This is documentation for MapR version 4.0.x. You can also refer to MapR documentation for the latest or previous releases.

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Starting in version 3.0, the MapR distribution for Hadoop integrates native tables stored directly in MapR-FS.

This page contains the following topics:

About MapR Tables

In the 3.0 release of the MapR distribution for Hadoop, MapR-FS enables you to create and manipulate tables in many of the same ways that you create and manipulate files in a standard UNIX file system. This document discusses how to set up your MapR installation to use MapR tables. For users experienced with standard Apache HBase, this document describes the differences in capabilities and behavior between MapR tables and Apache HBase tables.

MapR-FS Handles Structured and Unstructured Data

The 3.0 release of the MapR distribution for Hadoop features a unified architecture for files and tables, providing distributed data replication for structured and unstructured data. Tables enable you to manage structured data, as opposed to the unstructured data management provided by files. The structure for structured data management is defined by a data model, a set of rules that defines the relationships in the structure.

By design, the data model for tables in MapR focuses on columns, similar to the open-source standard Apache HBase system. Like Apache HBase, MapR tables store data structured as a nested sequence of key/value pairs, where the value in one pair serves as the key for another pair. Apache HBase works with MapR tables. With a properly licensed MapR installation, you can use MapR tables exclusively or work in a mixed environment with Apache HBase tables.

MapR tables are implemented directly within MapR-FS, yielding a familiar, open-standards API that provides a high-performance datastore for tables. MapR-FS is written in C and optimized for performance. As a result, MapR-FS runs significantly faster than JVM-based Apache HBase. The diagram below compares the application stacks for different HBase implementations.

Benefits of Integrated Tables in MapR-FS

The MapR cluster architecture provides the following benefits for table storage, providing an enterprise-grade HBase environment.

  • MapR clusters with HA features recover instantly from node failures.
  • MapR provides a unified namespace for tables and files, allowing users to group tables in directories by user, project, or any other useful grouping.
  • Tables are stored in volumes on the cluster alongside unstructured files. Storage policy settings for volumes apply to tables as well as files.
  • Volume mirrors and snapshots provide flexible, reliable read-only access.
  • Table storage and MapReduce jobs can co-exist on the same nodes without degrading cluster performance.
  • The use of MapR tables imposes no administrative overhead beyond administration of the MapR cluster.
  • Node upgrades and other administrative tasks do not cause downtime for table storage.

The MapR Implementation of HBase

MapR's implementation supports the core HBase API. Programmers who are used to writing code for the HBase API will have immediate, intuitive access to MapR tables. MapR delivers faithfully on the original vision for Google's BigTable paper, using the open-standard HBase API.

MapR's implementation of the HBase API provides enterprise-grade high availability (HA), data protection, and disaster recovery features for tables on a distributed Hadoop cluster. MapR tables can be used as the underlying key-value store for Hive, or any other application requiring a high-performance, high-availability key-value datastore. Because MapR uses the open-standard HBase API, many legacy HBase applications can continue to run on MapR without modification.

MapR has extended hbase shell to work with MapR tables in addition to Apache HBase tables. Similar to development for Apache HBase, the simplest way to create tables and column families in MapR-FS, and put and get data from them, is to use hbase shell. MapR tables can be created from the MapR Control System (MCS) user interface or from the Linux command line, without the need to coordinate with a database administrator. You can treat a MapR table just as you would a file, specifying a path to a location in a directory, and the table appears in the same namespace as your regular files. You can also create and manage column families for your table from the MCS or directly from the command line.


The Apache HBase API exposes many low-level administrative functions that can be tuned for performance or reliability. The reliability and functionality of MapR tables renders these low-level functions moot, and these low-level calls are not supported for MapR tables. See MapR Table Support for Apache HBase 0.94 API for detailed information.

During data migration or other specific scenarios where you need to refer to a MapR table of the same name as an Apache HBase table in the same cluster, you can map the table namespace to enable that operation.

To summarize:

  • The MapR table API works with the core HBase API.
  • MapR tables implement the HBase feature set.
  • You can use MapR tables as the datastore for Hive applications.

Effects of Decoupling API and Architecture

The following features of MapR tables result from decoupling the HBase API from the Apache HBase architecture:

  • MapR's High Availability (HA) cluster architecture eliminates the RegionServer component of traditional Apache HBase architecture, which was a single point of failure and bottleneck for scalability. In MapR-FS, MapR tables are HA at all levels, similar to other services on a MapR cluster.
  • MapR tables can have up to 64 column families, with no limit on number of columns.
  • MapR-FS manages how data is laid out on disk without large variations in user-visible latency. MapR table regions are split as needed and deleted data is purged.
  • Crash recovery is significantly faster than Apache HBase.

The HBase Data Model

Apache HBase stores structured data as a nested series of maps. Each map consists of a set of key-value pairs, where the value can be the key in another map. Keys are kept in strict lexicographical order: 1, 10, and 113 come before 2, 20, and 213.

In descending order of granularity, the elements of an HBase entry are:

  • Key: Keys define the rows in an HBase table.
  • Column family: A column family is a key associated with a set of columns. Specify this association according to your individual use case, creating sets of columns. A column family can contain an arbitrary number of columns. MapR tables support up to 64 column families.
  • Column: Columns are keys that are associated with a series of timestamps that define when the value in that column was updated.
  • Timestamp: The timestamp in a column specifies a particular data write to that column.
  • Value: The data written to that column at the specific timestamp.

This structure results in versioned values that you can access flexibly and quickly. Because Apache HBase and MapR tables are sparse, any of the column values for a given key can be null.

Example HBase Table

This example uses JSON notation for representational clarity. In this example, timestamps are arbitrarily assigned.

 Expand this section to see the JSON code sample.

HBase queries return the most recent timestamp by default. A query for the value in "arbitrarySecondKey"/"secondColumnFamily:firstColumn" returns valueThree. Specifying a timestamp with a query for "arbitrarySecondKey"/"secondColumnFamily:firstColumn"/11 returns valueSeven.

Using MapR and Apache HBase Tables Together

MapR table storage is independent from Apache HBase table storage, enabling a single MapR cluster to run both systems. Users typically run both systems concurrently, particularly during the migration phase. Alternately, you can leave Apache HBase running for existing applications, and use MapR tables for new applications. You can set up namespace mappings for your cluster to run both MapR tables and Apache HBase tables concurrently, during migration or on an ongoing basis.

Current Limitations

  • Custom HBase filters are not supported.
  • User permissions for column families are not supported. User permissions for tables and columns are supported.
  • HBase authentication is not supported.
  • HBase replication is handled with Mirror Volumes.
  • Bulk loads using the HFiles workaround are not supported and not necessary.
  • HBase coprocessors are not supported.
  • Filters use a different regular expression library from java.util.regex.Pattern. See Supported Regular Expressions in MapR Tables for a complete list of supported regular expressions.

Administering MapR Tables

The MapR Control System and the command-line interface provide a compact set of features for adding and managing tables. In a traditional HBase environment, cluster administrators are typically involved in provisioning tables and column families, because of limitations on the number of tables and column families that Apache HBase can support. MapR supports a virtually unlimited number of tables with up to 64 column families, reducing administrative overhead.

HBase programmers can use the API function calls to create as many tables and column families as needed for the particular application. Programmers can also use tables to store intermediate data in a multi-stage MapReduce program, then delete the tables without assistance from an administrator. See Working With MapR Tables and Column Families for more information.

Related Topics

  • No labels