Optimizing Hive queries

Tips for efficient Hive queries

Hive on Hadoop is a great data processing tool which is easy to use given its SQL-like syntax. Some tips to optimize Hive queries are described in this article.

Typically there are 3 areas where you can optimize you Hive queries:

  • data layout (partitions, buckets)
  • data sampling
  • data processing (map join, parallel execution)

Data layout tips

Partitioning Hive tables

The idea is to partition the data based on some dimension that is often used in queries in the where statement (ex: select * from user_table where region = 'Europe'. Note that it is also possible to partition data based on several dimensions. Partitioning the data largely reduces the number of read data, and so reduces the number of mappers, I/O operations and time to answer the query.
To partition a table one can just use the following statement

CREATE TABLE user_table

Be careful: do not partition if the cardinality (number of unique values) of the column is too high which would results in too many partitions, especially if there is a high risk that the column used for partitioning will not be used as filter in all queries. Concretely, there is a directory per partition and then subdirectories for subpartitions (if you use more than 1 column for partitioning), creating a huge overhead if you need to parse all these directories and files. Moreover, HDFS uses large block size of typically 64 MB or more, which means that each file, even with a few bytes of data, will have to allocate that block size on HDFS, potentially resulting in a waste of disk space.

Bucketing Hive tables

Bucketing is useful if there is a column that is frequently used for join operations. To create buckets (it is just a way to hash data and store it by hash results):

CREATE TABLE user_table

and to add data from another existing table

set hive.enforce.bucketing=true;
FROM ...

Then to make sure you only join the relevant data

set hive.optimize.bucketmapjoin=true
SELECT /*+MAPJOIN*/a.*,b.*
FROM user_table a JOIN country_attributes b
ON a.country = b.country


Bucket sampling

In the exploration phase of the data, one may want to address only part of the data. Sampling may be complicated if you need to join tables because if you select data randomly from 2 tables, what results from the join statement may be empty. That is another case where the bucketing explained above is great.

SELECT a.*, b.*
FROM user_table (bucket 30 out of 64 on country) a,
     country_attributes TABLESAMPLE(bucket 30 out of 64 on country) b
WHERE a.country = b.country

Block or random sampling

If you need to sample data from 1 table in a random way, one can use the following


Parallel processing

The idea is to parallelize stages that are sequentially done by Hive by default. This is particularly interesting when you have such queries

    SELECT ...
    FROM ...
) a
    SELECT ...
    FROM ...
) b
( a.country = b.country)
GROUP BY a.postcode

We have the following sequential steps:

  • Stage 1: a table
  • Stage 2: b table
  • Stage 3: join

With the option set hive.exec.parallel=true;, stage 1 and stage 2 are done in parallel and stage 3 afterwards.

Written by Jean-Baptiste Poullet

Data analyst – consultant – freelancer
Expert in Bigdata
Founder of RBelgium – R community in Belgium
Owner of the company Stat’Rgy
Contact me at jeanbaptistepoullet@statrgy.com

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