9.7. Regions

Regions are the basic element of availability and distribution for tables, and are comprised of a Store per Column Family. The heirarchy of objects is as follows:

Table       (HBase table)
    Region       (Regions for the table)
         Store          (Store per ColumnFamily for each Region for the table)
              MemStore           (MemStore for each Store for each Region for the table)
              StoreFile          (StoreFiles for each Store for each Region for the table)
                    Block             (Blocks within a StoreFile within a Store for each Region for the table)

For a description of what HBase files look like when written to HDFS, see Section 15.7.2, “Browsing HDFS for HBase Objects”.

9.7.1. Considerations for Number of Regions

In general, HBase is designed to run with a small (20-200) number of relatively large (5-20Gb) regions per server. The considerations for this are as follows: Why cannot I have too many regions?

Typically you want to keep your region count low on HBase for numerous reasons. Usually right around 100 regions per RegionServer has yielded the best results. Here are some of the reasons below for keeping region count low:

  1. MSLAB requires 2mb per memstore (that's 2mb per family per region). 1000 regions that have 2 families each is 3.9GB of heap used, and it's not even storing data yet. NB: the 2MB value is configurable.

  2. If you fill all the regions at somewhat the same rate, the global memory usage makes it that it forces tiny flushes when you have too many regions which in turn generates compactions. Rewriting the same data tens of times is the last thing you want. An example is filling 1000 regions (with one family) equally and let's consider a lower bound for global memstore usage of 5GB (the region server would have a big heap). Once it reaches 5GB it will force flush the biggest region, at that point they should almost all have about 5MB of data so it would flush that amount. 5MB inserted later, it would flush another region that will now have a bit over 5MB of data, and so on. This is currently the main limiting factor for the number of regions; see Section, “Number of regions per RS - upper bound” for detailed formula.

  3. The master as is is allergic to tons of regions, and will take a lot of time assigning them and moving them around in batches. The reason is that it's heavy on ZK usage, and it's not very async at the moment (could really be improved -- and has been imporoved a bunch in 0.96 hbase).

  4. In older versions of HBase (pre-v2 hfile, 0.90 and previous), tons of regions on a few RS can cause the store file index to rise, increasing heap usage and potentially creating memory pressure or OOME on the RSs

Another issue is the effect of the number of regions on mapreduce jobs; it is typical to have one mapper per HBase region. Thus, hosting only 5 regions per RS may not be enough to get sufficient number of tasks for a mapreduce job, while 1000 regions will generate far too many tasks.

See Section 17.9.2, “Determining region count and size” for configuration guidelines.

9.7.2. Region-RegionServer Assignment

This section describes how Regions are assigned to RegionServers. Startup

When HBase starts regions are assigned as follows (short version):

  1. The Master invokes the AssignmentManager upon startup.

  2. The AssignmentManager looks at the existing region assignments in META.

  3. If the region assignment is still valid (i.e., if the RegionServer is still online) then the assignment is kept.

  4. If the assignment is invalid, then the LoadBalancerFactory is invoked to assign the region. The DefaultLoadBalancer will randomly assign the region to a RegionServer.

  5. META is updated with the RegionServer assignment (if needed) and the RegionServer start codes (start time of the RegionServer process) upon region opening by the RegionServer. Failover

When a RegionServer fails:

  1. The regions immediately become unavailable because the RegionServer is down.

  2. The Master will detect that the RegionServer has failed.

  3. The region assignments will be considered invalid and will be re-assigned just like the startup sequence.

  4. In-flight queries are re-tried, and not lost.

  5. Operations are switched to a new RegionServer within the following amount of time:

    ZooKeeper session timeout + split time + assignment/replay time Region Load Balancing

Regions can be periodically moved by the Section, “LoadBalancer”.

9.7.3. Region-RegionServer Locality

Over time, Region-RegionServer locality is achieved via HDFS block replication. The HDFS client does the following by default when choosing locations to write replicas:

  1. First replica is written to local node

  2. Second replica is written to a random node on another rack

  3. Third replica is written on the same rack as the second, but on a different node chosen randomly

  4. Subsequent replicas are written on random nodes on the cluster [21]

Thus, HBase eventually achieves locality for a region after a flush or a compaction. In a RegionServer failover situation a RegionServer may be assigned regions with non-local StoreFiles (because none of the replicas are local), however as new data is written in the region, or the table is compacted and StoreFiles are re-written, they will become "local" to the RegionServer.

For more information, see Replica Placement: The First Baby Steps on this page: HDFS Architecture and also Lars George's blog on HBase and HDFS locality.

9.7.4. Region Splits

Regions split when they reach a configured threshold. Below we treat the topic in short. For a longer exposition, see Apache HBase Region Splitting and Merging by our Enis Soztutar.

