Hive Metastore in HDInsight –Tips, Tricks & Best Practices

When you create a Hive table, the table definition (column names, data types, comments, etc.) are stored in the Hive Metastore. Hive Metastore is critical part of Hadoop architecture as it acts as a central schema repository which can be used by other access tools like Spark, Interactive Hive (LLAP), Presto, Pig and many other Big Data engines.

Image – HDInsight Architecture and Hive Metastore

In HDInsight, we use Azure SQL database as Hive Metastore. Azure SQL DB is relational database-as-a-service (DBaaS) hosted in the Azure and give availability SLA of 99.99.

There are two ways you can setup Metastore for your HDInsight clusters

HDInsight default Metastore – If you don’t provide a custom Metastore option, HDInsight will provision
Metastore with every cluster type. Here are some key considerations with default Metastore

  • No additional cost. HDInsight provisions Metastore with every cluster type without any additional cost to you.
  • Default Metastore is tied to the cluster life, when you delete the cluster your Metastore and metadata is also deleted
  • You cannot share the Default Metastore with additional clusters.
  • The default Metastore use Basic Azure SQL DB which gives you 5 DTU [Database Transaction limit]

This is generally good option for relatively simple workload where you don’t have multiple clusters and don’t need metadata preserved beyond the life cycle of the cluster.

Custom Metastore – HDInsight lets you pick custom Metastore. It’s a recommended approach for production clusters due to number reasons such as

  • You bring your own Azure SQL database as Metastore
  • As lifecycle of Metastore is not tied to a cluster lifecycle, you can create and delete clusters without worrying about the metadata loss.
  • Custom Metastore lets you attach multiple clusters and cluster types to same Metastore. Example – Single Metastore can be shared across Interactive Hive, Hive and Spark clusters in HDInsight
  • You pay for the cost of Metastore (Azure SQL DB)

Image – Typical shared custom Metastore scenario in HDInsight

Here are general HDinsight Hive Metastore best practices that you should consider

  • Use custom Metastore whenever possible, this will help you separate Compute and Metadata
  • Start with S2 tier which will give you 50 DTU and 250 GB of storage, you can always scale the database up in case you see bottlenecks
  • Ensure that the Metastore created for one HDInsight cluster version is not shared across different HDInsight cluster versions. This is due to different Hive versions has different schemas. Example - Hive 1.2 and Hive 2.1 clusters trying to use same Metastore.
  • Back-up your custom Metastore periodically for OOPS recovery and DR needs
  • Monitor your Metastore for performance and availability with Azure SQL DB Monitoring tools [Azure Portal , Azure Log Analytics]

How to select a custom Metastore during cluster creation?

You can easily point your cluster to a pre-created Azure SQL DB during cluster creation as well as after cluster is created. The option is under storage --> Metastore settings while creating a new Hadoop , Spark or Intractive Hive cluster from Azure portal


Additionally, You can add additional clusters to the Custom Metastore for Azure Portal as well as from Ambari configurations ( Hive -->Advanced)

As discussed above Hive Metastore is critical component of Hadoop and Spark architecture and picking up right Metastore strategy will certainly help you with right Architecture and user experience.


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