How to Pivot and Unpivot a Spark DataFrame

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  • Post category:Apache Spark

Spark pivot() function is used to pivot/rotate the data from one DataFrame/Dataset column into multiple columns (transform rows to columns) and unpivot is used to transform it back (transform columns to rows).

In this article, I will explain how to use pivot() SQL function to transpose one or multiple columns.

Pivot() is an aggregation where one of the grouping columns values transposed into individual columns with distinct data.

Let’s create a DataFrame to work with.

val data = Seq(("Banana",1000,"USA"), ("Carrots",1500,"USA"), ("Beans",1600,"USA"),

import spark.sqlContext.implicits._
val df = data.toDF("Product","Amount","Country")

DataFrame ‘df’ consists of 3 columns Product, Amount and Country as shown below.

| Banana|  1000|    USA|
|Carrots|  1500|    USA|
|  Beans|  1600|    USA|
| Orange|  2000|    USA|
| Orange|  2000|    USA|
| Banana|   400|  China|
|Carrots|  1200|  China|
|  Beans|  1500|  China|
| Orange|  4000|  China|
| Banana|  2000| Canada|
|Carrots|  2000| Canada|
|  Beans|  2000| Mexico|

Pivot Spark DataFrame

Spark SQL provides pivot() function to rotate the data from one column into multiple columns (transpose rows into columns). It is an aggregation where one of the grouping columns values transposed into individual columns with distinct data. From above DataFrame, to get the total amount exported to each country of each product will do group by Product, pivot by Country, and the sum of Amount.

val pivotDF = df.groupBy("Product").pivot("Country").sum("Amount")

This will transpose the countries from DataFrame rows into columns and produces below output. Where ever data is not present, it represents as null by default.

|Product|Canada|China|Mexico| USA|
| Orange|  null| 4000|  null|4000|
|  Beans|  null| 1500|  2000|1600|
| Banana|  2000|  400|  null|1000|
|Carrots|  2000| 1200|  null|1500|

Pivot Performance improvement in Spark 2.0

Spark 2.0 on-wards performance has been improved on Pivot, however, if you are using lower version; note that pivot is a very expensive operation hence, it is recommended to provide column data (if known) as an argument to function as shown below.

val countries = Seq("USA","China","Canada","Mexico")
val pivotDF = df.groupBy("Product").pivot("Country", countries).sum("Amount")

Another approach is to do two-phase aggregation. Spark 2.0 uses this implementation in order to improve the performance Spark-13749

val pivotDF = df.groupBy("Product","Country")

Above two examples returns the same output but with better performance.

Unpivot Spark DataFrame

Unpivot is a reverse operation, we can achieve by rotating column values into rows values. Spark SQL doesn’t have unpivot function hence will use the stack() function. Below code converts column countries to row.

val unPivotDF =$"Product",
expr("stack(3, 'Canada', Canada, 'China', China, 'Mexico', Mexico) as (Country,Total)"))
.where("Total is not null")

It converts pivoted column “country” to rows.

| Orange|  China| 4000|
|  Beans|  China| 1500|
|  Beans| Mexico| 2000|
| Banana| Canada| 2000|
| Banana|  China|  400|
|Carrots| Canada| 2000|
|Carrots|  China| 1200|

Transpose or Pivot without aggregation

Can we do Spark DataFrame transpose or pivot without aggregation?

off course you can, but unfortunately, you can’t achieve using Pivot function. However, pivoting or transposing DataFrame structure without aggregation from rows to columns and columns to rows can be easily done using Spark and Scala hack. please refer to this example.


We have seen how to Pivot DataFrame with scala example and Unpivot it back using SQL functions. And also have seen how Spark 2.0 changes have improved performance by doing two-phase aggregation.

The complete code can be downloaded from GitHub

Happy Learning !!

NNK is a BigData and Spark examples community page, all examples are simple and easy to understand and well tested in our development environment using Scala and Maven.

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