Writing to multiple tablets

Kudu does not support transactions that span multiple tablets. However, consistent snapshot reads are possible (with caveats, as explained below). Writes from a Kudu client are optionally buffered in memory until they are flushed and sent to the tablet server. When a client’s session is flushed, the rows for each tablet are batched together, and sent to the tablet server which hosts the leader replica of the tablet. Since there are no inter-tablet transactions, each of these batches represents a single, independent write operation with its own timestamp. However, the client API provides the option to impose some constraints on the assigned timestamps and on how writes to different tablets are observed by clients.

Kudu was designed to be externally consistent, that is, preserving consistency when operations span multiple tablets and even multiple data centers. In practice this means that if a write operation changes item x at tablet A, and a following write operation changes item y at tablet B, you might want to enforce that if the change to y is observed, the change to x must also be observed. There are many examples where this can be important. For example, if Kudu is storing clickstreams for further analysis, and two clicks follow each other but are stored in different tablets, subsequent clicks should be assigned subsequent timestamps so that the causal relationship between them is captured.


    Kudu’s default external consistency mode is called CLIENT_PROPAGATED. This mode causes writes from a single client to be automatically externally consistent. In the clickstream scenario above, if the two clicks are submitted by different client instances, the application must manually propagate timestamps from one client to the other for the causal relationship to be captured. Timestamps between clients a and b can be propagated as follows:

    Java Client

    Call AsyncKuduClient#getLastPropagatedTimestamp() on client a, propagate the timestamp to client b, and call AsyncKuduClient#setLastPropagatedTimestamp() on client b.

    C++ Client

    Call KuduClient::GetLatestObservedTimestamp() on client a, propagate the timestamp to client b, and call KuduClient::SetLatestObservedTimestamp() on client b.

  • COMMIT_WAIT Consistency

    Kudu also has an experimental implementation of an external consistency model (used in Google’s Spanner), called COMMIT_WAIT. COMMIT_WAIT works by tightly synchronizing the clocks on all machines in the cluster. Then, when a write occurs, timestamps are assigned and the results of the write are not made visible until enough time has passed so that no other machine in the cluster could possibly assign a lower timestamp to a following write.

    When using this mode, the latency of writes is tightly tied to the accuracy of clocks on all the cluster hosts, and using this mode with loose clock synchronization causes writes to either take a long time to complete, or even time out.

    The COMMIT_WAIT consistency mode may be selected as follows:

    Java Client

    Call KuduSession#setExternalConsistencyMode(ExternalConsistencyMode.COMMIT_WAIT)

    C++ Client

    Call KuduSession::SetExternalConsistencyMode(COMMIT_WAIT)