It’s been a while since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t been idle. Quite the opposite; I’ve been so busy writing code that I haven’t had time to write blog posts. A few months ago I joined Hortonworks, and I’ve been improving Optiq on several fronts, including several releases, adding a cost-based optimizer to Hive and some other initiatives to make Hadoop faster and smarter.

More about those other initiatives shortly. But Optiq’s mission is to improve access to all data, so here I want to talk about improvements to how Optiq accesses data in MongoDB. Optiq can now translate SQL queries to extremely efficient operations inside MongoDB.

MongoDB 2.2 introduced the aggregation framework, which allows you to compose queries as pipelines of operations. They have basically implemented relational algebra, and we wanted to take advantage of this.

As the following table shows, most of those operations map onto Optiq’s relational operators. We can exploit that fact to push SQL query logic down into MongoDB.

MongoDB operator Optiq operator
$project ProjectRel
$match FilterRel
$limit SortRel.limit
$skip SortRel.offset
$unwind -
$group AggregateRel
$sort SortRel
$geoNear -

A bug pointed out that it would be more efficient if we evaluated $match before $project. As I fixed that bug yesterday, I decided to push down limit and offset operations. (In Optiq, these are just attributes of a SortRel; a SortRel sorting on 0 columns can be created if you wish to apply limit or offset without sorting.)

That went well, so I decided to go for the prize: pushing down aggregations. This is a big performance win because the output of a GROUP BY query is often a lot smaller than its input. It is much more efficient for MongoDB aggregate the data in memory, returning a small result, than to return a large amount of raw data to be aggregated by Optiq.

Now queries involving SELECT, FROM, WHERE, GROUP BY, HAVING, ORDER BY, OFFSET, FETCH (or LIMIT if you prefer the PostgreSQL-style syntax), not to mention sub-queries, can be evaluated in MongoDB. (JOIN, UNION, INTERSECT, MINUS cannot be pushed down because MongoDB does not support those relational operators; Optiq will still evaluate those queries, pushing down as much as it can.)

Let’s see some examples of push-down in action.

Given the query:

SELECT state, COUNT(*) AS c
FROM zips
GROUP BY state

Optiq evaluates:

   {$project: {STATE: ‘$state’}},
   {$group: {_id: ‘$STATE’, C: {$sum: 1}}},
   {$project: {STATE: ‘$_id’, C: ‘$C’}})

and returns


Now let’s add a HAVING clause to find out which states have more than 1,500 zip codes:

SELECT state, COUNT(*) AS c
FROM zips
GROUP BY state
HAVING COUNT(*) > 1500

Optiq adds a $match operator to the previous query’s pipeline:

   {$project: {STATE: ‘$state’}},
   {$group: {_id: ‘$STATE’, C: {$sum: 1}}},
   {$project: {STATE: ‘$_id’, C: ‘$C’}},
   {$match: {C: {$gt: 1500}}})

and returns

STATE=NY; C=1596
STATE=TX; C=1676
STATE=CA; C=1523

Now the pièce de résistance. The following query finds the top 5 states in terms of number of cities (and remember that each city can have many zip-codes).

FROM zips
GROUP BY state

COUNT(DISTINCT {column}) is difficult to implement because it requires the data to be aggregated twice – once to compute the set of distinct values, and once to count them within each group. For this reason, MongoDB doesn’t implement distinct aggregations. But Optiq translates the query into a pipeline with two $group operators. For good measure, we throw in ORDER BY and LIMIT clauses.

The result is an awe-inspiring pipeline that includes two $group operators (implementing the two phases of aggregation for distinct-count), and finishes with $sort and $limit.

  {$project: {STATE: '$state', CITY: '$city'}},
  {$group: {_id: {STATE: '$STATE', CITY: '$CITY'}}},
  {$project: {_id: 0, STATE: '$_id.STATE', CITY: '$_id.CITY'}},
  {$group: {_id: '$STATE', CDC: {$sum: {$cond: [ {$eq: ['CITY', null]}, 0, 1]}}}},
  {$project: {STATE: '$_id', CDC: '$CDC'}},
  {$sort: {CDC: -1}},
  {$limit: 5})

I had to jump through some hoops to get this far, because MongoDB’s expression language can be baroque. In one case I had to generate

{$ifNull: [null, 0]}

in order to include the constant 0 in a $project operator. And I was foiled by MongoDB bug SERVER-4589 when trying to access the values inside the zips table’s loc column, which contains (latitude, longitude) pairs represented as an array.

In conclusion, Optiq on MongoDB now does a lot of really smart stuff. It can evaluate any SQL query, and push down a lot of that evaluation to be executed efficiently inside MongoDB.

I encourage you to download Optiq and try running some sophisticated SQL queries (including those generated by the OLAP engine I authored, Mondrian).