HBase Overview

HBase is a type of "NoSQL" database. "NoSQL" is a general term meaning that the database isn't an RDBMS which supports SQL as its primary access language, but there are many types of NoSQL databases: BerkeleyDB is an example of a local NoSQL database, whereas HBase is very much a distributed database. Technically speaking, HBase is really more a "Data Store" than "Data Base" because it lacks many of the features you find in an RDBMS, such as typed columns, secondary indexes, triggers, and advanced query languages, etc.

However, HBase has many features which supports both linear and modular scaling. HBase clusters expand by adding RegionServers that are hosted on commodity class servers. If a cluster expands from 10 to 20 RegionServers, for example, it doubles both in terms of storage and as well as processing capacity. RDBMS can scale well, but only up to a point - specifically, the size of a single database server - and for the best performance requires specialized hardware and storage devices. HBase features of note are:

  • Strongly consistent reads/writes: HBase is not an "eventually consistent" DataStore. This makes it very suitable for tasks such as high-speed counter aggregation.
  • Automatic sharding: HBase tables are distributed on the cluster via regions, and regions are automatically split and re-distributed as your data grows.
  • Automatic RegionServer failover
  • Hadoop/HDFS Integration: HBase supports HDFS out of the box as its distributed file system.
  • MapReduce: HBase supports massively parallelized processing via MapReduce for using HBase as both source and sink.
  • Java Client API: HBase supports an easy to use Java API for programmatic access.
  • Thrift/REST API: HBase also supports Thrift and REST for non-Java front-ends.
  • Block Cache and Bloom Filters: HBase supports a Block Cache and Bloom Filters for high volume query optimization.
  • Operational Management: HBase provides build-in web-pages for operational insight as well as JMX metrics.


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