, 2 ** 2))

md_df = pd.DataFrame(data)

result = []
t1 = timer()
# Iterating over a dataframe forces to collect distributed data to the driver and doesn't scale
for idx, row in md_df.iterrows():
    result.append((row[1] + row[2]) / row[3])
print(f"Filling a list by iterating a Modin frame: {timer() - t1:.2f}s.")
# Possible output: 36.15s.

t1 = timer()
# Using `.apply()` perfectly scales to all axis-partitions
result = md_df.apply(lambda row: (row[1] + row[2]) / row[3], axis=1).to_numpy().tolist()
print(f"Filling a list by using '.apply()' and converting the result to a list: {timer() - t1:.2f}s.")
# Possible output: 0.22s.

Use Modin’s Dataframe Algebra API to implement custom parallel functions#

Modin provides a set of low-level parallel-implemented operators which can be used to build most of the aggregation functions. These operators are present in the algebra module. Modin DataFrame allows users to use their own aggregations built with this module. Visit the DataFrame’s algebra page of the documentation for the steps to do it.

Avoid mixing pandas and Modin DataFrames#

Although Modin is considered to be a drop-in replacement for pandas, Modin and pandas are not intended to be used together in a single flow. Passing a pandas DataFrame as an argument for a Modin’s DataFrame method may either slowdown the function (because it has to process non-distributed object) or raise an error. You would also get an undefined behavior if you pass a Modin DataFrame as an input to pandas methods, since pandas identifies Modin’s objects as a simple iterable, and so can’t leverage its benefits as a distributed dataframe.

Copy-pastable example, showing how mixing pandas and Modin DataFrames in a single flow may bottleneck performance:

import modin.pandas as pd
import numpy as np
import timeit
import pandas

data = np.random.randint(0, 100, (2 ** 20, 2 ** 2))

md_df, md_df_copy = pd.DataFrame(data), pd.DataFrame(data)
pd_df, pd_df_copy = pandas.DataFrame(data), pandas.DataFrame(data)

print("concat modin frame + pandas frame:")
# Concatenating modin frame + pandas frame using modin '.concat()'
# This case is bad because Modin have to process non-distributed pandas object
time = timeit.timeit(lambda: pd.concat([md_df, pd_df]), number=10)
# Possible output: 0.44s.

print("concat modin frame + modin frame:")
# Concatenating modin frame + modin frame using modin '.concat()'
# This is an ideal case, Modin is being used as intended
time = timeit.timeit(lambda: pd.concat([md_df, md_df_copy]), number=10)
# Possible output: 0.05s.

print("concat pandas frame + pandas frame:")
# Concatenating pandas frame + pandas frame using pandas '.concat()'
time = timeit.timeit(lambda: pandas.concat([pd_df, pd_df_copy]), number=10)
# Possible output: 0.31s.

print("concat pandas frame + modin frame:")
# Concatenating pandas frame + modin frame using pandas '.concat()'
time = timeit.timeit(lambda: pandas.concat([pd_df, md_df]), number=10)
# Possible output: TypeError

Operation-specific optimizations#


merge operation in Modin uses the broadcast join algorithm: combining a right Modin DataFrame into a pandas DataFrame and broadcasting it to the row partitions of the left Modin DataFrame. In order to minimize interprocess communication cost when doing an inner join you may want to swap left and right DataFrames.

import modin.pandas as pd
import numpy as np

left_data = np.random.randint(0, 100, size=(2**8, 2**8))
right_data = np.random.randint(0, 100, size=(2**12, 2**12))

left_df = pd.DataFrame(left_data)
right_df = pd.DataFrame(right_data)
%timeit left_df.merge(right_df, how="inner", on=10)
3.59 s  107 ms per loop (mean  std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

%timeit right_df.merge(left_df, how="inner", on=10)
1.22 s  40.1 ms per loop (mean  std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

Note that result columns order may differ for first and second merge.