Apache Phoenix – an SQL Driver for HBase


HBase is one of the most popular NoSQL databases, it is available in all major Hadoop distributions and also part of AWS Elastic MapReduce as an additional application. Out of the box it has its own data model operations such as Get, Put, Scan and Delete and it does not offer SQL-like capabilities, as oppose to, for instance, Cassandra query language, CQL.
Apache Phoenix is a SQL layer on top of HBase to support the most common SQL-like operations such as CREATE TABLE, SELECT, UPSERT, DELETE, etc. Originally it was developed by Salesforce.com engineers for internal use and was open sourced. In 2013 it became an Apache incubator project.


We have covered HBase in more detail in this article. Just a quick recap: HBase architecture is based on three key components: HBase Master server, HBase Region Servers and Zookeeper.


The client needs to find the RegionServers in order to work with the data stored in HBase. In essence, regions are the basic elements for distributing tables across the cluster. In order to find the Region servers, the client first will have to talk to Zookeeper.


The key elements in the HBase datamodel are tables, column families, columns and rowkeys. The tables are made of columns and rows. The individual elements at the column and row intersections (cells in HBase term) are version based on timestamp. The rows are identified by rowkeys which are sorted – these rowkeys can be considered as primary keys and all the data in the table can be accessed via them.

The columns are grouped into column families; at table creation time you do not have to specify all the columns, only the column families. Columns have a prefix derived from the column family and its own qualifier,a column name looks like this: ‘contents:html’.

As we have seen, HBase classic data model is not designed with SQL in mind. Under the hood it is a sorted multidimensional Map. That is where Phoenix comes to the rescue; it offers a SQL skin on HBase. Phoenix is implemented as a JDBC driver. From architecture perspective a Java client using JDBC can be configured to work with Phoenix Driver and can connect to HBase using SQL-like statements. We will demonstrate how to use SQuirreL client, a popular Java-based graphical SQL client together with Phoenix.

Getting Started with Phoenix

You can download Phoenix from Apache download site. Different Phoenix versions are compatible with different HBase versions, so please, read Phoenix documentation to ensure you have the correct setup. In our tests we used Phoenix 3.0.0 with HBase 0.94, the Hadoop distribution was Cloudera CDH4.4 with Hadoop v1.. The Phoenix package contains both Hadoop version 1 and version 2 drivers for the clients so we had to use the appropriate Hadoop-1 files, see the details later on when talking about SQuirreL client.

Once you unzipped the downloaded Phoenix package, you need to copy the relevant Phoenix jar files to the HBase region servers in order to ensure that the Phoenix client can communicate with them, otherwise you may get an error message saying that the client and server jars are not compatible.

$ cd ~/phoenix/phoenix-3.0.0-incubating/common
$ cp phoenix-3.0.0-incubating-client-minimal.jar  /usr/lib/hbase/lib
$ cp phoenix-core-3.0.0-incubating.jar /usr/lib/hbase/lib

After you copied the jar files to the region servers, we had to restart them.

Phoenix provides a command line tool called sqlline – it is a utility written in Python. Its functionality is similar to Oracle SQLPlus or MySQL command line tools; not too sophisticated but does the job for simply use cases.

Before you start using sqlline, you can create a sample database table, populate it and run some simple queries as follows:

$ cd ~/phoenix/phoenix-
$ ./psql.py localhost ../examples/web_stat.sql ../examples/web_stat.csv ../examples/web_stat_queries.sql

This will run a CREATE TABLE statement:


Then load the data stored in the web_stat CSV file:

NA,Salesforce.com,Login,2013-01-01 01:01:01,35,42,10
EU,Salesforce.com,Reports,2013-01-02 12:02:01,25,11,2
EU,Salesforce.com,Reports,2013-01-02 14:32:01,125,131,42
NA,Apple.com,Login,2013-01-01 01:01:01,35,22,40
NA,Salesforce.com,Dashboard,2013-01-03 11:01:01,88,66,44

And the run a few sample queries on the table, e.g.:

-- Average CPU and DB usage by Domain
SELECT DOMAIN, AVG(CORE) Average_CPU_Usage, AVG(DB) Average_DB_Usage 

Now you can connect to HBase using sqlline:

$ ./sqlline.py localhost
[cloudera@localhost bin]$ ./sqlline.py localhost
Connecting to jdbc:phoenix:localhost
Driver: org.apache.phoenix.jdbc.PhoenixDriver (version 3.0)
Autocommit status: true
sqlline version 1.1.2
0: jdbc:phoenix:localhost> select count(*) from web_stat;
|  COUNT(1)  |
| 39         |
1 row selected (0.112 seconds)
0: jdbc:phoenix:localhost> select host, sum(active_visitor) from web_stat group by host;
| EU   | 698                       |
| NA   | 1639                      |
2 rows selected (0.294 seconds)
0: jdbc:phoenix:localhost>

