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Broadcast hash joins

The simplest way of performing a map-side join applies in the case where a large dataset is joined with a small dataset. In particular, the small dataset needs to be small enough that it can be loaded entirely into memory in each of the mappers.

For example, imagine in the case of Figure 10-2 that the user database is small enough to fit in memory. In this case, when a mapper starts up, it can first read the user database from the distributed filesystem into an in-memory hash table. Once this is done, the mapper can scan over the user activity events and simply look up the user ID for each event in the hash table.[1]

There can still be several map tasks: one for each file block of the large input to the join (in the example of Figure 10-2, the activity events are the large input). Each of these mappers loads the small input entirely into memory.

This simple but effective algorithm is called a broadcast hash join: the word broadcast reflects the fact that each mapper for a partition of the large input reads the entirety of the small input (so the small input is effectively “broadcast” to all partitions of the large input), and the word hash reflects its use of a hash table. This join method is supported by Pig (under the name “replicated join”), Hive (“MapJoin”), Cascading, and Crunch. It is also used in data warehouse query engines such as Impala [41].

Instead of loading the small join input into an in-memory hash table, an alternative is to store the small join input in a read-only index on the local disk [42]. The frequently used parts of this index will remain in the operating system’s page cache, so this approach can provide random-access lookups almost as fast as an in-memory hash table, but without actually requiring the dataset to fit in memory.

  • [1] This example assumes that there is exactly one entry for each key in the hash table, which is probably truewith a user database (a user ID uniquely identifies a user). In general, the hash table may need to containseveral entries with the same key, and the join operator will output all matches for a key.
 
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