Splits run unaided on the RegionServer; i.e. the Master does not participate. The RegionServer splits a region, offlines the split region and then adds the daughter regions to META, opens daughters on the parent's hosting RegionServer and then reports the split to the Master. See Section, “Managed Splitting” for how to manually manage splits (and for why you might do this) Custom Split Policies

The default split policy can be overwritten using a custom RegionSplitPolicy (HBase 0.94+). Typically a custom split policy should extend HBase's default split policy: ConstantSizeRegionSplitPolicy.

The policy can set globally through the HBaseConfiguration used or on a per table basis:

HTableDescriptor myHtd = ...;
myHtd.setValue(HTableDescriptor.SPLIT_POLICY, MyCustomSplitPolicy.class.getName());

9.7.5. Online Region Merges

Both Master and Regionserver participate in the event of online region merges. Client sends merge RPC to master, then master moves the regions together to the same regionserver where the more heavily loaded region resided, finally master send merge request to this regionserver and regionserver run the region merges. Similar with process of region splits, region merges run as a local transaction on the regionserver, offlines the regions and then merges two regions on the file system, atomically delete merging regions from META and add merged region to the META, opens merged region on the regionserver and reports the merge to Master at last.

An example of region merges in the hbase shell

          hbase> merge_region 'ENCODED_REGIONNAME', 'ENCODED_REGIONNAME', true

It's an asynchronous operation and call returns immediately without waiting merge completed. Passing 'true' as the optional third parameter will force a merge ('force' merges regardless else merge will fail unless passed adjacent regions. 'force' is for expert use only)

9.7.6. Store

A Store hosts a MemStore and 0 or more StoreFiles (HFiles). A Store corresponds to a column family for a table for a given region. MemStore

The MemStore holds in-memory modifications to the Store. Modifications are Cells/KeyValues. When a flush is requested, the current memstore is moved to a snapshot and is cleared. HBase continues to serve edits from the new memstore and backing snapshot until the flusher reports that the flush succeeded. At this point, the snapshot is discarded. Note that when the flush happens, Memstores that belong to the same region will all be flushed. MemStoreFlush

A MemStore flush can be triggered under any of the conditions listed below. The minimum flush unit is per region, not at individual MemStore level.

  1. When a MemStore reaches the value specified by hbase.hregion.memstore.flush.size, all MemStores that belong to its region will be flushed out to disk.

  2. When overall memstore usage reaches the value specified by hbase.regionserver.global.memstore.upperLimit, MemStores from various regions will be flushed out to disk to reduce overall MemStore usage in a Region Server. The flush order is based on the descending order of a region's MemStore usage. Regions will have their MemStores flushed until the overall MemStore usage drops to or slightly below hbase.regionserver.global.memstore.lowerLimit.

  3. When the number of HLog per region server reaches the value specified in hbase.regionserver.max.logs, MemStores from various regions will be flushed out to disk to reduce HLog count. The flush order is based on time. Regions with the oldest MemStores are flushed first until HLog count drops below hbase.regionserver.max.logs. Scans

  • When a client issues a scan against a table, HBase generates RegionScanner objects, one per region, to serve the scan request.

  • The RegionScanner object contains a list of StoreScanner objects, one per column family.

  • Each StoreScanner object further contains a list of StoreFileScanner objects, corresponding to each StoreFile and HFile of the corresponding column family, and a list of KeyValueScanner objects for the MemStore.

  • The two lists are merge into one, which is sorted in ascending order with the scan object for the MemStore at the end of the list.

  • When a StoreFileScanner object is constructed, it is associated with a MultiVersionConsistencyControl read point, which is the current memstoreTS, filtering out any new updates beyond the read point. StoreFile (HFile)

StoreFiles are where your data lives. HFile Format

The hfile file format is based on the SSTable file described in the BigTable [2006] paper and on Hadoop's tfile (The unit test suite and the compression harness were taken directly from tfile). Schubert Zhang's blog post on HFile: A Block-Indexed File Format to Store Sorted Key-Value Pairs makes for a thorough introduction to HBase's hfile. Matteo Bertozzi has also put up a helpful description, HBase I/O: HFile.

For more information, see the HFile source code. Also see Section F.2, “ HBase file format with inline blocks (version 2) ” for information about the HFile v2 format that was included in 0.92. HFile Tool

To view a textualized version of hfile content, you can do use the org.apache.hadoop.hbase.io.hfile.HFile tool. Type the following to see usage:

$ ${HBASE_HOME}/bin/hbase org.apache.hadoop.hbase.io.hfile.HFile  

For example, to view the content of the file hdfs://, type the following:

 $ ${HBASE_HOME}/bin/hbase org.apache.hadoop.hbase.io.hfile.HFile -v -f hdfs://  

If you leave off the option -v to see just a summary on the hfile. See usage for other things to do with the HFile tool. StoreFile Directory Structure on HDFS

For more information of what StoreFiles look like on HDFS with respect to the directory structure, see Section 15.7.2, “Browsing HDFS for HBase Objects”. Blocks

StoreFiles are composed of blocks. The blocksize is configured on a per-ColumnFamily basis.

