Which Data Structure Is Used in Big Data?


Larry Thompson

Big data refers to the large and complex data sets that are difficult to process using traditional data processing techniques. To efficiently handle and analyze such massive amounts of data, it is essential to use appropriate data structures. In this article, we will explore the various data structures commonly used in big data applications.


An array is a collection of elements of the same type stored in contiguous memory locations. While arrays are widely used in traditional programming, they are not typically suitable for big data processing due to their fixed size. Big data often involves dynamic and rapidly growing datasets, making arrays less flexible for handling such scenarios.

Linked Lists

A linked list is a linear collection of nodes where each node contains a reference to the next node. Linked lists are more flexible than arrays because they can dynamically grow as new elements are added. However, linked lists suffer from slower access times compared to arrays since accessing an element requires traversing the list from the beginning.


Trees are hierarchical structures with a root node and child nodes connected by edges. In big data, tree-based structures like binary trees, B-trees, and AVL trees are commonly used for indexing and searching operations. These tree structures enable efficient searching and retrieval of large volumes of data.

Binary Trees

A binary tree is a tree structure where each node has at most two child nodes – left and right. Binary trees can be used for efficient sorting and searching operations on large datasets. For example, binary search trees (BST) provide fast lookup capabilities by organizing elements in a sorted order.


B-trees are self-balancing search trees that can handle large amounts of data efficiently. They have multiple keys per node and multiple child nodes, making them suitable for indexing in big data applications. B-trees are often used in database systems to store and retrieve large datasets efficiently.

AVL Trees

AVL trees are height-balanced binary search trees that maintain a balanced structure by performing rotations when necessary. These trees are useful for storing and searching large datasets with quick lookup times. AVL trees find application in various domains, including databases and file systems.


Hashing is a technique that maps data to a fixed-size array using a hash function. It enables fast retrieval of data by reducing the search space through indexing. Hashing is commonly used in big data applications for distributed storage systems, key-value stores, and efficient data lookups.


A graph is a collection of nodes (vertices) connected by edges. Graphs can represent complex relationships between data entities, making them suitable for analyzing interconnected big data sets. Graph databases and algorithms are extensively used to extract insights from large-scale networks, social media analysis, and recommendation systems.


In conclusion, several data structures play vital roles in handling big data efficiently. While arrays, linked lists, trees, hashing, and graphs all have their uses in different scenarios, the choice of data structure depends on the specific requirements of the big data application. By understanding these structures’ characteristics and capabilities, developers can design effective solutions for processing and analyzing massive volumes of information.

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