Using SQuirreL with Phoenix

If you prefer to use a graphical SQL client with Phoenix, you can download e.g. SQuirreL from here. After that the first step is to copy the appropriate Phoenix driver jar file to SQuirreL lib directory:

$ cd ~/phoenix
$ cp phoenix-3.0.0-incubating/hadoop-1/phoenix-3.0.0.-incubatibg-client.jar ~/squirrel/lib

Now you are ready to configure the JDBC driver in SQuirreL client, as shown in the picture below:


Then you can connect to Phoenix using the appropriate connect string (jdbc:phoenix:localhost in our test scenario):


Once connected, you can start executing your SQL queries:

Phoenix on Amazon Web Services – AWS Elastic MapReduce with Phoenix

You can also use Phoenix with AWS Elastic MapReduce. When you create a cluster, you need to specify Apach Hadoop version, then configure HBase as additional application and define the bootsrap action to load Phoenix onto your AWS EMR cluster. See the details below in the pictures:



Once the cluster is running, you can login to the master node using ssh and check your Phoenix configuration.


SQL is one of the most popular languages used by data scientists and it is likely to remain so. With the advent of Big Data and NoSQL databases the volume, variety and velocity of the data have significantly increased but still the demand for traditional, well-known languages to process them did not change too much. SQL on Hadoop solutions are gaining momentum. Apache Phoenix is interesting open source player to offer SQL layer on top of HBase.

R and Hadoop Data Analysis – RHadoop


R is a programming language and a software suite used for data analysis, statistical computing and data visualization. It is highly extensible and has object oriented features and strong graphical capabilities. At its heart R is an interpreted language and comes with a command line interpreter – available for Linux, Windows and Mac machines – but there are IDEs as well to support development like RStudio or JGR.

R and Hadoop can complement each other very well, they are a natural match in big data analytics and visualization. One of the most well-known R packages to support Hadoop functionalities is RHadoop that was developed by RevolutionAnalytics.

Installing RHadoop

RHadoop is a collection of three R packages: rmr, rhdfs and rhbase. rmr package provides Hadoop MapReduce functionality in R, rhdfs provides HDFS file management in R and rhbase provides HBase database management from within R.

To install these R packages, first we need to install R base package. On Ubuntu 12.04 LTS we can do it running:

$ sudo apt-get install r-base

Then we need to install RHadoop packages with their dependencies.  rmr requires RCpp, RJSONIO, digest, functional, stringr and plyr, while rhdfs requires rJava.

As part of the installation, we need to reconfigure Java for rJava package and we also need to set HADOOP_CMD variable for rhdfs package. The installation requires the corresponding tar.gz archives to be downloaded and then we can run R CMD INSTALL command with sudo privileges.

sudo R CMD INSTALL Rcpp Rcpp_0.10.2.tar.gz
sudo R CMD INSTALL digest digest_0.6.2.tar.gz
sudo R CMD INSTALL functional functional_0.1.tar.gz
sudo R CMD INSTALL stringr stringr_0.6.2.tar.g
sudo R CMD INSTALL plyr plyr_1.8.tar.gz
sudo R CMD INSTALL rmr rmr2_2.0.2.tar.gz

sudo JAVA_HOME=/home/istvan/jdk1.6.0_38/jre R CMD javareconf
sudo R CMD INSTALL rJava rJava_0.9-3.tar.gz 
sudo HADOOP_CMD=/home/istvan/hadoop/bin/hadoop R CMD INSTALL rhdfs rhdfs_1.0.5.tar.gz 
sudo R CMD INSTALL rhdfs rhdfs_1.0.5.tar.gz

Getting started with RHadoop

In principle, RHadoop MapReduce is a similar operation to R lapply function that applies a function over a list or vector.

