Hive Metastore

Spark SQL uses a Hive metastore to manage the metadata of persistent relational entities (e.g. databases, tables, columns, partitions) in a relational database (for fast access).

A Hive metastore warehouse (aka spark-warehouse) is the directory where Spark SQL persists tables whereas a Hive metastore (aka metastore_db) is a relational database to manage the metadata of the persistent relational entities, e.g. databases, tables, columns, partitions.

By default, Spark SQL uses the embedded deployment mode of a Hive metastore with a Apache Derby database.


The default embedded deployment mode is not recommended for production use due to limitation of only one active SparkSession at a time.

Read Cloudera’s Configuring the Hive Metastore for CDH document that explains the available deployment modes of a Hive metastore.

When SparkSession is created with Hive support the external catalog (aka metastore) is HiveExternalCatalog. HiveExternalCatalog uses spark.sql.warehouse.dir directory for the location of the databases and javax.jdo.option properties for the connection to the Hive metastore database.


The metadata of relational entities is persisted in a metastore database over JDBC and DataNucleus AccessPlatform that uses javax.jdo.option properties.

Read Hive Metastore Administration to learn how to manage a Hive Metastore.

Table 1. Hive Metastore Database Connection Properties
Name Description


The JDBC connection URL of a Hive metastore database to use





The JDBC driver of a Hive metastore database to use



The user name to use to connect to a Hive metastore database


The password to use to connect to a Hive metastore database

You can configure javax.jdo.option properties in hive-site.xml or using options with spark.hadoop prefix.

You can access the current connection properties for a Hive metastore in a Spark SQL application using the Spark internal classes.

scala> :type spark

scala> spark.sharedState.externalCatalog
res1: org.apache.spark.sql.catalyst.catalog.ExternalCatalog = org.apache.spark.sql.hive.HiveExternalCatalog@79dd79eb

// Use `:paste -raw` to paste the following code
// This is to pass the private[spark] "gate"
package org.apache.spark
import org.apache.spark.sql.SparkSession
object jacek {
  def open(spark: SparkSession) = {
    import org.apache.spark.sql.hive.HiveExternalCatalog
// END
import org.apache.spark.jacek
val hiveClient =
scala> hiveClient.getConf("javax.jdo.option.ConnectionURL", "")
res2: String = jdbc:derby:;databaseName=metastore_db;create=true

The benefits of using an external Hive metastore:

  1. Allow multiple Spark applications (sessions) to access it concurrently

  2. Allow a single Spark application to use table statistics without running "ANALYZE TABLE" every execution

As of Spark 2.2 (see SPARK-18112 Spark2.x does not support read data from Hive 2.x metastore) Spark SQL supports reading data from Hive 2.1.1 metastore.
FIXME Describe hive-site.xml vs config method vs --conf with spark.hadoop prefix.

Spark SQL uses the Hive-specific configuration properties that further fine-tune the Hive integration, e.g. spark.sql.hive.metastore.version or spark.sql.hive.metastore.jars.

spark.sql.warehouse.dir Configuration Property

spark.sql.warehouse.dir is a static configuration property that sets Hive’s hive.metastore.warehouse.dir property, i.e. the location of default database for the Hive warehouse.


Refer to SharedState to learn about (the low-level details of) Spark SQL support for Apache Hive.

See also the official Hive Metastore Administration document.

Hive Metastore Deployment Modes

Configuring External Hive Metastore in Spark SQL

In order to use an external Hive metastore you should do the following:

  1. Enable Hive support in SparkSession (that makes sure that the Hive classes are on CLASSPATH and sets spark.sql.catalogImplementation internal configuration property to hive)

  2. spark.sql.warehouse.dir required?

  3. Define hive.metastore.warehouse.dir in hive-site.xml configuration resource

  4. Check out warehousePath

  5. Execute ./bin/run-example sql.hive.SparkHiveExample to verify Hive configuration

When not configured by the hive-site.xml, SparkSession automatically creates metastore_db in the current directory and creates a directory configured by spark.sql.warehouse.dir, which defaults to the directory spark-warehouse in the current directory that the Spark application is started.


hive.metastore.warehouse.dir property in hive-site.xml is deprecated since Spark 2.0.0. Use spark.sql.warehouse.dir to specify the default location of the databases in a Hive warehouse.

