Filter in HBase

Never did any man yet repent of having spoken too little, whereas many have been sorry they spoke so much.


Filter plays an important role in querying data which can be used to reduce a mountain of unwanted data, especially in this data explosive era.
There are plenty of filters provided by HBase to meet basic requirements, available filters in HBase.
Client can implement their own filter, but my personal experience is that it is not quite comprehensive to implement one, that’s why i want to write it down after summary.


Following are the core methods in Filter.

public abstract class Filter {
	// Call between rows
	void reset() throws IOException;
	// Filter cell based on row key
	boolean filterRowKey(Cell firstRowCell) throws IOException;
	// Done with filtering
	boolean filterAllRemaining() throws IOException;
	// ReturnCode of filter result
	ReturnCode filterCell(final Cell c) throws IOException;
	// If transformation needed, not usual case
	Cell transformCell(final Cell v) throws IOException;
	// The results from filtering, this method provides a way to modify the results before returning to client side
	void filterRowCells(List<Cell> kvs) throws IOException;
	// The last chance to determine whether filter the entire row
	boolean hasFilterRow();
	// Called after hasFilterRow()
	boolean filterRow() throws IOException;
	// Fast filtering by returning a target cell to seek wanted position
	Cell getNextCellHint(final Cell currentCell) throws IOException;
	// Called at initialization
	boolean isFamilyEssential(byte[] name) throws IOException;

// ReturnCode from method filterCell()
enum ReturnCode {
	// Include the Cell
	// Include the Cell and seek to the next column skipping older versions.
	// Skip this Cell
	// Skip this column. Go to the next column in this row.
	 * Seek to next row in current family. It may still pass a cell whose family is different but
	 * row is the same as previous cell to {@link #filterCell(Cell)} , even if we get a NEXT_ROW
	 * returned for previous cell.
	// Seek to next key which is given as hint by the filter.
	// Include KeyValue and done with row, seek to next. See NEXT_ROW.


But it is still confusing, so following it is the call sequence. Filter call sequence

  1. isFamilyEssential is called first, but it does no filtering, it just helps to lock on the specified column family which may bring performance benefits by avoiding unnecessary column family scanning.
  2. filterRowKey and filterCell can be regarded as entirety, first key then value, this philosophy is straightforward for a nosql system. filterRowKey is called to determine an entire row, while filterCell is called to determine a cell which returns a ReturnCode to indicate the next step.
  3. filterAllRemaining may be called between filter key and filter value, but it is based on concrete implementation. Like PageFilter does filtering based on size of page, after a page is filled, filterAllRemaining is directly called to speed up filtering.
  4. getNextCellHint is just another kind of filterCell, but it does further filtering based on targeting to wanted cell, and it will be called only after filterAllRemaining returns false and filterCell returns SEEK_NEXT_USING_HINT.
  5. transformCell is called to transform a cell into user wanted only after filterAllRemaining returns false and ReturnCode is INCLUDE***, but it is not often used.
  6. hasFilterRow, filterRow and filterRowCells can be regarded as an entirety. If hasFilterRow returns false, those two left methods will not be called. filterRowCells is called to modify the pending return results list to client, it is not often used either. Then filterRow is called, the last chance to filter out entire row. Like SingleColumnValueFilter though found matched column, but didn’t find matched value, and this row would be filtered out by filterRow method.
  7. 1~6 should finish an entire row, and reset is called between rows to reset filter status and continues next row.


  • In server side code base, methods are called scatteredly, it can’t be regard as a good looking framework.
  • Considering combination of Coprocessor framework, it becomes more complicated, not to mention the procedure logic of scan/get.