Without mapreduce function we could write a simple R code to double all the numbers from 1 to 100:

> ints = 1:100
> doubleInts = sapply(ints, function(x) 2*x)
> head(doubleInts)
[1]  2  4  6  8 10 12

With RHadoop rmr package we could use mapreduce function to implement the same calculations – see doubleInts.R script:



ints = to.dfs(1:100)
calc = mapreduce(input = ints,
                   map = function(k, v) cbind(v, 2*v))


  [1,]   1   2
  [2,]   2   4
  [3,]   3   6
  [4,]   4   8
  [5,]   5  10

If we want to run HDFS filesystem commands from R, we first need to initialize rhdfs using hdfs.init() function, then we can run the well-known ls, rm, mkdir, stat, etc commands:

> hdfs.init()
> hdfs.ls("/tmp")
  permission  owner      group size          modtime               file
1 drwxr-xr-x istvan supergroup    0 2013-02-25 21:59    /tmp/RtmpC94L4R
2 drwxr-xr-x istvan supergroup    0 2013-02-25 21:49 /tmp/hadoop-istvan
> hdfs.stat("/tmp")
      perms isDir block replication  owner      group size              modtime path
1 rwxr-xr-x  TRUE     0           0 istvan supergroup    0 45124-08-29 23:58:48 /tmp

Data analysis with RHadoop

The following example demonstrates how to use RHadoop for data analysis. Let us assume that we need to determine how many countries have greater GDP than Apple Inc.’s revenue in 2012. (It was 156,508 millions USD, see more details  http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ%3AAAPL&fstype=ii&ei=5eErUcCpB8KOwAOkQQ)

GDP data can be downloaded from Worldbank data catalog site. The data needs to be adjusted to be suitable for MapReduce algorithm. The final format that we used for data analysis is as follows (where the last column is the GDP of the given country in millions USD):

Country Code,Number,Country Name,GDP,
USA,1,United States,14991300

The gdp.R script looks like this:



gdp <- read.csv("GDP_converted.csv")

gdp.values <- to.dfs(gdp)

# AAPL revenue in 2012 in millions USD
aaplRevenue = 156508

gdp.map.fn <- function(k,v) {
key <- ifelse(v[4] < aaplRevenue, "less", "greater")
keyval(key, 1)

count.reduce.fn <- function(k,v) {
keyval(k, length(v))

count <- mapreduce(input=gdp.values,
                   map = gdp.map.fn,
                   reduce = count.reduce.fn)


R will initiate a Hadoop streaming job to process the data using mapreduce algorithm.

packageJobJar: [/tmp/Rtmp4llUjl/rmr-local-env1e025ac0444f, /tmp/Rtmp4llUjl/rmr-global-env1e027a86f559, /tmp/Rtmp4llUjl/rmr-streaming-map1e0214a61fa5, /tmp/Rtmp4llUjl/rmr-streaming-reduce1e026da4f6c9, /tmp/hadoop-istvan/hadoop-unjar1158187086349476064/] [] /tmp/streamjob430878637581358129.jar tmpDir=null
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO mapred.FileInputFormat: Total input paths to process : 1
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO streaming.StreamJob: getLocalDirs(): [/tmp/hadoop-istvan/mapred/local]
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO streaming.StreamJob: Running job: job_201302252148_0006
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO streaming.StreamJob: To kill this job, run:
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO streaming.StreamJob: /home/istvan/hadoop-1.0.4/libexec/../bin/hadoop job  -Dmapred.job.tracker=localhost:9001 -kill job_201302252148_0006
13/02/25 22:28:12 INFO streaming.StreamJob: Tracking URL: http://localhost:50030/jobdetails.jsp?jobid=job_201302252148_0006
13/02/25 22:28:13 INFO streaming.StreamJob:  map 0%  reduce 0%
13/02/25 22:28:25 INFO streaming.StreamJob:  map 100%  reduce 0%
13/02/25 22:28:37 INFO streaming.StreamJob:  map 100%  reduce 100%
13/02/25 22:28:43 INFO streaming.StreamJob: Job complete: job_201302252148_0006
13/02/25 22:28:43 INFO streaming.StreamJob: Output: /tmp/Rtmp4llUjl/file1e025f146f8f

Then we will get the data saying how many countries have greater and how many contries have less GDP than Apple Inc.’s revenue in year 2012. The result is that 55 countries had greater GDP than Apple and 138 countries had less.

1  "greater"
56 "less"   

[1]  55 138

The following screenshot from RStudio shows the histogram of GDPs – there are 15 countries having more than 1,000 millions USD GDP; 1 country is in the range of 14,000 – 15,000 millions USD, 1 country is in the range of 7,000 – 8,000 millions USD and 1 country is in the range of 5,000 – 6,000 USD.



If someone needs to combine strong data analytics and visualization features  with big data capabilities supported by Hadoop, it is certainly worth to have a closer look at RHadoop features. It has packages to integrate R with MapReduce, HDFS and HBase, the key components of the Hadoop ecosystem. For more details, please read the R and Hadoop Big Data Analytics whitepaper.