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HDFS vs. HBase : All you need to know

Ailsa Singh 1364 16-Oct-2017

It has created the need for a more organized file system for storage and processing of data, when it is observed a sudden increase in the volume of data from the order of gigabytes to zettabytes. The demand stemming from the data market has brought Hadoop in the limelight making it one of biggest players in the industry. The commonly known file system of Hadoop, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and HBase (Hadoop’s database) are the most topical and advanced data storage and management systems available in the market.

What are HDFS and HBase?

HDFS is fault-tolerant by design and supports rapid data transfer between nodes even during system failures. HBase is a non-relational and open source Not-Only-SQL database that runs on top of Hadoop. HBase comes under CP type of CAP (Consistency, Availability, and Partition Tolerance) theorem.

HDFS is most suitable for performing batch analytics. However, one of its biggest drawbacks is its inability to perform real-time analysis, the trending requirement of the IT industry. on the contrary, HBase can handle large data sets and is not appropriate for batch analytics. Instead, it is used to write/read data from Hadoop in real-time.

Both HDFS and HBase are capable of processing structured, semi-structured as well as unstructured data. HDFS slows down the process of data analysis as it lacks an in-memory processing engine; as it is using plain old MapReduce to do it. HBase, on the contrary, boasts of an in-memory processing engine that drastically increases the speed of read/write.

HDFS is very transparent in its execution of data analysis.  HBase, on the other hand, being a NoSQL database in tabular format, fetches values by sorting them under different key values.

Enhanced Understanding with Use Cases for HDFS & HBase

Use Case 1 – Cloudera optimization for European bank using HBase

We know that, for real-time environments, HBase is perfectly suited and this can be best demonstrated by citing the example of our client, a renowned European bank. To derive critical insights from the logs from application/web servers, we implemented a solution in Apache Storm and Apache Hbase together. We opted for HBase over HDFS for its huge velocity of data; as HDFS does not support real-time writes. The results were overwhelming; it reduced the query time from 3 days to 3 minutes.

Use Case 2 – Analytics solution for global CPG player using HDFS & MapReduce

In the case of a global beverage player client, the main goal was to perform batch analytics to gain SKU level insights and involved recursive/sequential calculations. HDFS and MapReduce frameworks were better suited than complex Hive queries on top of HBase. MapReduce was used for data wrangling and to prepare data for subsequent analytics. Hive was used for custom analytics on top of data processed by MapReduce. The results were impressive; as there was a drastic reduction in the time taken to generate custom analytics – 3 days to 3 hours.

Below is given a key comparisan between HDFS and HBase:





HDFS is a Java-based file system utilized for storing large data sets.


HBase is a Java based Not Only SQL database


HDFS has a rigid architecture that does not allow changes. It doesn’t facilitate dynamic storage.


HBase provides user to make dynamic changes and can be utilized for standalone applications.


HDFS is ideally suited for write-once and read-many times use cases


HBase is ideally suited for random write and read of data that is stored in HDFS.


Also Read: Switching from a Java to Big Data

Updated 16-Oct-2017

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