Comparison of cuDF and Pandas#

cuDF is a DataFrame library that closely matches the Pandas API, but it is not a full drop-in replacement for Pandas. There are some differences between cuDF and Pandas, both in terms of API and behaviour. This page documents the similarities and differences between cuDF and Pandas.

Supported operations#

cuDF supports many of the same data structures and operations as Pandas. This includes Series, DataFrame, Index and operations on them such as unary and binary operations, indexing, filtering, concatenating, joining, groupby and window operations - among many others.

The best way to check if we support a particular Pandas API is to search our API docs.

Data types#

cuDF supports many of the commonly-used data types in Pandas, including numeric, datetime, timestamp, string, and categorical data types. In addition, we support special data types for decimal, list, and “struct” values. See the section on Data Types for details.

Note that we do not support custom data types like Pandas’ ExtensionDtype.

Null (or “missing”) values#

Unlike Pandas, all data types in cuDF are nullable, meaning they can contain missing values (represented by cudf.NA).

>>> s = cudf.Series([1, 2, cudf.NA])
>>> s
0       1
1       2
2    <NA>
dtype: int64

Nulls are not coerced to NaN in any situation; compare the behavior of cuDF with Pandas below:

>>> s = cudf.Series([1, 2, cudf.NA], dtype="category")
>>> s
0       1
1       2
2    <NA>
dtype: category
Categories (2, int64): [1, 2]

>>> s = pd.Series([1, 2, pd.NA], dtype="category")
>>> s
0      1
1      2
2    NaN
dtype: category
Categories (2, int64): [1, 2]

See the docs on missing data for details.

Iteration#

Iterating over a cuDF Series, DataFrame or Index is not supported. This is because iterating over data that resides on the GPU will yield extremely poor performance, as GPUs are optimized for highly parallel operations rather than sequential operations.

In the vast majority of cases, it is possible to avoid iteration and use an existing function or method to accomplish the same task. If you absolutely must iterate, copy the data from GPU to CPU by using .to_arrow() or .to_pandas(), then copy the result back to GPU using .from_arrow() or .from_pandas().

Result ordering#

By default, join (or merge) and groupby operations in cuDF do not guarantee output ordering. Compare the results obtained from Pandas and cuDF below:

 >>> import cupy as cp
 >>> df = cudf.DataFrame({'a': cp.random.randint(0, 1000, 1000), 'b': range(1000)})
 >>> df.groupby("a").mean().head()
          b
 a
 742  694.5
 29   840.0
 459  525.5
 442  363.0
 666    7.0
 >>> df.to_pandas().groupby("a").mean().head()
          b
 a
 2   643.75
 6    48.00
 7   631.00
 9   906.00
 10  640.00

To match Pandas behavior, you must explicitly pass sort=True:

>>> df.to_pandas().groupby("a", sort=True).mean().head()
         b
a
2   643.75
6    48.00
7   631.00
9   906.00
10  640.00

Floating-point computation#

cuDF leverages GPUs to execute operations in parallel. This means the order of operations is not always deterministic. This impacts the determinism of floating-point operations because floating-point arithmetic is non-associative, that is, a + b is not equal to b + a.

For example, s.sum() is not guaranteed to produce identical results to Pandas nor produce identical results from run to run, when s is a Series of floats. If you need to compare floating point results, you should typically do so using the functions provided in the cudf.testing module, which allow you to compare values up to a desired precision.

Column names#

Unlike Pandas, cuDF does not support duplicate column names. It is best to use unique strings for column names.

No true "object" data type#

In Pandas and NumPy, the "object" data type is used for collections of arbitrary Python objects. For example, in Pandas you can do the following:

>>> import pandas as pd
>>> s = pd.Series(["a", 1, [1, 2, 3]])
0            a
1            1
2    [1, 2, 3]
dtype: object

For compatibilty with Pandas, cuDF reports the data type for strings as "object", but we do not support storing or operating on collections of arbitrary Python objects.

.apply() function limitations#

The .apply() function in Pandas accepts a user-defined function (UDF) that can include arbitrary operations that are applied to each value of a Series, DataFrame, or in the case of a groupby, each group. cuDF also supports .apply(), but it relies on Numba to JIT compile the UDF and execute it on the GPU. This can be extremely fast, but imposes a few limitations on what operations are allowed in the UDF. See the docs on UDFs for details.