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Pytorch Extension for BigTable

Project description

Pytorch Bigtable Extension

This is a Pytorch Extension used to connect to Google Cloud Bigtable.


  • Installation
  • Credentials
  • Quickstart
  • Parallel read
  • Specifying a version of a value
  • Specifying a version of a value
  • Writing to Bigtable
  • Building it locally
  • Byte representation
  • Example


Make sure you have torch installed. Then just use pip to install the latest version

pip install -i pytorch-bigtable


Right now only the default credentials are supported. To connect to Bigtable you need to set the environment variable GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS. Replace [PATH] with the file path of the JSON file that contains your service account key.

import os


Note: If you're using the emulator, remmember to set the BIGTABLE_EMULATOR_HOST environment variable as described here.


First you need to create a client and a table you would like to read from.

import torch
import pytorch_bigtable as pbt
import random

# replace the project_id, instance_id and the name of the table with suitable values.
client = pbt.BigtableClient(project_id="test-project", instance_id="test-instance")
train_table = client.get_table("train")

Now we will write some data into Bigtable. To do that, we create a tensor data_tensor. We provide a list of column names in format column_family:column_name and a list of rowkeys.

data_tensor = torch.Tensor(list(range(40))).reshape(20, 2)
random_row_keys = ["row" + str(random.randint(0, 999)).rjust(3, "0") for _ in range(20)]
train_table.write_tensor(data_tensor, ["cf1:col1", "cf1:col2"], random_row_keys)

Great! Now we can create a pytorch dataset that will read the data from our table. To do that, you have to provide the type of the data you wish to read, list of column names in format column_family:column_name, and a row_set that you would like to read.

Keep in mind that that bigtable reads values in lexicographical order, not the order they were put in. We gave them random row-keys so they will be shuffled.

row_set = pbt.row_set.from_rows_or_ranges(pbt.row_range.infinite())

train_dataset = train_table.read_rows(torch.float32, ["cf1:col1", "cf1:col2"], row_set)

for tensor in train_dataset:

That's it! Congrats! You can also explore our example of training a fraud-detection model on data from Bigtable in

Parallel read

Our dataset supports reading in parallel from Bigtable. To do that, create a pytorch DataLoader and set num_workers to a number higher than one. When a Bigtable table instance is created, a list of tablets is fetched from bigquery. When pytorch's dataloader spawns workers, each worker computes it's share of work based on the tablets in the table and starts reading from their share of tablets.

Batching is also supported. You have to set the batch_size when constructing the data_loader as you would normally do with any other dataset.

Note: Keep in mind that when reading in parallel, the rows are not guaranteed to be read in any particular order.

train_loader =, num_workers=5, batch_size=10)
for tensor in train_loader:

Reading specific row_keys

To read the data from Bigtable, you can specify a set of rows or a range or a combination of those. We partly expose the C++ Bigtable Client api for that purpose.

pytorch_bigtable.BigtableTable.read_rows method expects you to provide a row_set. You can construct a row_set from row_keys or row_ranges as follows:

row_range_below_300 = pbt.row_range.right_open("row000", "row300")

my_row_set = pbt.row_set.from_rows_or_ranges(row_range_below_300, "row585", "row832")

such row_set would contain a range of rows [row000, row300) and rows row585 and row832.

you can also create a row_set from an infinite range, empty range or a prefix. You can also intersect it with a row_range.

my_truncated_row_set = pbt.row_set.intersect(my_row_set, pbt.row_range.right_open("row200", "row700"))

Specifying a version of a value

Bigtable lets you keep many values in one cell with different timestamps. You can specify which version you want to pick using version filters. However, you can only retrieve a two dimensional vector using pytorch_bigtable connector, so latest filter is always appended to the user specified version filter. Meaning, if more than one value for one cell goes through the provided filter, the newer shall be used.

You can either use the latest filter passing the newest value, or you can specify a time range. The time range can be provided either as python datetime objects or a number representing seconds or microseconds since epoch.

import pytorch_bigtable.version_filters as version_filters
from datetime import datetime, timezone

start = datetime(2020, 10, 10, 12, 0, 0, tzinfo=timezone.utc)
end = datetime(2100, 10, 10, 13, 0, 0, tzinfo=timezone.utc)
from_datetime = version_filters.timestamp_range(start, end)
from_posix_timestamp = version_filters.timestamp_range(int(start.timestamp()), int(end.timestamp()))

Writing to Bigtable

To put data in Bigtable, you can use the write_tensor method. You have to provide row_keys for the data you're writing. To do that, you can either pass a list of strings, or a callback i.e. a python function that will be called to generate a row_key for each row with two arguments:

  • a tensor representing a row that is currently being written of shape [1,n] where n is a number of columns
  • an index of the current row

You can use that callback to avoid creating a very large list of row_keys. Remember that putting consecutive rows in Bigtable is an anti-pattern and you should avoid that. Easiest option would be to provide a callback generating random row_keys for each row.

Note This is by no means optimal or efficient way of sending the data to Bigtable. If you're looking for uploading large quantities of data to Bigtable efficiently, please consider using BT client libraries which are designated for that.

def row_callback(tensor, index):
  return "row" + str(random.randint(1000, 9999)).rjust(4, "0")

table.write_tensor(data_tensor, ["cf1:col1", "cf1:col2"], row_callback)

Byte representation

Because the byte representation of variables differ depending on the architecture of the machine the code is run on, we are using the xdr library to convert the values to bytes. XDR is a part of rpc library.


We provide a simple end-to-end example consisting of two files: plugin/example/ and plugin/example/

It is used to generate credit-card transactions data as described in Fraud-Detection-Handbook. First some transactions are generated and stored in memory as a whole. Then they are split to two datasets - train and test and uploaded to Bigtable.

You have to specify the project and instance, the name of train and test table as well as column family which should be used for all the columns as script arguments.

If you wish to use the emulator, provide the emulator address and port as an argument as well.

command to seed the database:

python3 \
  --project_id test-project \
  --instance_id test-instance \
  --train_set_table train \
  --test_set_table test \
  -e "" \
  -f cf1

It trains a simple fully-connected neural network for fraud detection based on data taken straight from bigtable. Keep in mind that the dataset is synthetic and the purpose of this example is to showcase the bigtable dataset and not fraud-detection algorithm.

The network is first evaluated on the data from the test table, then the network is trained and evaluated again to verify that there was in fact some improvement.

command to run the example:

python3  \
--project_id test-project \
--instance_id test-instance \
--train_set_table train \
--test_set_table test \
-e "" \
-f cf1

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