ACLS on HDFS features

ACLs on HDFS support features such as associating with any files or directories, access through multiple user-facing endpoints, backward compatibility with Permission Bits and so on.

POSIX ACL Implementation

ACLs on HDFS have been implemented with the POSIX ACL model. If you have ever used POSIX ACLs on a Linux file system, the HDFS ACLs work the same way.

Compatibility and Enforcement

HDFS can associate an optional ACL with any file or directory. All HDFS operations that enforce permissions expressed with Permission Bits must also enforce any ACL that is defined for the file or directory. Any existing logic that bypasses Permission Bits enforcement also bypasses ACLs. This includes the HDFS super-user and setting dfs.permissions to "false" in the configuration.

Access Through Multiple User-Facing Endpoints

HDFS supports operations for setting and getting the ACL associated with a file or directory. These operations are accessible through multiple user-facing endpoints. These endpoints include the FsShell CLI, programmatic manipulation through the FileSystem and FileContext classes, WebHDFS, and NFS.

User Feedback: CLI Indicator for ACLs

The plus symbol (+) is appended to the listed permissions of any file or directory with an associated ACL. To view, use the ls -l command.


The implementation of ACLs is backward-compatible with existing usage of Permission Bits. Changes applied via Permission Bits (chmod) are also visible as changes in the ACL. Likewise, changes applied to ACL entries for the base user classes (Owner, Group, and Others) are also visible as changes in the Permission Bits. Permission Bit and ACL operations manipulate a shared model, and the Permission Bit operations can be considered a subset of the ACL operations.

Low Overhead

The addition of ACLs will not cause a detrimental impact to the consumption of system resources in deployments that choose not to use ACLs. This includes CPU, memory, disk, and network bandwidth.

Using ACLs does impact NameNode performance. It is therefore recommended that you use Permission Bits, if adequate, before using ACLs.

ACL Entry Limits

The number of entries in a single ACL is capped at a maximum of 32. Attempts to add ACL entries over the maximum will fail with a user-facing error. This is done for two reasons: to simplify management, and to limit resource consumption. ACLs with a very high number of entries tend to become difficult to understand, and may indicate that the requirements are better addressed by defining additional groups or users. ACLs with a very high number of entries also require more memory and storage, and take longer to evaluate on each permission check. The number 32 is consistent with the maximum number of ACL entries enforced by the "ext" family of file systems.


Within a snapshot, all ACLs are frozen at the moment that the snapshot was created. ACL changes in the parent of the snapshot are not applied to the snapshot.


Tooling that propagates Permission Bits will propagate ACLs. This includes the cp -p shell command and distcp -p.