There’s much confusion about Cloudera’s SQL plans and beliefs, and the company has mainly itself to blame. That said, here’s what I think is going on.
- Hive is good at some tasks and terrible at others.
- Hive is good at batch data transformation.
- Hive is bad at ad-hoc query, unless you really, really need Hive’s scale and low license cost. One example, per Eli Collins: Facebook has a 500 petabyte Hive warehouse, but jokes that on a good day an analyst can run 6 queries against it.
- Impala is meant to be good at what Hive is bad at – i.e., fast-response query. (Cloudera mentioned reliable 100 millisecond response times for at least one user.)
- Impala is also meant to be good at what Hive is good at, and will someday from Cloudera’s standpoint completely supersede Hive, but Cloudera is in no hurry for that day to arrive. Hive is more mature. Hive still has more SQL coverage than Impala. There’s a lot of legacy investment in Hive. Cloudera gets little business advantage if a customer sunsets Hive.
- Impala is already decent at some tasks analytic RDBMS are commonly used for. Cloudera insists that some queries run very quickly on Impala. I believe them.
- Impala is terrible at others, including some of the ones most closely associated with the concept of “data warehousing”. Data modeling is a big zero right now. Impala’s workload management, concurrency and all that are very immature.
- There are some use cases for which SQL-on-Hadoop blows away analytic RDBMS, for example ones involving data transformations – perhaps on multi-structured data – that are impractical in RDBMS.
And of course, as vendors so often do, Cloudera generally overrates both the relative maturity of Impala and the relative importance of the use cases in which its offerings – Impala or otherwise – shine.
- A survey of SQL/Hadoop integration (February, 2014)
- The cardinal rules of DBMS development (March, 2013)