Read operations (scans)

Scans are read operations performed by clients that may span one or more rows across one or more tablets. When a server receives a scan request, it takes a snapshot of the MVCC state and then proceeds in one of two ways depending on the read mode selected by the user.

The mode may be selected as follows:

Java Client

Call KuduScannerBuilder#ReadMode(…​)

C++ Client

Call KuduScanner::SetReadMode()

The following modes are available in both clients:


This is the default read mode. The server takes a snapshot of the MVCC state and proceeds with the read immediately. Reads in this mode only yield 'Read Committed' isolation.


In this read mode, scans are consistent and repeatable. A timestamp for the snapshot is selected either by the server, or set explicitly by the user through KuduScanner::SetSnapshotMicros(). Explicitly setting the timestamp is recommended.

The server waits until this timestamp is 'safe'; that is, until all write operations that have a lower timestamp have completed and are visible). This delay, coupled with an external consistency method, will eventually allow Kudu to have full strict-serializable semantics for reads and writes. However, this is still a work in progress and some anomalies are still possible. Only scans in this mode can be fault-tolerant.

Selecting between read modes requires balancing the trade-offs and making a choice that fits your workload. For instance, a reporting application that needs to scan the entire database might need to perform careful accounting operations, so that scan may need to be fault-tolerant, but probably doesn’t require a to-the-microsecond up-to-date view of the database. In that case, you might choose READ_AT_SNAPSHOT and select a timestamp that is a few seconds in the past when the scan starts. On the other hand, a machine learning workload that is not ingesting the whole data set and is already statistical in nature might not require the scan to be repeatable, so you might choose READ_LATEST instead for better scan performance.