Compression happens at the block level within StoreFiles. For more information on compression, see Appendix D, Compression and Data Block Encoding In HBase.

For more information on blocks, see the HFileBlock source code. KeyValue

The KeyValue class is the heart of data storage in HBase. KeyValue wraps a byte array and takes offsets and lengths into passed array at where to start interpreting the content as KeyValue.

The KeyValue format inside a byte array is:

  • keylength

  • valuelength

  • key

  • value

The Key is further decomposed as:

  • rowlength

  • row (i.e., the rowkey)

  • columnfamilylength

  • columnfamily

  • columnqualifier

  • timestamp

  • keytype (e.g., Put, Delete, DeleteColumn, DeleteFamily)

KeyValue instances are not split across blocks. For example, if there is an 8 MB KeyValue, even if the block-size is 64kb this KeyValue will be read in as a coherent block. For more information, see the KeyValue source code. Example

To emphasize the points above, examine what happens with two Puts for two different columns for the same row:

  • Put #1: rowkey=row1, cf:attr1=value1

  • Put #2: rowkey=row1, cf:attr2=value2

Even though these are for the same row, a KeyValue is created for each column:

Key portion for Put #1:

  • rowlength ------------> 4

  • row -----------------> row1

  • columnfamilylength ---> 2

  • columnfamily --------> cf

  • columnqualifier ------> attr1

  • timestamp -----------> server time of Put

  • keytype -------------> Put

Key portion for Put #2:

  • rowlength ------------> 4

  • row -----------------> row1

  • columnfamilylength ---> 2

  • columnfamily --------> cf

  • columnqualifier ------> attr2

  • timestamp -----------> server time of Put

  • keytype -------------> Put

It is critical to understand that the rowkey, ColumnFamily, and column (aka columnqualifier) are embedded within the KeyValue instance. The longer these identifiers are, the bigger the KeyValue is. Compaction

Ambiguous Terminology

  • A StoreFile is a facade of HFile. In terms of compaction, use of StoreFile seems to have prevailed in the past.

  • A Store is the same thing as a ColumnFamily. StoreFiles are related to a Store, or ColumnFamily.

  • If you want to read more about StoreFiles versus HFiles and Stores versus ColumnFamilies, see HBASE-11316.

When the MemStore reaches a given size (hbase.hregion.memstore.flush.size), it flushes its contents to a StoreFile. The number of StoreFiles in a Store increases over time. Compaction is an operation which reduces the number of StoreFiles in a Store, by merging them together, in order to increase performance on read operations. Compactions can be resource-intensive to perform, and can either help or hinder performance depending on many factors.

Compactions fall into two categories: minor and major. Minor and major compactions differ in the following ways.

Minor compactions usually select a small number of small, adjacent StoreFiles and rewrite them as a single StoreFile. Minor compactions do not drop (filter out) deletes or expired versions, because of potential side effects. See Compaction and Deletions and Compaction and Versions for information on how deletes and versions are handled in relation to compactions. The end result of a minor compaction is fewer, larger StoreFiles for a given Store.

The end result of a major compaction is a single StoreFile per Store. Major compactions also process delete markers and max versions. See Compaction and Deletions and Compaction and Versions for information on how deletes and versions are handled in relation to compactions.

Compaction and Deletions.  When an explicit deletion occurs in HBase, the data is not actually deleted. Instead, a tombstone marker is written. The tombstone marker prevents the data from being returned with queries. During a major compaction, the data is actually deleted, and the tombstone marker is removed from the StoreFile. If the deletion happens because of an expired TTL, no tombstone is created. Instead, the expired data is filtered out and is not written back to the compacted StoreFile.

Compaction and Versions.  When you create a Column Family, you can specify the maximum number of versions to keep, by specifying HColumnDescriptor.setMaxVersions(int versions). The default value is 3. If more versions than the specified maximum exist, the excess versions are filtered out and not written back to the compacted StoreFile.

Major Compactions Can Impact Query Results

In some situations, older versions can be inadvertently resurrected if a newer version is explicitly deleted. See Section, “Major compactions change query results” for a more in-depth explanation. This situation is only possible before the compaction finishes.

In theory, major compactions improve performance. However, on a highly loaded system, major compactions can require an inappropriate number of resources and adversely affect performance. In a default configuration, major compactions are scheduled automatically to run once in a 7-day period. This is sometimes inappropriate for systems in production. You can manage major compactions manually. See Section, “Managed Compactions”.

