8 releases (4 breaking)

Uses old Rust 2015

0.6.0 Aug 10, 2018
0.5.0 Jul 30, 2017
0.4.2 Jul 7, 2017
0.4.1 Dec 2, 2016
0.2.0 Nov 29, 2016

#102 in Biology

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A fast parser for fastq.

This library can process fastq files at about the speed of the coreutils wc -l (about 2GB/s on my laptop, seqan runs at about 150MB/s). It also makes it easy to distribute the processing of fastq records to many cores, without losing much of the performance.

See the documentation for details and examples.


We compare this library with the fastq parser in rust-bio, the C++ library seqan 2.2.0, with kseq.h and with wc -l.

We test 4 scenarios:

  • A 2GB test file is uncompressed on a ramdisk. The program counts the number of records in the file.
  • The test file lz4 compressed on disk, with an empty page cache. Again, the program should just count the number of records.
  • The test file is lz4 compressed on disk with empty page cache, but the program sends records to a different thread. This thread counts the number of records.
  • The same as scenario 3, but with gzip compression.

All measurements are taken with a 2GB test file (TODO describe!) on a Haskwell i7-4510U @ 2GH. Each program is executed three times (clearing the os page cache where appropriate) and the best time is used. Libraries without native support for a compression algorithm get the input via a pipe from zcat or lz4 -d. The C and C++ programs are compiled with gcc 6.2.1 with the fags -O3 -march=native. All programs can be found in the examples directory of this repository.

ramdisk lz4 lz4 + thread gzip gzip + thread
wc -l 2.3GB/s 1.2GB/s NA 300MB/s NA
fastq 1.9GB/s 1.9GB/s 1.6GB/s 650MB/s 620MB/s
rust-bio 730MB/s NA 250MB/s NA NA
seqan 150MB/s NA NA NA NA
kseq.h 980MB/s 680MB/s NA NA NA

Some notes from checking perf record:

  • wc -l and fastq spend most of the time in memchr(), but in contrast to wc, fastq has to check that headers begin with @ and separator lines with + and do some more bookeeping. lz4 -d uses a large buffer size (default 4MB), which seems to prevent the operating system from running lz4 and wc concurrently when connected by a pipe. fastq avoids this problem with an internal queue.
  • rust-bio looses some time copying data and validating utf8. The large slowdown in the threaded version stems from the fact, that it sends each record to the other thread individually. Each send (I use a sync_channel from the rust stdlib) requires the use of synchronisation primitives, and three allocations for header, sequence and quality. Collecting records in a Vec and sending only after a large number of them is available speeds this up from 150MB/s to 250MB/s.
  • seqan is busy allocating stuff, and uses (I think) a naive implementation of memchr() to find line breaks.


~90K SLoC