Invoking R scripts via Oracle Database: Theme and Variation, Part 4

In the first three parts of Invoking R scripts via Oracle Database: Theme and Variation, we introduced features of Oracle R Enterprise embedded R execution involving the functions ore.doEval / rqEval, ore.tableApply / rqTableEval, and ore.groupApply / “rqGroupApply”. In this blog post, we’ll cover the next in our theme and variation series involving ore.rowApply and rqRowEval. The “row apply” function is also one of the parallel-enabled embedded R execution functions. It supports data-parallel execution, where one or more R engines perform the same R function, or task, on disjoint chunks of data. This functionality is essential to enable scalable model scoring/predictions on large data sets and for taking advantage of high-performance computing hardware like Exadata.

As for ore.groupApply, Oracle Database handles the management and control of potentially multiple R engines at the database server machine, automatically chunking and passing data to parallel executing R engines. Oracle Database ensures that R function executions for all chunks of rows complete, or the ORE function returns an error. The result from the execution of each user-defined embedded R function is gathered in an ore.list. This list remains in the database until the user requires the result. However, we’ll also show how data.frame results from each execution can be combined into a single ore.frame. This features works for return values of other embedded R functions as well.

The variation on embedded R execution for ore.rowApply involves passing not only an ore.frame to the function such that the first parameter of your embedded R function receives a data.frame, but also the number of rows that should be passed to each invocation of the user-defined R function. The last chunk, of course, may have fewer rows than specified.

Let’s look at an example. We’re going to use the C50 package to score churn data (i.e., predict which customers are likely to churn) using the C5.0 decision tree models we built in the previous blog post with ore.groupApply. (Well, almost. We need to rebuild the models to take into account the full data set levels.) The goal is to score the customers in parallel leveraging the power of a high performance computing platform, such as Exadata.


ore.create(churnTest, "CHURN_TEST")

myFunction <- function(dat, xlevels, datastorePrefix) {
  state <- dat[1,"state"]
  datastoreName <- paste(datastorePrefix,state,sep="_")
  dat$state <- NULL
  for (j in names(xlevels))
    dat[[j]] <- factor(dat[[j]], levels = xlevels[[j]])
  res <- data.frame(pred=predict(mod,dat, type="class"),

xlevels <- ore.getXlevels(~ ., CHURN_TEST[,-1])
scoreList <- ore.groupApply(
  datastorePrefix="myC5.0model3",xlevels=xlevels, ore.connect=TRUE)
score.MA <- ore.pull(scoreList$MA)
table(score.MA$actual, score.MA$pred)

A few points to highlight:

• Instead of computing the levels using the as.factor function inside the user-defined function, we’ll use ore.getXlevels, which returns the levels for each factor column. We don’t need this for the state column, so we exclude it (“-1”). In the previous post we noted that factor data is passed as character columns in the data.frame. Computing the levels first can ensure that all possible levels are provided during model building, even if there are no rows with some of the level values.
• When building models where some levels were missing (due to using as.factor on each partition of data), scoring can fail if the test data has unknown level values. For this reason, the models built in Part 3 need to be rebuilt using the approach above with ore.getXlevels. This is left as an exercise for the reader.
• Assign the function to the variable “myFunction” to facilitate reuse (see below).
• We construct the datastore name to be the same as when we were building the models, i.e., appending the state value to the datastore prefix separated by an ‘_’.
• The for loop iterates over the levels passed in as xlevels, creating a factor using the provided levels and assigning it back to the data.frame.
• Loading the datastore by name, we have access to the variable mod, which contains the model for the particular state.
• The result is constructed as a data.frame with the prediction and the actual values.
• Three arguments are passed: the datastore prefix, the levels that were pre-computed, and that we need to connect to the database because we’re using a datastore.
• The results are stored as a list of ore.frames. We can pull the scores for MA and compute a confusion matrix using table.

