Frequently Asked Questions

Project Motivation

Why use column storage format? Would a row-wise format increase performance?

Analytic use-cases almost exclusively use a subset of the columns in the queried table and generally aggregate values over a broad range of rows. This access pattern is greatly accelerated by column oriented data. Operational use-cases are more likely to access most or all of the columns in a row, and might be more appropriately served by row oriented storage. A column oriented storage format was chosen for Kudu because it’s primarily targeted at analytic use-cases.

There’s nothing that precludes Kudu from providing a row-oriented option, and it could be included in a potential release.

Why build a new storage engine? Why not just improve Apache HBase to increase its scan speed?

Kudu shares some characteristics with HBase. Like HBase, it is a real-time store that supports key-indexed record lookup and mutation.

However, Kudu’s design differs from HBase in some fundamental ways:

  • Kudu’s data model is more traditionally relational, while HBase is schemaless.
  • Kudu’s on-disk representation is truly columnar and follows an entirely different storage design than HBase/BigTable.

Making these fundamental changes in HBase would require a massive redesign, as opposed to a series of simple changes. HBase is the right design for many classes of applications and use cases and will continue to be the best storage engine for those workloads.

Project Status

Is Apache Kudu ready to be deployed into production yet?

Yes! Kudu has been battle tested in production at many major corporations.

Is Kudu open source?

Yes, Kudu is open source and licensed under the Apache Software License, version 2.0. Apache Kudu is a top level project (TLP) under the umbrella of the Apache Software Foundation.

Why was Kudu developed internally at Cloudera before its release?

We believe strongly in the value of open source for the long-term sustainable development of a project. We also believe that it is easier to work with a small group of colocated developers when a project is very young. Being in the same organization allowed us to move quickly during the initial design and development of the system.

Now that Kudu is public and is part of the Apache Software Foundation, we look forward to working with a larger community during its next phase of development.

Getting Started

Is training available?

Training is not provided by the Apache Software Foundation, but may be provided by third-party vendors.

As of January 2016, Cloudera offers an on-demand training course entitled “Introduction to Apache Kudu”. This training covers what Kudu is, and how it compares to other Hadoop-related storage systems, use cases that will benefit from using Kudu, and how to create, store, and access data in Kudu tables with Apache Impala.

Aside from training, you can also get help with using Kudu through documentation, the mailing lists, and the Kudu chat room.

Is there a quickstart?

Yes. Instructions on getting up and running on Kudu via a Docker based quickstart are provided in Kudu’s quickstart guide.

Storage Details

How does Kudu store its data? Is the underlying data storage readable without going through Kudu?

Kudu accesses storage devices through the local filesystem, and works best with Ext4 or XFS. Kudu handles striping across JBOD mount points, and does not require RAID. Kudu’s write-ahead logs (WALs) can be stored on separate locations from the data files, which means that WALs can be stored on SSDs to enable lower-latency writes on systems with both SSDs and magnetic disks.

Kudu’s on-disk data format closely resembles Parquet, with a few differences to support efficient random access as well as updates. The underlying data is not directly queryable without using the Kudu client APIs. The Kudu developers have worked hard to ensure that Kudu’s scan performance is performant, and has focused on storing data efficiently without making the trade-offs that would be required to allow direct access to the data files.

Is Kudu an in-memory database?

Kudu is not an in-memory database since it primarily relies on disk storage. This should not be confused with Kudu’s experimental use of persistent memory which is integrated in the block cache. In the future, this integration this will allow the cache to survive tablet server restarts, so that it never starts “cold”.

In addition, Kudu’s C++ implementation can scale to very large heaps. Coupled with its CPU-efficient design, Kudu’s heap scalability offers outstanding performance for data sets that fit in memory.

Does Kudu run its own format type or does it use Parquet? What is the compression recommendation?

Kudu’s on-disk data format closely resembles Parquet, with a few differences to support efficient random access as well as updates. The underlying data is not directly queryable without using the Kudu client APIs. The Kudu developers have worked hard to ensure that Kudu’s scan performance is performant, and has focused on storing data efficiently without making the trade-offs that would be required to allow direct access to the data files.

The recommended compression codec is dependent on the appropriate trade-off between cpu utilization and storage efficiency and is therefore use-case dependent.

Should compactions be managed?

Compactions in Kudu are designed to be small and to always be running in the background. They operate under a (configurable) budget to prevent tablet servers from unexpectedly attempting to rewrite tens of GB of data at a time. Since compactions are so predictable, the only tuning knob available is the number of threads dedicated to flushes and compactions in the maintenance manager.

What is the compaction performance like?

Kudu runs a background compaction process that incrementally and constantly compacts data. Constant small compactions provide predictable latency by avoiding major compaction operations that could monopolize CPU and IO resources.

Is there a time-to-live property as in HBase to delete a record automatically?

