Requirements and benefits of HDFS snapshots

You might want to consider the benefits and memory cost of using snapshots. Verify the requirements before you enable snapshots.


You must have HDFS superuser privilege to enable or disable snapshot operations. Replication using snapshots requires that the target filesystem data being replicated is identical to the source data for a given snapshot. There must be no modification to the data on the target. Otherwise, the integrity of the snapshot cannot be guaranteed on the target and replication can fail in various ways.


Snapshot-based replication helps you to avoid unnecessary copying of renamed files and directories. If a large directory is renamed on the source side, a regular DistCp update operation sees the renamed directory as a new one and copies the entire directory.

Generating copy lists during incremental synchronization is more efficient with snapshots than using a regular DistCp update, which can take a long time to scan the whole directory and detect identical files. And because snapshots are read-only point-in-time copies between the source and destination, modification of source files during replication is not an issue, as it can be using other replication methods.

A snapshot cannot be modified. This protects the data against accidental or intentional modification, which is helpful in governance.

Memory cost

There is a memory cost to enable and maintain snapshots. Tracking the modifications that are made relative to a snapshot increases the memory footprint on the NameNode and can therefore stress NameNode memory. Because of the additional memory requirements, snapshot replication is recommended for situations where you expect to do a lot of directory renaming, if the directory tree is very large, or if you expect changes to be made to source files while replication jobs run.