BigQuery Storage API: Get Started and Comparisons

BigQuery provides us with the Storage API for fast access using an rpc-based protocal. With this option you can receive the data in a binary serialized format. The alternative ways to retrieve BigQuery Data is through the Rest API and a Bulk export.

Retrieving data through the Rest API is great for small result sets. For example if a product of an aggregation is going to have limited amount of rows it makes sense to use the Rest API, retrieve the results and use them on an application like Grafana. However when it comes to big result sets retrieving results in json, serializing and storing them, has an extra overhead. Exporting in Binary formats help you avoid this overhead.

Bulk Data export is a good solution to export big result sets however you are limited to where the data are getting stored (Google Cloud Storage), and some daily limits on exports.

Thus the storage API combines the flexibility of using a rpc protocol, the efficiency of downloading big results sets in a binary format and the flexibility to choose where those data shall be stored.

The storage API provides two ways to stream Data, either through Avro or through Arrow.

When using the Storage API first step is to create a Session. The format (Avro/Arrow) should be specified. This session can have more than one Streams, max number of streams can be specified.
Streams will contain the data in the format specified and can be read in parallel. The session expires on its own with no need for handling.

If a Session request is successful then it shall contain the schema of the data and the streams to use to download the data.

For the following example we assume the table, that we read data from has two columns, col1 is a string and col2 is a number. An Arrow example of this schema can be found here.

In order to test the storage api you need an account on GCP with the BigQuery Storage API enabled and a dataset created.

Let’s continue to the Arrow example.