Table Exploration

A Table is a core Dataset. Unlike relational database tables where every row has the same schema, every row of a Table can have a different set of columns. Though Tables do not require a schema, in practice they are often written with an implicit schema. Column names are often strings, with a single data type used for all values in the same column. If you are using a Table in this way, you can set a schema as a Table property to enable exploration. The schema will be applied at read time, allowing you to run ad-hoc queries against the Table.


In order to explore a Table, your Table must meet a few requirements.

  • Columns names must be strings.
  • All column values for a specific column must be of the same type. For example, a value cannot be a string in one row and an integer in another.
  • Column values must be of a primitive type. A primitive type is one of boolean, int, long, float, double, bytes, or string.
  • Column names must be valid Hive column names. This means they cannot be reserved keywords such as drop. Please refer to the Hive language manual for more information about Hive.

Creating an Explorable Table

When creating a Table in your application, if you set the table’s schema property, your Table will be enabled for exploration after it is created:

public void configure() {
  Schema profileSchema = Schema.recordOf(
    // id, name, and email are never null and are set when a user profile is created
    Schema.Field.of("id", Schema.of(Schema.Type.STRING)),
    Schema.Field.of("name", Schema.of(Schema.Type.STRING)),
    Schema.Field.of("email", Schema.of(Schema.Type.STRING)),
    // login and active are never set when a profile is created but are set later, so they are nullable.
    Schema.Field.of("login", Schema.nullableOf(Schema.of(Schema.Type.LONG))),
    Schema.Field.of("active", Schema.nullableOf(Schema.of(Schema.Type.LONG)))
  createDataset("profiles", Table.class.getName(), DatasetProperties.builder()
    // set the schema property so that it can be explored via Hive
    .add(Table.PROPERTY_SCHEMA, profileSchema.toString())
    // to indicate that the id field should come from the row key and not a row column
    .add(Table.PROPERTY_SCHEMA_ROW_FIELD, "id")

Note that the schema row field property is set along with the schema property. The schema row field property must be set if you want to explore your Table row along with Table columns. In the example above, this property will let CDAP know to read the id field from the Table row instead of from the Table columns.

Setting a Schema on an Existing Table

Since schema is applied at read time, it is possible to set a schema on a Table after it has been created. It is also possible to change the schema of a Table. Dataset properties can be set using the RESTful API. For example, the same schema set through the example code above can also be set through the RESTful API:

curl -X PUT <baseurl>/namespaces/<namespace-id>/data/datasets/profiles/properties -d '{
  "typeName": "table",
  "properties": {
    "schema": "{
        {\"name\":\"login\",\"type\":[\"long\", \"null\"]},
        {\"name\":\"active\",\"type\":[\"long\", \"null\"]}
    "schema.row.field": "id"

CDAP schemas are adopted from the Avro Schema Declaration. Note that since Dataset properties must be strings, the schema JSON has to be escaped properly.

Formulating Queries

When creating your queries, keep these limitations in mind:

  • The query syntax of CDAP is a subset of the variant of SQL that was first defined by Apache Hive.
  • The SQL commands UPDATE and DELETE are not allowed on CDAP Datasets.
  • When addressing your datasets in queries, you need to prefix the Table name with dataset_. For example, if your Table is named Purchases, then the corresponding Hive table name is dataset_purchases. Note that the table name is lower-case.
  • If your Table name contains a ‘.’ or a ‘-‘, those characters will be converted to ‘_’ for the Hive table name. For example, if your Table is named, the corresponding Hive table name will be dataset_my_table_name. Beware of name collisions. For example, my.table will use the same Hive table name as my_table. Beware of name collisions. For example, my.table will use the same Hive table name as my_table.

For more examples of queries, please refer to the Hive language manual.