This section could also be titled "what if my table rowkey looks like this but I also want to query my table like that." A common example on the dist-list is where a row-key is of the format "user-timestamp" but there are reporting requirements on activity across users for certain time ranges. Thus, selecting by user is easy because it is in the lead position of the key, but time is not.
There is no single answer on the best way to handle this because it depends on...
... and solutions are also influenced by the size of the cluster and how much processing power you have to throw at the solution. Common techniques are in sub-sections below. This is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list of approaches.
It should not be a surprise that secondary indexes require additional cluster space and processing. This is precisely what happens in an RDBMS because the act of creating an alternate index requires both space and processing cycles to update. RBDMS products are more advanced in this regard to handle alternative index management out of the box. However, HBase scales better at larger data volumes, so this is a feature trade-off.
Pay attention to Chapter 11, Apache HBase (TM) Performance Tuning when implementing any of these approaches.
Additionally, see the David Butler response in this dist-list thread HBase, mail # user - Stargate+hbase
Depending on the case, it may be appropriate to use Section 9.4, “Client Request Filters”. In this case, no secondary index is created. However, don't try a full-scan on a large table like this from an application (i.e., single-threaded client).
A secondary index could be created in an other table which is periodically updated via a MapReduce job. The job could be executed intra-day, but depending on load-strategy it could still potentially be out of sync with the main data table.
See Section 7.2.2, “HBase MapReduce Read/Write Example” for more information.
Another strategy is to build the secondary index while publishing data to the cluster (e.g., write to data table, write to index table). If this is approach is taken after a data table already exists, then bootstrapping will be needed for the secondary index with a MapReduce job (see Section 6.9.2, “ Periodic-Update Secondary Index ”).
Where time-ranges are very wide (e.g., year-long report) and where the data is voluminous, summary tables are a common approach. These would be generated with MapReduce jobs into another table.
See Section 7.2.4, “HBase MapReduce Summary to HBase Example” for more information.
Coprocessors act like RDBMS triggers. These were added in 0.92. For more information, see Section 9.6.3, “Coprocessors”