No, Kudu does not currently support such a feature.

Do the tablet servers require a Linux filesystem or control the storage devices directly?

The tablet servers store data on the Linux filesystem. We recommend ext4 or xfs mount points for the storage directories. Typically, a Kudu tablet server will share the same partitions as existing HDFS datanodes.

Are there chances of region server hotspotting like with HBase and how does Kudu mitigate this?

Hotspotting in HBase is an attribute inherited from the distribution strategy used.

By default, HBase uses range based distribution. Range based partitioning stores ordered values that fit within a specified range of a provided key contiguously on disk. Range based partitioning is efficient when there are large numbers of concurrent small queries, as only servers in the cluster that have values within the range specified by the query will be recruited to process that query. Range partitioning is susceptible to hotspots, either because the key(s) used to specify the range exhibits “data skew” (the number of rows within each range is not uniform), or some data is queried more frequently creating “workload skew”.

In contrast, hash based distribution specifies a certain number of “buckets” and distribution keys are passed to a hash function that produces the value of the bucket that the row is assigned to. If the distribution key is chosen carefully (a unique key with no business meaning is ideal) hash distribution will result in each server in the cluster having a uniform number of rows. Hash based distribution protects against both data skew and workload skew. Additionally, it provides the highest possible throughput for any individual query because all servers are recruited in parallel as data will be evenly spread across every server in the cluster. However, optimizing for throughput by recruiting every server in the cluster for every query comes compromises the maximum concurrency that the cluster can achieve. HBase can use hash based distribution by “salting” the row key.

Kudu supports both approaches, giving you the ability choose to emphasize concurrency at the expense of potential data and workload skew with range partitioning, or query throughput at the expense of concurrency through hash partitioning.

Does Kudu support dynamic partitioning?

Kudu is a storage engine, not a SQL engine. Dynamic partitions are created at execution time rather than at query time, but in either case the process will look the same from Kudu’s perspective: the query engine will pass down partition keys to Kudu.

Consistency and CAP Theorem

What is Kudu’s consistency model? Is Kudu a CP or AP system?

In the parlance of the CAP theorem, Kudu is a CP type of storage engine. Writing to a tablet will be delayed if the server that hosts that tablet’s leader replica fails until a quorum of servers is able to elect a new leader and acknowledge a given write request.

Kudu gains the following properties by using Raft consensus:

  • Leader elections are fast. As soon as the leader misses 3 heartbeats (half a second each), the remaining followers will elect a new leader which will start accepting operations right away. This whole process usually takes less than 10 seconds.
  • Follower replicas don’t allow writes, but they do allow reads when fully up-to-date data is not required. Thus, queries against historical data (even just a few minutes old) can be sent to any of the replicas. If that replica fails, the query can be sent to another replica immediately.

In current releases, some of these properties are not be fully implemented and may suffer from some deficiencies. See the answer to “Is Kudu’s consistency level tunable?” for more information.

Is Kudu’s consistency level tunable?

Yes, Kudu’s consistency level is partially tunable, both for writes and reads (scans):

  • Writes to a single tablet are always internally consistent. When writing to multiple tablets, with multiple clients, the user has a choice between no consistency (the default) and enforcing “external consistency” in two different ways: one that optimizes for latency requires the user to perform additional work and another that requires no additional work but can result in some additional latency.
  • Scans have “Read Committed” consistency by default. If the user requires strict-serializable scans it can choose the READ_AT_SNAPSHOT mode and, optionally, provide a timestamp. The default option is non-blocking but the READ_AT_SNAPSHOT option may block when reading from non-leader replicas.

Kudu’s transactional semantics are a work in progress, see Kudu Transaction Semantics for further information and caveats.

How does Kudu handle dirty reads?

Neither “read committed” nor “READ_AT_SNAPSHOT” consistency modes permit dirty reads.

Where is Kudu’s Jepsen report?

Kudu hasn’t been publicly tested with Jepsen but it is possible to run a set of tests following these instructions.

Working With Other Storage Systems

Can data be loaded directly into Kudu? What ingest tools can be used?

Kudu provides direct access via Java and C++ APIs. An experimental Python API is also available and is expected to be fully supported in the future. The easiest way to load data into Kudu is to use a CREATE TABLE ... AS SELECT * FROM ... statement in Impala. Additionally, data is commonly ingested into Kudu using Spark, Nifi, and Flume.

What’s the most efficient way to bulk load data into Kudu?

The easiest way to load data into Kudu is if the data is already managed by Impala. In this case, a simple INSERT INTO TABLE some_kudu_table SELECT * FROM some_csv_table does the trick.

You can also use Kudu’s Spark integration to load data from or any other Spark compatible data store.

No tool is provided to load data directly into Kudu’s on-disk data format. We have found that for many workloads, the insert performance of Kudu is comparable to bulk load performance of other systems.