Compactions do not perform region merges. See Section 17.2.2, “Merge” for more information on region merging. Compaction Policy - HBase 0.96.x and newer

Compacting large StoreFiles, or too many StoreFiles at once, can cause more IO load than your cluster is able to handle without causing performance problems. The method by which HBase selects which StoreFiles to include in a compaction (and whether the compaction is a minor or major compaction) is called the compaction policy.

Prior to HBase 0.96.x, there was only one compaction policy. That original compaction policy is still available as RatioBasedCompactionPolicy The new compaction default policy, called ExploringCompactionPolicy, was subsequently backported to HBase 0.94 and HBase 0.95, and is the default in HBase 0.96 and newer. It was implemented in HBASE-7842. In short, ExploringCompactionPolicy attempts to select the best possible set of StoreFiles to compact with the least amount of work, while the RatioBasedCompactionPolicy selects the first set that meets the criteria.

Regardless of the compaction policy used, file selection is controlled by several configurable parameters and happens in a multi-step approach. These parameters will be explained in context, and then will be given in a table which shows their descriptions, defaults, and implications of changing them. Being Stuck

When the MemStore gets too large, it needs to flush its contents to a StoreFile. However, a Store can only have hbase.hstore.blockingStoreFiles files, so the MemStore needs to wait for the number of StoreFiles to be reduced by one or more compactions. However, if the MemStore grows larger than hbase.hregion.memstore.flush.size, it is not able to flush its contents to a StoreFile. If the MemStore is too large and the number of StpreFo;es is also too high, the algorithm is said to be "stuck". The compaction algorithm checks for this "stuck" situation and provides mechanisms to alleviate it. The ExploringCompactionPolicy Algorithm

The ExploringCompactionPolicy algorithm considers each possible set of adjacent StoreFiles before choosing the set where compaction will have the most benefit.

One situation where the ExploringCompactionPolicy works especially well is when you are bulk-loading data and the bulk loads create larger StoreFiles than the StoreFiles which are holding data older than the bulk-loaded data. This can "trick" HBase into choosing to perform a major compaction each time a compaction is needed, and cause a lot of extra overhead. With the ExploringCompactionPolicy, major compactions happen much less frequently because minor compactions are more efficient.

In general, ExploringCompactionPolicy is the right choice for most situations, and thus is the default compaction policy. You can also use ExploringCompactionPolicy along with Section, “Experimental: Stripe Compactions”.

The logic of this policy can be examined in hbase-server/src/main/java/org/apache/hadoop/hbase/regionserver/compactions/ExploringCompactionPolicy.java. The following is a walk-through of the logic of the ExploringCompactionPolicy.

  1. Make a list of all existing StoreFiles in the Store. The rest of the algorithm filters this list to come up with the subset of HFiles which will be chosen for compaction.

  2. If this was a user-requested compaction, attempt to perform the requested compaction type, regardless of what would normally be chosen. Note that even if the user requests a major compaction, it may not be possible to perform a major compaction. This may be because not all StoreFiles in the Column Family are available to compact or because there are too many Stores in the Column Family.

  3. Some StoreFiles are automatically excluded from consideration. These include:

    • StoreFiles that are larger than hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size

    • StoreFiles that were created by a bulk-load operation which explicitly excluded compaction. You may decide to exclude StoreFiles resulting from bulk loads, from compaction. To do this, specify the hbase.mapreduce.hfileoutputformat.compaction.exclude parameter during the bulk load operation.

  4. Iterate through the list from step 1, and make a list of all potential sets of StoreFiles to compact together. A potential set is a grouping of hbase.hstore.compaction.min contiguous StoreFiles in the list. For each set, perform some sanity-checking and figure out whether this is the best compaction that could be done:

    • If the number of StoreFiles in this set (not the size of the StoreFiles) is fewer than hbase.hstore.compaction.min or more than hbase.hstore.compaction.max, take it out of consideration.

    • Compare the size of this set of StoreFiles with the size of the smallest possible compaction that has been found in the list so far. If the size of this set of StoreFiles represents the smallest compaction that could be done, store it to be used as a fall-back if the algorithm is "stuck" and no StoreFiles would otherwise be chosen. See Section, “Being Stuck”.

    • Do size-based sanity checks against each StoreFile in this set of StoreFiles.

      • If the size of this StoreFile is larger than hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size, take it out of consideration.

      • If the size is greater than or equal to hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size, sanity-check it against the file-based ratio to see whether it is too large to be considered. The sanity-checking is successful if:

        • There is only one StoreFile in this set, or

        • For each StoreFile, its size multiplied by hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio (or hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio.offpeak if off-peak hours are configured and it is during off-peak hours) is less than the sum of the sizes of the other HFiles in the set.

