Writing UDFs for Pig with Python

Posted on February 23, 2015 under hadoop python

Pig is a powerful, yet concise scripting language to manipulate huge amounts of data with expressive commands on a Hadoop cluster. Common tasks such as joining data by common fields or grouping rows together require boilerplate code when implemented with native MapReduce.

Even though Pig is powerful, the built-in functions and mechanisms have limitations, and anyone implementing something non-trivial will find them. To overcome this limitations Pig provides a plugin mechanism with which users can supply User Defined Functions (UDFs).

It is pretty well-known that these UDFs can be implemented in Java and included from jar files, but it is possible to implement these as scripts using JavaScript and Python as well.

During my last project I ran into some dead ends on what was achievable with 'plain' Pig, so I implemented UDFs to bridge the gaps. I think it is better to introduce such a feature with a real world example than a contrived 'Hello, World!' example.

The problem

My task was to create a datastructure with the following description (which, by the way, is the perfect format to PUT data into HBase):

mapped: {group: chararray,mappedTuple: map[]}

However, the data I had from previous steps was of the form:

topped: {group: chararray,result: {(x: chararray,y: double,z: chararray)}}

The data in the inner bag is sorted. I wanted to have the tuples in result in a map with their position as key (with a prefix) and the values in the tuple joined with a tab as separator, except the first entry (x).

Hello, Jython

The python engine provided by Hadoop is not the 'usual' native python, but the Java implementation Jython. We have to keep this in mind, especially when we are used to Python 3 (Jython is 'still' in version 2.5.3).

My first implementation is this:

def rankToMapAndConcatExceptFirst(prefix, b):
  o = {}
  for i in enumerate(b):
    o[prefix + str(i[0])] = '\t'.join(map(unicode, i[1][1:]))
  return o

Let's take a look at this step by step. The first line gives a hint to Pig what this function returns. This is important as it determines how subsequent commands can be applied. An overview over the syntax for different datatypes can be found on the documentation for Mortardocs on Writing Python UDFs.

The name of the function is long, but it describes well what is happening here. I think it is perfectly okay to write such short scripts that are specifically tailored to a use case even though they are not reusable. If I ever had to do something similar again I'd just reimplement it, probably in less time than refactoring the lazy approach.

By iterating over enumerate(b) we are getting a tuple of the index and the value in each iteration. We join the entries of the tuple of the current item (i[1]) starting from the second component (...[1:]) with a tab separator, after converting each one of them to a string. The results are then assigned to the prefix concatenated with the current index.

Please note that I'm not mapping with str here which was my first try. However, in the Big Data world nothing is as it seems at first glance, and I was most certainly getting unicode characters in the tuple (which Pig handles perfectly). By using unicode the problems disappear.

Register all the things!

Back in Pig we want to use this brand new UDF. To do this we first have to REGISTER the file with the following command:

REGISTER 'enumerate.py' USING jython AS e;

We can then later invoke it with

mapped = FOREACH topped
    GENERATE group, e.rankToMapAndConcatExceptFirst('prefix-', result);

and get the desired result.


If you are submitting the Pig script via Oozie you have to take care that the UDF is delivered with it. This can be achieved with a file tag such as:


Note that you can keep the UDF files in a separate directory, but Oozie will always deliver them to the current directory of your Pig job, so just require them as if they were always directly next to the Pig script.