What kinds of data can Kudu store? Can it accept JSON?

Kudu uses typed storage and currently does not have a specific type for semi- structured data such as JSON. Semi-structured data can be stored in a STRING or BINARY column, but large values (10s of KB or more) are likely to cause performance or stability problems in current versions.

Fuller support for semi-structured types like JSON and protobuf will be added in the future, contingent on demand.

Is there a JDBC driver available?

Kudu is not a SQL engine. The availability of JDBC and ODBC drivers will be dictated by the SQL engine used in combination with Kudu.

Do you need Hadoop to run Kudu?

Kudu does not rely on any Hadoop components if it is accessed using its programmatic APIs. However, most usage of Kudu will include at least one Hadoop component such as MapReduce, Spark, or Impala. Components that have been modified to take advantage of Kudu storage, such as Impala, might have Hadoop dependencies.

What is the relationship between Kudu and HDFS? Does Kudu require HDFS?

Kudu is a separate storage system. It does not rely on or run on top of HDFS. Kudu can coexist with HDFS on the same cluster.

Why doesn’t Kudu store its data in HDFS?

We considered a design which stored data on HDFS, but decided to go in a different direction, for the following reasons:

  • Kudu handles replication at the logical level using Raft consensus, which makes HDFS replication redundant. We could have mandated a replication level of 1, but that is not HDFS’s best use case.
  • Filesystem-level snapshots provided by HDFS do not directly translate to Kudu support for snapshots, because it is hard to predict when a given piece of data will be flushed from memory. In addition, snapshots only make sense if they are provided on a per-table level, which would be difficult to orchestrate through a filesystem-level snapshot.
  • HDFS security doesn’t translate to table- or column-level ACLs. Similar to HBase ACLs, Kudu would need to implement its own security system and would not get much benefit from the HDFS security model.
  • Kudu’s scan performance is already within the same ballpark as Parquet files stored on HDFS, so there’s no need to accomodate reading Kudu’s data files directly.

What frameworks are integrated with Kudu for data access?

Kudu is integrated with Impala, Spark, Nifi, MapReduce, and more. Additional frameworks are expected, with Hive being the current highest priority addition.

Can I colocate Kudu with HDFS on the same servers?

Kudu can be colocated with HDFS on the same data disk mount points. This is similar to colocating Hadoop and HBase workloads. Kudu has been extensively tested in this type of configuration, with no stability issues. For latency-sensitive workloads, consider dedicating an SSD to Kudu’s WAL files.

Hardware and Operations

What are Kudu’s runtime dependencies?

Kudu itself doesn’t have any service dependencies and can run on a cluster without Hadoop, Impala, Spark, or any other project.

If you want to use Impala, note that Impala depends on Hive’s metadata server, which has its own dependencies on Hadoop. It is not currently possible to have a pure Kudu+Impala deployment.

Should the master node have more RAM than worker nodes?

For small clusters with fewer than 100 nodes, with reasonable numbers of tables and tablets, the master node requires very little RAM, typically 1 GB or less. For workloads with large numbers of tables or tablets, more RAM will be required, but not more RAM than typical Hadoop worker nodes.

Is the master node a single point of failure?

No. Kudu includes support for running multiple Master nodes, using the same Raft consensus algorithm that is used for durability of data.

Does Kudu require the use of SSDs?

No, SSDs are not a requirement of Kudu. Kudu is designed to take full advantage of fast storage and large amounts of memory if present, but neither is required.

Can a Kudu deployment be geo-distributed?

We don’t recommend geo-distributing tablet servers this time because of the possibility of higher write latencies. In addition, Kudu is not currently aware of data placement. This could lead to a situation where the master might try to put all replicas in the same datacenter. We plan to implement the necessary features for geo-distribution in a future release.

Where is the Kudu shell?

Kudu doesn’t yet have a command-line shell. If the Kudu-compatible version of Impala is installed on your cluster then you can use it as a replacement for a shell. See also the docs for the Kudu Impala Integration.

Is the Kudu Master a bottleneck?

Although the Master is not sharded, it is not expected to become a bottleneck for the following reasons.

  • Like many other systems, the master is not on the hot path once the tablet locations are cached.
  • The Kudu master process is extremely efficient at keeping everything in memory. In our testing on an 80-node cluster, the 99.99th percentile latency for getting tablet locations was on the order of hundreds of microseconds (not a typo).

What operating systems does Kudu support?

Linux is required to run Kudu. See the installation guide for details. OSX is supported as a development platform in Kudu 0.6.0 and newer. The Java client can be used on any JVM 7+ platform.

What Linux-based operating systems are known NOT to work with Kudu?

RHEL 5: the kernel is missing critical features for handling disk space reclamation (such as hole punching), and it is not possible to run applications which use C++11 language features.