  5. If this set of StoreFiles is still in consideration, compare it to the previously-selected best compaction. If it is better, replace the previously-selected best compaction with this one.

  6. When the entire list of potential compactions has been processed, perform the best compaction that was found. If no StoreFiles were selected for compaction, but there are multiple StoreFiles, assume the algorithm is stuck (see Section, “Being Stuck”) and if so, perform the smallest compaction that was found in step 3. RatioBasedCompactionPolicy Algorithm

The RatioBasedCompactionPolicy was the only compaction policy prior to HBase 0.96, though ExploringCompactionPolicy has now been backported to HBase 0.94 and 0.95. To use the RatioBasedCompactionPolicy rather than the ExploringCompactionPolicy, set hbase.hstore.defaultengine.compactionpolicy.class to RatioBasedCompactionPolicy in the hbase-site.xml file. To switch back to the ExploringCompactionPolicy, remove the setting from the hbase-site.xml.

The following section walks you through the algorithm used to select StoreFiles for compaction in the RatioBasedCompactionPolicy.

  1. The first phase is to create a list of all candidates for compaction. A list is created of all StoreFiles not already in the compaction queue, and all StoreFiles newer than the newest file that is currently being compacted. This list of StoreFiles is ordered by the sequence ID. The sequence ID is generated when a Put is appended to the write-ahead log (WAL), and is stored in the metadata of the HFile.

  2. Check to see if the algorithm is stuck (see Section, “Being Stuck”, and if so, a major compaction is forced. This is a key area where Section, “The ExploringCompactionPolicy Algorithm” is often a better choice than the RatioBasedCompactionPolicy.

  3. If the compaction was user-requested, try to perform the type of compaction that was requested. Note that a major compaction may not be possible if all HFiles are not available for compaction or if too may StoreFiles exist (more than hbase.hstore.compaction.max).

  4. Some StoreFiles are automatically excluded from consideration. These include:

    • StoreFiles that are larger than hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size

    • StoreFiles that were created by a bulk-load operation which explicitly excluded compaction. You may decide to exclude StoreFiles resulting from bulk loads, from compaction. To do this, specify the hbase.mapreduce.hfileoutputformat.compaction.exclude parameter during the bulk load operation.

  5. The maximum number of StoreFiles allowed in a major compaction is controlled by the hbase.hstore.compaction.max parameter. If the list contains more than this number of StoreFiles, a minor compaction is performed even if a major compaction would otherwise have been done. However, a user-requested major compaction still occurs even if there are more than hbase.hstore.compaction.max StoreFiles to compact.

  6. If the list contains fewer than hbase.hstore.compaction.min StoreFiles to compact, a minor compaction is aborted. Note that a major compaction can be performed on a single HFile. Its function is to remove deletes and expired versions, and reset locality on the StoreFile.

  7. The value of the hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio parameter is multiplied by the sum of StoreFiles smaller than a given file, to determine whether that StoreFile is selected for compaction during a minor compaction. For instance, if hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio is 1.2, FileX is 5 mb, FileY is 2 mb, and FileZ is 3 mb:

    5 <= 1.2 x (2 + 3)            or           5 <= 6

    In this scenario, FileX is eligible for minor compaction. If FileX were 7 mb, it would not be eligible for minor compaction. This ratio favors smaller StoreFile. You can configure a different ratio for use in off-peak hours, using the parameter hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio.offpeak, if you also configure hbase.offpeak.start.hour and hbase.offpeak.end.hour.

  8. If the last major compaction was too long ago and there is more than one StoreFile to be compacted, a major compaction is run, even if it would otherwise have been minor. By default, the maximum time between major compactions is 7 days, plus or minus a 4.8 hour period, and determined randomly within those parameters. Prior to HBase 0.96, the major compaction period was 24 hours. See hbase.hregion.majorcompaction in the table below to tune or disable time-based major compactions. Parameters Used by Compaction Algorithm

This table contains the main configuration parameters for compaction. This list is not exhaustive. To tune these parameters from the defaults, edit the hbase-default.xml file. For a full list of all configuration parameters available, see Section 2.4, “Configuration Files”


The minimum number of StoreFiles which must be eligible for compaction before compaction can run.

The goal of tuning hbase.hstore.compaction.min is to avoid ending up with too many tiny StoreFiles to compact. Setting this value to 2 would cause a minor compaction each time you have two StoreFiles in a Store, and this is probably not appropriate. If you set this value too high, all the other values will need to be adjusted accordingly. For most cases, the default value is appropriate.

In previous versions of HBase, the parameter hbase.hstore.compaction.min was called hbase.hstore.compactionThreshold.


