Use cases for ACLs on HDFS

Depending on your requirements, you can configure ACLs on HDFS to ensure that the right users and groups have the required access permissions to your data.

The following examples indicate different use cases for configuring ACLs on HDFS:

Multiple Users

In this use case, multiple users require Read access to a file. None of the users are the owner of the file. The users are not members of a common group, so it is impossible to use group Permission Bits.

This use case can be addressed by setting an access ACL containing multiple named user entries:

ACLs on HDFS supports the following use cases:

Multiple Groups

In this use case, multiple groups require Read and Write access to a file. There is no group containing all of the group members, so it is impossible to use group Permission Bits.

This use case can be addressed by setting an access ACL containing multiple named group entries:


Hive Partitioned Tables

In this use case, Hive contains a partitioned table of sales data. The partition key is "country". Hive persists partitioned tables using a separate subdirectory for each distinct value of the partition key, so the file system structure in HDFS looks like this:

`-- hive
 `-- warehouse
 `-- sales
 |-- country=CN
 |-- country=GB
 `-- country=US

All of these files belong to the "salesadmin" group. Members of this group have Read and Write access to all files. Separate country groups can run Hive queries that only read data for a specific country, such as "sales_CN", "sales_GB", and "sales_US". These groups do not have Write access.

This use case can be addressed by setting an access ACL on each subdirectory containing an owning group entry and a named group entry:




Note that the functionality of the owning group ACL entry (the group entry with no name) is equivalent to setting Permission Bits.

Default ACLs

In this use case, a file system administrator or sub-tree owner would like to define an access policy that will be applied to the entire sub-tree. This access policy must apply not only to the current set of files and directories, but also to any new files and directories that are added later.

This use case can be addressed by setting a default ACL on the directory. The default ACL can contain any arbitrary combination of entries. For example:


It is important to note that the default ACL gets copied from the directory to newly created child files and directories at time of creation of the child file or directory. If you change the default ACL on a directory, that will have no effect on the ACL of the files and subdirectories that already exist within the directory. Default ACLs are never considered during permission enforcement. They are only used to define the ACL that new files and subdirectories will receive automatically when they are created.

Minimal ACL/Permissions Only

HDFS ACLs support deployments that may want to use only Permission Bits and not ACLs with named user and group entries. Permission Bits are equivalent to a minimal ACL containing only 3 entries. For example:


Block Access to a Sub-Tree for a Specific User

In this use case, a deeply nested file system sub-tree was created as world-readable, followed by a subsequent requirement to block access for a specific user to all files in that sub-tree.

This use case can be addressed by setting an ACL on the root of the sub-tree with a named user entry that strips all access from the user.

For this file system structure:

`-- dir2
 `-- dir3
 |-- file1
 |-- file2
 `-- file3

Setting the following ACL on "dir2" blocks access for Bruce to "dir3,""file1,""file2," and "file3":


More specifically, the removal of execute permissions on "dir2" means that Bruce cannot access "dir2", and therefore cannot see any of its children. This also means that access is blocked automatically for any new files added under "dir2". If a "file4" is created under "dir3", Bruce will not be able to access it.

ACLs with Sticky Bit

In this use case, multiple named users or named groups require full access to a shared directory, such as "/tmp". However, Write and Execute permissions on the directory also give users the ability to delete or rename any files in the directory, even files created by other users. Users must be restricted so that they are only allowed to delete or rename files that they created.

This use case can be addressed by combining an ACL with the sticky bit. The sticky bit is existing functionality that currently works with Permission Bits. It will continue to work as expected in combination with ACLs.