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Getting Started with Impala by John Russell

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Cloudera Impala is an open source project that opens up the Apache Hadoop software stack to a wide audience of database analysts, users, and developers. The Impala massively parallel processing (MPP) engine makes SQL queries of Hadoop data simple enough to be accessible to analysts familiar with SQL and to users of business intelligence tools, and it’s fast enough to be used for interactive exploration and experimentation.

From the ground up, the Impala software is written for high performance of SQL queries distributed across clusters of connected machines.

Who Is This Book For?

This book is intended for a broad audience of users from a variety of database, data warehousing, or Big Data backgrounds. It assumes that you’re experienced enough with SQL not to need explanations for familiar statements such as CREATE TABLE, SELECT, INSERT, and their major clauses. Linux experience is a plus. Experience with the Apache Hadoop software stack is useful but not required.

This book points out instances where some aspect of Impala architecture or usage might be new to people who are experienced with databases but not the Apache Hadoop software stack.

The SQL examples in this book start from a simple base for easy comprehension, then build toward best practices that demonstrate high performance and scalability.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:

Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.
Constant width
Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.
Constant width bold
Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user. This style is also used to emphasize the names of SQL statements within paragraphs.
Constant width italic
Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This element signifies a tip or suggestion.


This element signifies a general note.


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Using Code Examples

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I have to start by acknowledging the vision and execution of the Impala development team, led by Marcel Kornacker. I have learned a lot from them—especially Justin Erickson, Alex Behm, Lenni Kuff, Alan Choi, and Nong Li—that has made it into this book. Thanks to all the Impala team members and to Gwen Shapira, Mark Grover, Kate Ting, and Uri Laserson for their feedback and insights on my drafts.

Going a little further back, I’ve been lucky to be able to consult and collaborate with really good individuals and teams at each stage and transition in my career. Thanks to James Hamilton who convinced me to switch from programming languages to the database track all those years ago at IBM. Thanks to the late Mark Townsend at Oracle for many insights about the database industry. Thanks to Ken Jacobs who helped me switch into the open source group at Oracle, and the InnoDB team under Calvin Sun and later Sunny Bains for being great to work with and teaching me database internals. Thanks to Mike Olson and Justin Kestelyn at Cloudera for showing me the right way for a small company to tackle the enterprise software market, and to do developer and community outreach. Thanks to Paul Battaglia, Jolly Chen, and Frank Liva for building and supporting the Cloudera technical publications department.

Last but not least, this book would not be possible if not for my wonderful and supportive wife, Lotus Goldstein.

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