Debian 7: ships with gcc 4.7.2 which produces broken Kudu optimized code, and there is insufficient support for applications which use C++11 language features.

SLES 11: it is not possible to run applications which use C++11 language features.

How can I back up my Kudu data?

As of Kudu 1.10.0, Kudu supports both full and incremental table backups via a job implemented using Apache Spark. Additionally it supports restoring tables from full and incremental backups via a restore job implemented using Apache Spark. See the administration documentation for details.

For older versions which do not have a built-in backup mechanism, Impala can help if you have it available. You can use it to copy your data into Parquet format using a statement like:

INSERT INTO TABLE some_parquet_table SELECT * FROM kudu_table

then use distcp to copy the Parquet data to another cluster.

Can the WAL transaction logs be used to build a disaster recovery site?

Currently, Kudu does not support any mechanism for shipping or replaying WALs between sites.

Is there a single WAL per tablet or per table?

There is one WAL per tablet.


How is security handled in Kudu?

Kudu supports strong authentication and is designed to interoperate with other secure Hadoop components by utilizing Kerberos. It also supports coarse-grained authorization of client requests and TLS encryption of communication among servers and between clients and servers. To learn more, please refer to the security guide.

Schema Design

Can Kudu tolerate changing schemas?

Yes, Kudu provides the ability to add, drop, and rename columns/tables. Currently it is not possible to change the type of a column in-place, though this is expected to be added to a subsequent Kudu release.

Are there best practices in terms of data modeling?

Kudu tables must have a unique primary key. Kudu has not been tested with columns containing large values (10s of KB and higher) and performance problems when using large values are anticipated. See Schema Design.

Can Kudu be used to replace Lambda Architectures?

In many cases Kudu’s combination of real-time and analytic performance will allow the complexity inherent to Lambda architectures to be simplified through the use of a single storage engine.

Is there a way to force the order of execution of a list statement? (ie force an update on table A after a previous insert on table B)?

When using the Kudu API, users can choose to perform synchronous operations. If a sequence of synchronous operations is made, Kudu guarantees that timestamps are assigned in a corresponding order.

Should I use Kudu for OLTP-type workloads? How does Kudu relate to Spanner from an OLTP standpoint?

Kudu is inspired by Spanner in that it uses a consensus-based replication design and timestamps for consistency control, but the on-disk layout is pretty different.

Kudu was designed and optimized for OLAP workloads and lacks features such as multi-row transactions and secondary indexing typically needed to support OLTP.

As a true column store, Kudu is not as efficient for OLTP as a row store would be. There are also currently some implementation issues that hurt Kudu’s performance on Zipfian distribution updates (see the YCSB results in the performance evaluation of our draft paper.

We anticipate that future releases will continue to improve performance for these workloads, but Kudu is not designed to be a full replacement for OLTP stores for all workloads. Please consider other storage engines such as Apache HBase or a traditional RDBMS.


Can multi-column indexes be created?

Kudu supports compound primary keys. Secondary indexes, compound or not, are not currently supported.

Does Kudu support secondary indexes?

No, Kudu does not support secondary indexes. Random access is only possible through the primary key. For analytic drill-down queries, Kudu has very fast single-column scans which allow it to produce sub-second results when querying across billions of rows on small clusters.

Are index updates maintained automatically?

Kudu’s primary key is automatically maintained. Secondary indexes, manually or automatically maintained, are not currently supported.

Is there a concept like partitioning keys like with Cassandra (primary and secondary index concepts)?

Kudu’s primary key can be either simple (a single column) or compound (multiple columns). Within any tablet, rows are written in the sort order of the primary key. In the case of a compound key, sorting is determined by the order that the columns in the key are declared. For hash-based distribution, a hash of the entire key is used to determine the “bucket” that values will be placed in.

With either type of partitioning, it is possible to partition based on only a subset of the primary key column. For example, a primary key of “(host, timestamp)” could be range-partitioned on only the timestamp column.

Does Kudu have relational features like autoincrement column, PK/FK constraints, or built-in indexes?

Kudu tables have a primary key that is used for uniqueness as well as providing quick access to individual rows. Kudu supports auto-incrementing columns, however auto-incrementing columns are system generated and users can’t create a table with auto-incrementing column explicitly. Columns which don’t fulfill the uniqueness constraint can be used to create non-unique primary keys. Foreign key constraints, and secondary indexes are not currently supported, but could be added in subsequent Kudu releases.


Does Kudu support multi-row transactions?

No, Kudu does not support multi-row transactions at this time. However, single row operations are atomic within that row.

Does Kudu offer ACID compliance?

Kudu is designed to eventually be fully ACID compliant. However, multi-row transactions are not yet implemented. The single-row transaction guarantees it currently provides are very similar to HBase.

Is a rollback concept supported?

Kudu does not currently support transaction rollback.