The maximum number of StoreFiles which will be selected for a single minor compaction, regardless of the number of eligible StoreFiles.

Effectively, the value of hbase.hstore.compaction.max controls the length of time it takes a single compaction to complete. Setting it larger means that more StoreFiles are included in a compaction. For most cases, the default value is appropriate.


A StoreFile smaller than this size will always be eligible for minor compaction. StoreFiles this size or larger are evaluated by hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio to determine if they are eligible.

Because this limit represents the "automatic include" limit for all StoreFiles smaller than this value, this value may need to be reduced in write-heavy environments where many files in the 1-2 MB range are being flushed, because every StoreFile will be targeted for compaction and the resulting StoreFiles may still be under the minimum size and require further compaction.

If this parameter is lowered, the ratio check is triggered more quickly. This addressed some issues seen in earlier versions of HBase but changing this parameter is no longer necessary in most situations.

128 MB

An StoreFile larger than this size will be excluded from compaction. The effect of raising hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size is fewer, larger StoreFiles that do not get compacted often. If you feel that compaction is happening too often without much benefit, you can try raising this value.


For minor compaction, this ratio is used to determine whether a given StoreFile which is larger than hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size is eligible for compaction. Its effect is to limit compaction of large StoreFile. The value of hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio is expressed as a floating-point decimal.

A large ratio, such as 10, will produce a single giant StoreFile. Conversely, a value of .25, will produce behavior similar to the BigTable compaction algorithm, producing four StoreFiles.

A moderate value of between 1.0 and 1.4 is recommended. When tuning this value, you are balancing write costs with read costs. Raising the value (to something like 1.4) will have more write costs, because you will compact larger StoreFiles. However, during reads, HBase will need to seek through fewer StpreFo;es to accomplish the read. Consider this approach if you cannot take advantage of Section 14.6.4, “Bloom Filters”.

Alternatively, you can lower this value to something like 1.0 to reduce the background cost of writes, and use Section 14.6.4, “Bloom Filters” to limit the number of StoreFiles touched during reads.

For most cases, the default value is appropriate.

hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio.offpeakThe compaction ratio used during off-peak compactions, if off-peak hours are also configured (see below). Expressed as a floating-point decimal. This allows for more aggressive (or less aggressive, if you set it lower than hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio) compaction during a set time period. Ignored if off-peak is disabled (default). This works the same as hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio.5.0F
hbase.offpeak.start.hourThe start of off-peak hours, expressed as an integer between 0 and 23, inclusive. Set to -1 to disable off-peak.-1 (disabled)
hbase.offpeak.end.hourThe end of off-peak hours, expressed as an integer between 0 and 23, inclusive. Set to -1 to disable off-peak.-1 (disabled)

There are two different thread pools for compactions, one for large compactions and the other for small compactions. This helps to keep compaction of lean tables (such as hbase:meta) fast. If a compaction is larger than this threshold, it goes into the large compaction pool. In most cases, the default value is appropriate.

2 x hbase.hstore.compaction.max x hbase.hregion.memstore.flush.size (which defaults to 128)

Time between major compactions, expressed in milliseconds. Set to 0 to disable time-based automatic major compactions. User-requested and size-based major compactions will still run. This value is multiplied by hbase.hregion.majorcompaction.jitter to cause compaction to start at a somewhat-random time during a given window of time.

7 days (604800000 milliseconds)

A multiplier applied to hbase.hregion.majorcompaction to cause compaction to occur a given amount of time either side of hbase.hregion.majorcompaction. The smaller the number, the closer the compactions will happen to the hbase.hregion.majorcompaction interval. Expressed as a floating-point decimal.

.50F Compaction File Selection

Legacy Information

This section has been preserved for historical reasons and refers to the way compaction worked prior to HBase 0.96.x. You can still use this behavior if you enable Section, “RatioBasedCompactionPolicy Algorithm” For information on the way that compactions work in HBase 0.96.x and later, see Section, “Compaction”.

To understand the core algorithm for StoreFile selection, there is some ASCII-art in the Store source code that will serve as useful reference. It has been copied below:

/* normal skew:
 *         older ----> newer
 *     _
 *    | |   _
 *    | |  | |   _
 *  --|-|- |-|- |-|---_-------_-------  minCompactSize
 *    | |  | |  | |  | |  _  | |
 *    | |  | |  | |  | | | | | |
 *    | |  | |  | |  | | | | | |

Important knobs:

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio Ratio used in compaction file selection algorithm (default 1.2f).

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min (.90 hbase.hstore.compactionThreshold) (files) Minimum number of StoreFiles per Store to be selected for a compaction to occur (default 2).

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max (files) Maximum number of StoreFiles to compact per minor compaction (default 10).

