Scheduling, Execution, and Memory Management


Datasets uses Ray core for execution, and hence is subject to the same scheduling considerations as normal Ray tasks and actors. Datasets uses the following custom scheduling settings by default for improved performance:

  • The SPREAD scheduling strategy is used to ensure data blocks are evenly balanced across the cluster.

  • Retries of application-level exceptions are enabled to handle transient errors from remote datasources.

  • Dataset tasks ignore placement groups by default, see Datasets and Placement Groups.

Datasets and Tune

When using Datasets in conjunction with Ray Tune, it is important to ensure there are enough free CPUs for Datasets to run on. By default, Tune will try to fully utilize cluster CPUs. This can prevent Datasets from scheduling tasks, reducing performance or causing workloads to hang.

As an example, the following shows two ways to use Datasets together with Tune:

By limiting the number of concurrent Tune trials, we ensure CPU resources are always available for Datasets execution. This can be done using the max_concurrent_trials Tune option.

import ray
from ray import tune

# This Dataset workload will use spare cluster resources for execution.
def objective(*args):

# Create a cluster with 4 CPU slots available.

# By setting `max_concurrent_trials=3`, this ensures the cluster will always
# have a sparse CPU for Datasets. Try setting `max_concurrent_trials=4` here,
# and notice that the experiment will appear to hang.
tuner = tune.Tuner(
    tune.with_resources(objective, {"cpu": 1}),

Alternatively, we can tell Tune to set aside CPU resources for other libraries. This can be done by setting _max_cpu_fraction_per_node=0.8, which reserves 20% of node CPUs for Dataset execution.

import ray
from ray import tune

# This Dataset workload will use reserved cluster resources for execution.
def objective(*args):

# Create a cluster with 4 CPU slots available.

# This runs smoothly since _max_cpu_fraction_per_node is set to 0.8, effectively
# reserving 1 CPU for Datasets task execution.
tuner = tune.Tuner(
    tune.with_resources(objective, tune.PlacementGroupFactory(
        [{"CPU": 1}],


This option is experimental and not currently recommended for use with autoscaling clusters (scale-up will not trigger properly).

Datasets and Placement Groups

By default, Datasets configures its tasks and actors to use the cluster-default scheduling strategy (“DEFAULT”). You can inspect this configuration variable here: This scheduling strategy will schedule these tasks and actors outside any present placement group. If you want to force Datasets to schedule tasks within the current placement group (i.e., to use current placement group resources specifically for Datasets), you can set = None.

This should be considered for advanced use cases to improve performance predictability only. We generally recommend letting Datasets run outside placement groups as documented in the Datasets and Other Libraries section.


This section covers Dataset execution modes and performance considerations.

Lazy Execution Mode

By default, most Datasets operations are eager, which provides a simpler iterative development experience. Datasets also has a lazy execution mode that can offer improved performance due to stage fusion optimizations.

Lazy execution mode can be enabled by calling ds = ds.lazy(), which returns a Dataset whose all subsequent operations will be lazy. These operations won’t be executed until the dataset is consumed or ds.fully_executed() is called to manually trigger execution.

Stage Fusion Optimization

In order to reduce memory usage and task overheads, Datasets will automatically fuse together lazy operations that are compatible:

  • Same compute pattern: embarrassingly parallel map vs. all-to-all shuffle

  • Same compute strategy: Ray tasks vs Ray actors

  • Same resource specification, e.g. num_cpus or num_gpus requests

Read stages and subsequent map-like transformations will usually be fused together. All-to-all transformations such as ds.random_shuffle() can be fused with earlier map-like stages, but not later stages.

You can tell if stage fusion is enabled by checking the Dataset stats and looking for fused stages (e.g., read->map_batches).

Stage N read->map_batches->shuffle_map: N/N blocks executed in T
* Remote wall time: T min, T max, T mean, T total
* Remote cpu time: T min, T max, T mean, T total
* Output num rows: N min, N max, N mean, N total

To avoid unnecessary data movement in the distributed setting, DatasetPipelines will always use lazy execution under the hood.

Memory Management

This section describes how Datasets manages execution and object store memory.

Execution Memory

During execution, a task can read multiple input blocks, and write multiple output blocks. Input and output blocks consume both worker heap memory and shared memory via Ray’s object store.

Datasets attempts to bound its heap memory usage to num_execution_slots * max_block_size. The number of execution slots is by default equal to the number of CPUs, unless custom resources are specified. The maximum block size is set by the configuration parameter and is set to 512MiB by default. When a task’s output is larger than this value, the worker will automatically split the output into multiple smaller blocks to avoid running out of heap memory.

Large block size can lead to potential out-of-memory situations. To avoid these issues, make sure no single item in your Datasets is too large, and always call ds.map_batches() with batch size small enough such that the output batch can comfortably fit into memory.

Object Store Memory

Datasets uses the Ray object store to store data blocks, which means it inherits the memory management features of the Ray object store. This section discusses the relevant features:

  • Object Spilling: Since Datasets uses the Ray object store to store data blocks, any blocks that can’t fit into object store memory are automatically spilled to disk. The objects are automatically reloaded when needed by downstream compute tasks:

  • Locality Scheduling: Ray will preferentially schedule compute tasks on nodes that already have a local copy of the object, reducing the need to transfer objects between nodes in the cluster.

  • Reference Counting: Dataset blocks are kept alive by object store reference counting as long as there is any Dataset that references them. To free memory, delete any Python references to the Dataset object.

Block Data Formats

In order to optimize conversion costs, Datasets can hold tabular data in-memory as either Arrow Tables or Pandas DataFrames.

Different ways of creating Datasets leads to a different starting internal format:

  • Reading tabular files (Parquet, CSV, JSON) creates Arrow blocks initially.

  • Converting from Pandas, Dask, Modin, and Mars creates Pandas blocks initially.

  • Reading NumPy files or converting from NumPy ndarrays creates Arrow blocks.

  • Reading TFRecord file creates Arrow blocks.

  • Reading MongoDB creates Arrow blocks.

However, this internal format is not exposed to the user. Datasets converts between formats as needed internally depending on the specified batch_format of transformations.