Joseph Turian Joseph Turian - 1 year ago 66
Python Question

Efficient Python array with 100 million zeros?

What is an efficient way to initialize and access elements of a large array in Python?

I want to create an array in Python with 100 million entries, unsigned 4-byte integers, initialized to zero. I want fast array access, preferably with contiguous memory.

Strangely, NumPy arrays seem to be performing very slow. Are there alternatives I can try?

There is the array.array module, but I don't see a method to efficiently allocate a block of 100 million entries.

Responses to comments:

  • I cannot use a sparse array. It will be too slow for this algorithm because the array becomes dense very quickly.

  • I know Python is interpreted, but surely there is a way to do fast array operations?

  • I did some profiling, and I get about 160K array accesses (looking up or updating an element by index) per second with NumPy. This seems very slow.

Answer Source

I have done some profiling, and the results are completely counterintuitive. For simple array access operations, numpy and array.array are 10x slower than native Python arrays.

Note that for array access, I am doing operations of the form:

a[i] += 1


  • [0] * 20000000

    • Access: 2.3M / sec
    • Initialization: 0.8s
  • numpy.zeros(shape=(20000000,), dtype=numpy.int32)

    • Access: 160K/sec
    • Initialization: 0.2s
  • array.array('L', [0] * 20000000)

    • Access: 175K/sec
    • Initialization: 2.0s
  • array.array('L', (0 for i in range(20000000)))

    • Access: 175K/sec, presumably, based upon the profile for the other array.array
    • Initialization: 6.7s