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size (bytes) Any StoreFile smaller than this setting with automatically be a candidate for compaction. Defaults to hbase.hregion.memstore.flush.size (128 mb).

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size (.92) (bytes) Any StoreFile larger than this setting with automatically be excluded from compaction (default Long.MAX_VALUE).

The minor compaction StoreFile selection logic is size based, and selects a file for compaction when the file <= sum(smaller_files) * hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio. Minor Compaction File Selection - Example #1 (Basic Example)

This example mirrors an example from the unit test TestCompactSelection.

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio = 1.0f

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min = 3 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max = 5 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size = 10 (bytes)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size = 1000 (bytes)

The following StoreFiles exist: 100, 50, 23, 12, and 12 bytes apiece (oldest to newest). With the above parameters, the files that would be selected for minor compaction are 23, 12, and 12.


  • 100 --> No, because sum(50, 23, 12, 12) * 1.0 = 97.

  • 50 --> No, because sum(23, 12, 12) * 1.0 = 47.

  • 23 --> Yes, because sum(12, 12) * 1.0 = 24.

  • 12 --> Yes, because the previous file has been included, and because this does not exceed the the max-file limit of 5

  • 12 --> Yes, because the previous file had been included, and because this does not exceed the the max-file limit of 5. Minor Compaction File Selection - Example #2 (Not Enough Files To Compact)

This example mirrors an example from the unit test TestCompactSelection.

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio = 1.0f

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min = 3 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max = 5 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size = 10 (bytes)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size = 1000 (bytes)

The following StoreFiles exist: 100, 25, 12, and 12 bytes apiece (oldest to newest). With the above parameters, no compaction will be started.


  • 100 --> No, because sum(25, 12, 12) * 1.0 = 47

  • 25 --> No, because sum(12, 12) * 1.0 = 24

  • 12 --> No. Candidate because sum(12) * 1.0 = 12, there are only 2 files to compact and that is less than the threshold of 3

  • 12 --> No. Candidate because the previous StoreFile was, but there are not enough files to compact Minor Compaction File Selection - Example #3 (Limiting Files To Compact)

This example mirrors an example from the unit test TestCompactSelection.

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.ratio = 1.0f

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min = 3 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max = 5 (files)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.min.size = 10 (bytes)

  • hbase.hstore.compaction.max.size = 1000 (bytes)

The following StoreFiles exist: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 bytes apiece (oldest to newest). With the above parameters, the files that would be selected for minor compaction are 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.


  • 7 --> Yes, because sum(6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) * 1.0 = 21. Also, 7 is less than the min-size

  • 6 --> Yes, because sum(5, 4, 3, 2, 1) * 1.0 = 15. Also, 6 is less than the min-size.

  • 5 --> Yes, because sum(4, 3, 2, 1) * 1.0 = 10. Also, 5 is less than the min-size.

  • 4 --> Yes, because sum(3, 2, 1) * 1.0 = 6. Also, 4 is less than the min-size.

  • 3 --> Yes, because sum(2, 1) * 1.0 = 3. Also, 3 is less than the min-size.

  • 2 --> No. Candidate because previous file was selected and 2 is less than the min-size, but the max-number of files to compact has been reached.

  • 1 --> No. Candidate because previous file was selected and 1 is less than the min-size, but max-number of files to compact has been reached. Impact of Key Configuration Options


This information is now included in the configuration parameter table in ???. Experimental: Stripe Compactions

Stripe compactions is an experimental feature added in HBase 0.98 which aims to improve compactions for large regions or non-uniformly distributed row keys. In order to achieve smaller and/or more granular compactions, the StoreFiles within a region are maintained separately for several row-key sub-ranges, or "stripes", of the region. The stripes are transparent to the rest of HBase, so other operations on the HFiles or data work without modification.

Stripe compactions change the HFile layout, creating sub-regions within regions. These sub-regions are easier to compact, and should result in fewer major compactions. This approach alleviates some of the challenges of larger regions.

Stripe compaction is fully compatible with Section, “Compaction” and works in conjunction with either the ExploringCompactionPolicy or RatioBasedCompactionPolicy. It can be enabled for existing tables, and the table will continue to operate normally if it is disabled later. When To Use Stripe Compactions

Consider using stripe compaction if you have either of the following:

  • Large regions. You can get the positive effects of smaller regions without additional overhead for MemStore and region management overhead.

  • Non-uniform keys, such as time dimension in a key. Only the stripes receiving the new keys will need to compact. Old data will not compact as often, if at all

Performance Improvements. Performance testing has shown that the performance of reads improves somewhat, and variability of performance of reads and writes is greatly reduced. An overall long-term performance improvement is seen on large non-uniform-row key regions, such as a hash-prefixed timestamp key. These performance gains are the most dramatic on a table which is already large. It is possible that the performance improvement might extend to region splits. Enabling Stripe Compaction

You can enable stripe compaction for a table or a column family, by setting its hbase.hstore.engine.class to org.apache.hadoop.hbase.regionserver.StripeStoreEngine. You also need to set the hbase.hstore.blockingStoreFiles to a high number, such as 100 (rather than the default value of 10).

