How to Integrate Pandas with Apache Spark

Updated: February 28, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Integrating Pandas with Apache Spark combines the power of Spark’s distributed computing engine with Pandas’ easy-to-use data manipulation tools. This tutorial introduces the basics of using Pandas and Spark together, progressing to more complex integrations. You’ll understand why integrating these two tools can be advantageous and how to implement this in your data processing workflows.


  • Python 3.6 or newer
  • Apache Spark 2.4 or newer
  • Pandas
  • PySpark

Ensure these are installed and configured on your system before proceeding.

Basic Integration: Using Pandas UDFs in PySpark

User-Defined Functions (UDFs) can be written using Pandas data manipulation capabilities and executed within the Spark context for distributed processing. Here’s a simple example:

from pyspark.sql import SparkSession
from pyspark.sql.functions import pandas_udf, PandasUDFType
import pandas as pd

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName('PandasWithSpark').getOrCreate()

@pandas_udf('int', PandasUDFType.SCALAR)
def add_one(s: pd.Series) -> pd.Series:
    return s + 1

df = spark.createDataFrame(pd.DataFrame({'A': [1, 2, 3]}))


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This example demonstrates creating a simple UDF to add one to each element in a column, then applying this function over a Spark DataFrame originally created from a Pandas DataFrame.

Converting Between Pandas and Spark DataFrames

Converting between Pandas and Spark DataFrames is a common integration task. Here’s how to perform conversions:

# Converting a Spark DataFrame to a Pandas DataFrame
df = spark.createDataFrame([(1, 'foo'), (2, 'bar')], ['id', 'label'])
pandas_df = df.toPandas()

# Converting a Pandas DataFrame to a Spark DataFrame
pandas_df = pd.DataFrame({'id': [1, 2], 'label': ['foo', 'bar']})
df = spark.createDataFrame(pandas_df)

Advanced Integration: Using Spark’s Pandas API (Pandas on Spark)

In Spark 3.0 and later, a new API known as Pandas on Spark (previously Koalas) offers a Pandas-like syntax for Spark DataFrames. It helps data scientists utilize Pandas’ functionalities with the scalable power of Spark. Here’s an example demonstrating the use of this API:

from pyspark.pandas.config import set_option
set_option('compute.default_index_type', 'distributed')

import pyspark.pandas as ps

# Assuming a Spark session is already available
ps_df = ps.DataFrame({'A': [1, 2, 3], 'B': [4, 5, 6]})

This shows how convenient it is to perform operations that are typical in Pandas but on a distributed dataset. This new API bridges the gap between the scalability of Spark and the ease of data manipulation in Pandas.

Performance Considerations

While integrating Pandas and Spark can offer best of both worlds, there are important performance considerations to keep in mind. Operations involving data transfer between Spark and Pandas, particularly large datasets, can be costly. Where possible, minimize these operations or leverage Spark’s in-built optimizations.


Integrating Pandas with Apache Spark opens up a range of possibilities for distributed data processing and analysis, combining Spark’s scalability with Pandas’ ease of use. By starting with simple UDFs and progressing to more complex integrations like the Pandas API in Spark, you can leverage the strengths of both tools in your data pipelines. However, it’s important to be mindful of performance implications, especially when working with large data sets.