Automatic metadata management

Impala automatic metadata management feature uses notifications to refresh data after changes.

By: Manish Maheshwari, Data Architect and Data Scientist at Cloudera, Inc.

When tools such as Hive and Spark are used to process raw data ingested into Hive tables, new Hive metastore metadata (in the form of databases, tables, and partitions) and file system metadata (in the form of new files in existing partitions and tables) are generated. In previous versions of Impala, to pick up this new information, Impala users had to manually issue an INVALIDATE or REFRESH command. Now, there is a new feature called automatic metadata management. Automatic metadata management works by using Hive metastore notifications which performs the following:

  • Invalidates tables when it receives an ALTER TABLE event.
  • Refreshes the partition when it receives an ALTER TABLE ADD | DROP PARTITION event.
  • Adds the tables or databases when it receives a CREATE TABLE or CREATE DATABASE event.
  • Removes tables from the Catalog (catalogd) when it receives a DROP TABLE or DROP DATABASE events.
  • Refreshes table and partitions when it receives INSERT events.

When there are database-level changes, the following types of changes are supported:

  • Database properties
  • Comments on the database
  • Owner of the database
  • Default location of the database
Figure 1. Hive metastore notifications


To control this feature, use the --hms_event_polling_interval_s flag on the catalogd. When set to a positive value, it enables Hive metastore event polling. The recommended value to set this flag to is under 5 seconds.

The automatic metadata management feature does not support files or partitions that have been manually added to HDFS by using Spark, DistCp, or HDFS Put because no Hive metastore notification is generated for these operations. To handle these scenarios, use one of the following methods:

  • Use the LOAD DATA command to handle the metadata changes, or
  • Run a REFRESH [db_name.]table_name [PARTITION‚Ķ command or an ALTER TABLE table_name RECOVER PARTITIONS command.

If you need to disable automatic metadata management for certain tables or databases, set the following properties:

CREATE DATABASE <db_name> DBPROPERTIES ('impala.disableHmsSync'='true');
CREATE TABLE <tab_name> WITHTBLPROPERTIES ('impala.disableHmsSync'='true' | 'false');