Procedure 9.4. Enable Stripe Compaction

  1. If the table already exists, disable the table.

  2. Run one of following commands in the HBase shell. Replace the table name orders_table with the name of your table.

    alter 'orders_table', CONFIGURATION => {'hbase.hstore.engine.class' => 'org.apache.hadoop.hbase.regionserver.StripeStoreEngine', 'hbase.hstore.blockingStoreFiles' => '100'}
    alter 'orders_table', {NAME => 'blobs_cf', CONFIGURATION => {'hbase.hstore.engine.class' => 'org.apache.hadoop.hbase.regionserver.StripeStoreEngine', 'hbase.hstore.blockingStoreFiles' => '100'}}
    create 'orders_table', 'blobs_cf', CONFIGURATION => {'hbase.hstore.engine.class' => 'org.apache.hadoop.hbase.regionserver.StripeStoreEngine', 'hbase.hstore.blockingStoreFiles' => '100'}                  
  3. Configure other options if needed. See Section, “Configuring Stripe Compaction” for more information.

  4. Enable the table.

Procedure 9.5. Disable Stripe Compaction

  1. Disable the table.

  2. Set the hbase.hstore.engine.class option to either nil or org.apache.hadoop.hbase.regionserver.DefaultStoreEngine. Either option has the same effect.

    alter 'orders_table', CONFIGURATION => {'hbase.hstore.engine.class' => ''}
  3. Enable the table.

When you enable a large table after changing the store engine either way, a major compaction will likely be performed on most regions. This is not necessary on new tables. Configuring Stripe Compaction

Each of the settings for stripe compaction should be configured at the table or column family, after disabling the table. If you use HBase shell, the general command pattern is as follows:

alter 'orders_table', CONFIGURATION => {'key' => 'value', ..., 'key' => 'value'}}
      Region and stripe sizing

You can configure your stripe sizing bsaed upon your region sizing. By default, your new regions will start with one stripe. On the next compaction after the stripe has grown too large (16 x MemStore flushes size), it is split into two stripes. Stripe splitting continues as the region grows, until the region is large enough to split.

You can improve this pattern for your own data. A good rule is to aim for a stripe size of at least 1 GB, and about 8-12 stripes for uniform row keys. For example, if your regions are 30 GB, 12 x 2.5 GB stripes might be a good starting point.

Table 9.1. Stripe Sizing Settings


The number of stripes to create when stripe compaction is enabled. You can use it as follows:

  • For relatively uniform row keys, if you know the approximate target number of stripes from the above, you can avoid some splitting overhead by starting with several stripes (2, 5, 10...). If the early data is not representative of overall row key distribution, this will not be as efficient.

  • For existing tables with a large amount of data, this setting will effectively pre-split your stripes.

  • For keys such as hash-prefixed sequential keys, with more than one hash prefix per region, pre-splitting may make sense.

hbase.store.stripe.sizeToSplit The maximum size a stripe grows before splitting. Use this in conjunction with hbase.store.stripe.splitPartCount to control the target stripe size (sizeToSplit = splitPartsCount * target stripe size), according to the above sizing considerations.
hbase.store.stripe.splitPartCount The number of new stripes to create when splitting a stripe. The default is 2, which is appropriate for most cases. For non-uniform row keys, you can experiment with increasing the number to 3 or 4, to isolate the arriving updates into narrower slice of the region without additional splits being required. MemStore Size Settings

By default, the flush creates several files from one MemStore, according to existing stripe boundaries and row keys to flush. This approach minimizes write amplification, but can be undesirable if the MemStore is small and there are many stripes, because the files will be too small.

In this type of situation, you can set hbase.store.stripe.compaction.flushToL0 to true. This will cause a MemStore flush to create a single file instead. When at least hbase.store.stripe.compaction.minFilesL0 such files (by default, 4) accumulate, they will be compacted into striped files. Normal Compaction Configuration and Stripe Compaction

All the settings that apply to normal compactions (see ???) apply to stripe compactions. The exceptions are the minimum and maximum number of files, which are set to higher values by default because the files in stripes are smaller. To control these for stripe compactions, use hbase.store.stripe.compaction.minFiles and hbase.store.stripe.compaction.maxFiles, rather than hbase.hstore.compaction.min and hbase.hstore.compaction.max.

[21] See Replica Placement: The First Baby Steps on this page: HDFS Architecture

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