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From Reynold Xin <>
Subject Re: SparkR DataFrame Column Casts esp. from CSV Files
Date Wed, 03 Jun 2015 17:53:01 GMT
I think Hossein does want to implement schema inference for CSV -- then
it'd be easy.

Another way you can do this is to use R dataframe/table to read the CSV
files in, and then convert it into a Spark DataFrames. Not going to be
scalable, but could work.

On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 10:49 AM, Eskilson,Aleksander <> wrote:

>  Hi Shivaram,
>  As far as databricks’ spark-csv API shows, it seems there’s currently
> only support for explicit definition of column types. In JSON we have nice
> typed fields, but in CSVs, all bets are off. In the SQL version of the API,
> it appears you specify the column types when you create the table you’re
> populating with CSV data.
>  Thanks for the clarification on individual column casting, I was missing
> the more obvious syntax.
>  I’ll file a JIRA for resetting the schema after loading a DF.
>  Thanks,
> Alek
>   From: Shivaram Venkataraman <>
> Reply-To: "" <>
> Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 12:29 PM
> To: Aleksander Eskilson <>
> Cc: "" <>, ""
> <>
> Subject: Re: SparkR DataFrame Column Casts esp. from CSV Files
>   cc Hossein who knows more about the spark-csv options
>  You are right that the default CSV reader options end up creating all
> columns as string. I know that the JSON reader infers the schema [1] but I
> don't know if the CSV reader has any options to do that.  Regarding the
> SparkR syntax to cast columns, I think there is a simpler way to do it by
> just assigning to the same column name. For example I have a flights
> DataFrame with the `year` column typed as string. To cast it to int I just
> use
>  flights$year <- cast(flights$year, "int")
>  Now the dataframe has the same number of columns as before and you don't
> need a selection.
>  However this still doesn't address the part about casting multiple
> columns -- Could you file a new JIRA to track the need for casting multiple
> columns or rather being able to set the schema after loading a DF ?
>  Thanks
> Shivaram
>  [1]
> <>
> On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 7:51 AM, Eskilson,Aleksander <
>> wrote:
>>  It appears that casting columns remains a bit of a trick in Spark’s
>> DataFrames. This is an issue because tools like spark-csv will set column
>> types to String by default and will not attempt to infer types. Although
>> spark-csv supports specifying  types for columns in its options, it’s not
>> clear how that might be integrated into SparkR (when loading the spark-csv
>> package into the R session).
>>  Looking at the column.R spec we can cast a column to a different data
>> type with the cast function [1], but it’s notable that this is not a
>> mutator, and it returns a column object as opposed to a DataFrame. It
>> appears the column cast can only be ‘applied’ by using the withColumn() or
>> mutate() (an alias for withColumn).
>>  The other way to cast with Spark DataFrames is to write UDFs that
>> operate on a column value and return a coerced value. It looks like SparkR
>> doesn’t have UDFs just yet [2], but it seems like they’d be necessary to do
>> a natural one-off column cast in R, something like
>>  df.col1toInt <- withColumn(df, “intCol1”, udf(df$col1, function(x)
>> as.numeric(x)))
>>  (where col1 was originally ‘character’ type)
>>  Currently it seems one has to
>> df.col1cast <- cast(df$col1, “int”)
>> df.col1toInt <- withColumn(df, df.col1cast)
>>  If we wanted just our casted columns and not the original column from
>> the data frame, we’d still have to do a select. There was a conversation
>> about CSV files just yesterday. Types are already problematic, but they’re
>> a very common data source in R, even at scale.
>>  But only being able to coerce one column at a time is really unwieldy.
>> Can the current spark-csv SQL API for specifying types [3] be extended
>> SparkR? And are there any thoughts on implementing some kind of type
>> inferencing perhaps based on a sampling of some number of rows (an
>> implementation I’ve seen before)? R’s read.csv() and read.delim() get types
>> by inferring from the whole file. Getting something that can achieve that
>> functionality via explicit definition of types or sampling will probably be
>> necessary to work with CSV files that have enough columns to merit R at
>> Spark’s scale.
>>  Regards,
>> Alek Eskilson
>>  [1] -
>> <>
>> [2] -
>> <>
>> [3] -
>> <>
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