You may need to grant write privilege to the user who starts the Spark application.

Hadoop Configuration Properties for Hive

Table 2. Hadoop Configuration Properties for Hive
Name Description


The Thrift URI of a remote Hive metastore, i.e. one that is in a separate JVM process or on a remote node

config("hive.metastore.uris", "thrift://")


SharedState uses hive.metastore.warehouse.dir to set spark.sql.warehouse.dir if the latter is undefined.

FIXME How is hive.metastore.warehouse.dir related to spark.sql.warehouse.dir? SharedState.warehousePath? Review


Set to false (as seems to cause exceptions with an empty metastore database as of Hive 2.1)

You may also want to use the following Hive configuration properties that (seem to) cause exceptions with an empty metastore database as of Hive 2.1.

  • datanucleus.schema.autoCreateAll set to true

spark.hadoop Configuration Properties

FIXME Describe the purpose of spark.hadoop.* properties

You can specify any of the Hadoop configuration properties, e.g. hive.metastore.warehouse.dir with spark.hadoop prefix.

$ spark-shell --conf spark.hadoop.hive.metastore.warehouse.dir=/tmp/hive-warehouse
scala> spark.sharedState
18/01/08 10:46:19 INFO SharedState: spark.sql.warehouse.dir is not set, but hive.metastore.warehouse.dir is set. Setting spark.sql.warehouse.dir to the value of hive.metastore.warehouse.dir ('/tmp/hive-warehouse').
18/01/08 10:46:19 INFO SharedState: Warehouse path is '/tmp/hive-warehouse'.
res1: org.apache.spark.sql.internal.SharedState = org.apache.spark.sql.internal.SharedState@5a69b3cf

hive-site.xml Configuration Resource

hive-site.xml configures Hive clients (e.g. Spark SQL) with the Hive Metastore configuration.

hive-site.xml is loaded when SharedState is created (which is…​FIXME).

Configuration of Hive is done by placing your hive-site.xml, core-site.xml (for security configuration), and hdfs-site.xml (for HDFS configuration) file in conf/ (that is automatically added to the CLASSPATH of a Spark application).

You can use --driver-class-path or spark.driver.extraClassPath to point to the directory with configuration resources, e.g. hive-site.xml.
    <description>Hive Metastore location</description>
Read Resources section in Hadoop’s Configuration javadoc to learn more about configuration resources.

Use SparkContext.hadoopConfiguration to know which configuration resources have already been registered.

scala> sc.hadoopConfiguration
res1: org.apache.hadoop.conf.Configuration = Configuration: core-default.xml, core-site.xml, mapred-default.xml, mapred-site.xml, yarn-default.xml, yarn-site.xml

// Initialize warehousePath
scala> spark.sharedState.warehousePath
res2: String = file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/spark-warehouse/

// Note file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/spark-warehouse/ is added to configuration resources
scala> sc.hadoopConfiguration
res3: org.apache.hadoop.conf.Configuration = Configuration: core-default.xml, core-site.xml, mapred-default.xml, mapred-site.xml, yarn-default.xml, yarn-site.xml, file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/conf/hive-site.xml

Enable org.apache.spark.sql.internal.SharedState logger to INFO logging level to know where hive-site.xml comes from.

scala> spark.sharedState.warehousePath
18/01/08 09:49:33 INFO SharedState: loading hive config file: file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/conf/hive-site.xml
18/01/08 09:49:33 INFO SharedState: Setting hive.metastore.warehouse.dir ('null') to the value of spark.sql.warehouse.dir ('file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/spark-warehouse/').
18/01/08 09:49:33 INFO SharedState: Warehouse path is 'file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/spark-warehouse/'.
res2: String = file:/Users/jacek/dev/oss/spark/spark-warehouse/

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