ApacheConEU - part 05

2012-11-14 20:47 More posts about hbase ApacheCon Apache Con Hadoop apacheconeu
The afternoon featured several talks on HBase - both it's implementation as well as schema optimisation. One major issue in schema design in the choice of key. Simplest recommendation is to make sure that keys are designed such that on reading data load will be evenly distributed accross all nodes to prevent region-server hot-spotting. General advise here are hashing or reversing urls.

When it comes to running your own HBase cluster make sure you know what is going on in the cluster at any point in time:

  • Hbase comes with tools for checking and fixing tables,
  • tools for inspecting hfiles that HBase stores data in,
  • commands for inspecting the binary write ahead log,
  • web interfaces for master and region servers,
  • offline meta data repair tooling.


When it comes to system monitoring make sure to track cluster behaviour over time e.g. by using Ganglia or OpenTSDB and configure your alerts accordingly.

One tip for high traffic sites - it might make sense to disable automatic splitting to avoid splits during peaks and rather postpone them to low traffic times. One rather new project presented to monitor region sizes was Hannibal.

At the end of his talk the speaker went into some more detail on problems encountered when rolling out HBase and lessons learnt:

  • the topic itself was new so both engineering and ops were learning.
  • at scale nothing that was tested on small scale works as advertised.
  • hardware issues will occur, tuning the configuration to your workload is crucial.
  • they used early versions - inevitably leading to stability issues.
  • it's crucial to know that something bad is building up before all systems start catching fire - monitoring and alerting the right thing is important. With Hadoop there are multiple levels to monitor: the hardware, os, jvm, Hadoop itself, HBase on top. It's important to correlate the metrics.
  • key- and schema design are key.
  • monitoring and knowledgable operations are important.
  • there are no emergency actions - in case of an emergency it just will take time to recover: Even if there is a backup, even just transferring the data back can take hours and days.
  • HBase (and Hadoop) is DevOps technology.
  • there is a huge learning curve to get to a state that makes using these systems easy.



In his talk on HBase schema design Lars George started out with an introduction to the HBase architecture. On the logical level it's best to think of HBase as a large distributed hash table - all data except for names are stored as byte arrays (with helpers to transform that data back into well known data types provided). The tables themselves are stored in a sparse format which means that null values essentially come for free.

On a more technical level the project uses zookeeper for master election, split tracking and state tracking. The architecture itself is based on log structured merge trees. All data initially ends up in the write ahead log - with data always being appended to the end this log can be written and ready very efficiently without any seek penalty. The data is inserted at the respected region server in memory (mem store, size of 64 MB typically) and synched to disk in regular intervals. In HBase all files are immutable - modifications are done only by writing new data and merging it in later. Deletes also happen by marking data as deleted instead of really deleting it. On a minor compaction the recently few files are being merged. On a major compaction all files are merged and deletes are being handled. Handling your own major compaction is possible as well.

In terms of performance lookup by key is the best you can do. If you do lookup by value this will result in a full-table scan. There is an option to give HBase a hint as to where to find the key when it is updated only infrequently - there is an option to provide a timestamp of roughly where to look for it. Also there are options to use Bloomfilters for better read performance. Another option is to move more data into the row key itself if that is the data you will be searching for very often. Make sure to de-normalize your data as HBase does not do any sophisticated joins, there will be duplication in your data as all should be pre-joined to get better performance. Have intelligent keys that make match your read/write patterns. Also make sure to keep your keys reasonably short as they are being repeated for each entry - so moving the whole data into the key isn't going to get you anything.

Speaking of read write patterns - as a general rule of thumb: to optimise for better write performance tune the memstore size. For better read performance tune the block cache size. One final hint: Anything below 8 servers really is just a test setup as it doesn't get you any real advantages.