This is fine. However, we likely don’t want to have a list of separate ore.frames as the result. We’d prefer to have a single ore.frame with all the results. This can be accomplished using the FUN.VALUE argument. Whenever a data.frame is the result of the user-defined R function, and if the structure of that data.frame is the same across all invocations of the group apply or row apply, you can combine them into a single result by defining the structure as follows:

scores <- ore.groupApply(
  datastorePrefix="myC5.0model3",xlevels=xlevels, ore.connect=TRUE,
scores.local <- ore.pull(scores)

scores.MA <- scores[scores$state=="MA",c("actual","pred")]
table(scores.MA$actual, scores.MA$pred)

A few important points to highlight:

• FUN.VALUE is set to a data.frame that describes the format of the result. By providing this argument, you will get back a single ore.frame, not an ore.list object.
• The group apply completes instantaneously because it is only defining the ore.frame, not actually performing the scoring. Not until the values are needed does the result get computed. We invoke head on the ore.frame in scores to highlight this.
• We can pull the scores to the client to invoke table as before, but subselecting for state MA. However, we can also do this computation in the database using the transparency layer. First, we filter the rows for MA in scores.MA, and then invoke table on the two columns. Note: ORE requires passing the two columns explicitly to the overloaded function table.
• To do this in parallel, add the argument parallel=TRUE to the ore.groupApply call.

Wait! What happened to ore.rowApply?

Above, we showed how to score with multiple models using ore.groupApply. But what if we had customers from a single state that we wanted to score in parallel? We can use ore.rowApply and rqRowEval to invoke a function on chunks of data (rows) at a time, from 1 to the total number of rows. (Note that values closer to the latter will have no benefit from parallelism, obviously.)

scores <- ore.rowApply(
  ore.connect=TRUE, parallel=TRUE,
table(scores$actual, scores$pred)

A few points to highlight:

• Since we want to perform the scoring in parallel by state, we filter the rows for MA. This will ensure that all rows processed can use the same predictive model.
• We set the rows argument to 200. CHURN_TEST has 1667 rows, so this will result in nine executions of myFunction. The first eight receiving 200 rows each and the last receiving 67 rows.
• We also set parallel=TRUE above since we want the scoring performed in parallel.
• The invocation of ore.rowApply returns immediately. Not until we print scores do we incur the cost of executing the underlying query. However, also note that each time we access scores, for example in the following call to table, we incur the cost of executing the query. If the result will be used many times in subsequent operations, you may want to create a table with the result using ore.create.

In SQL, we can do the same, but we’ll need to store the function in the R script repository (perhaps called "myScoringFunction") and also store xlevels in a datastore (perhaps called "myXLevels"). While we can pass complex objects in the R interface to embedded R functions, we cannot do that in SQL. Instead, we must pass the name of a datastore. Since the xlevels are in a datastore, the user-defined R function needs to be modified to take this other datastore name and load that datastore to have access to xlevels. This set of changes is left to the reader as an exercise.

select * from table(rqRowEval(
  cursor(select /*+ parallel(t, 4) */ *
        from CHURN_TEST t
        where "state" = 'MA'),
  cursor(select 1 as "ore.connect",
        'myC5.0model3' as "datastorePrefix",
        'myXLevels' as "xlevelsDatastore"
        from dual),
  'select ''aaa'' "pred",''aaa'' "actual" , ''aa'' "state" from dual',
    200, 'myScoringFunction'));

A few points to highlight:

• The input cursor specifies a parallel hint on the input data cursor and filtering data for MA as well.
• Several arguments are being passed, including the new argument to our function myXLevels.
• The output form is specified in the SQL string. Care must be taken to ensure that the column names, ordering, and the length of character strings match the returned data.frame.

Map Reduce

The “row apply” functionality can be thought of in terms of the map-reduce paradigm where the mapper performs the scoring and outputs a data.frame value (no key required). There is no reducer, or the reducer is simply a pass-through.

Memory and performance considerations

Unlike with group apply, the rows argument in row apply ensures an upper bound on the number of rows (and hence memory requirement). The value of rows should be chosen to balance memory and parallel performance. The usual measures can be taken regarding setting memory limits on the R engine – as noted in Part 2.

There may be instances where setting rows = 1 makes sense. For example, if the computation per row is intensive (i.e., takes a long time), sending one row per R engine may be appropriate. Experiment with a range of values for rows to determine the best value for your particular scenario.


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