Query Configuration

Table API and SQL queries have the same semantics regardless whether their input is a finite set of rows or an unbounded stream of table changes. In many cases, continuous queries on streaming input are able to compute accurate results that are identical to offline computed results. However, for some continuous queries you have to limit the size of the state they are maintaining in order to avoid to run out of storage while ingesting an unbounded stream of input. It depends on the characteristics of the input data and the query itself whether you need to limit the state size and whether and how it affects the accuracy of the computed results.

Flink’s Table API and SQL interface provide parameters to tune the accuracy and resource consumption of continuous queries. The parameters are specified via a TableConfig object, which can be obtained from the TableEnvironment.

StreamExecutionEnvironment env = StreamExecutionEnvironment.getExecutionEnvironment();
StreamTableEnvironment tableEnv = StreamTableEnvironment.create(env);

// obtain query configuration from TableEnvironment
TableConfig tConfig = tableEnv.getConfig();
// set query parameters
tConfig.setIdleStateRetentionTime(Time.hours(12), Time.hours(24));

// define query
Table result = ...

// create TableSink
TableSink<Row> sink = ...

// register TableSink
tableEnv.registerTableSink(
  "outputTable",               // table name
  new String[]{...},           // field names
  new TypeInformation[]{...},  // field types
  sink);                       // table sink

// emit result Table via a TableSink
result.executeInsert("outputTable");

// convert result Table into a DataStream<Row>
DataStream<Row> stream = tableEnv.toAppendStream(result, Row.class);
val env = StreamExecutionEnvironment.getExecutionEnvironment
val tableEnv = StreamTableEnvironment.create(env)

// obtain query configuration from TableEnvironment
val tConfig: TableConfig = tableEnv.getConfig
// set query parameters
tConfig.setIdleStateRetentionTime(Time.hours(12), Time.hours(24))

// define query
val result: Table = ???

// create TableSink
val sink: TableSink[Row] = ???

// register TableSink
tableEnv.registerTableSink(
  "outputTable",                  // table name
  Array[String](...),             // field names
  Array[TypeInformation[_]](...), // field types
  sink)                           // table sink

// emit result Table via a TableSink
result.executeInsert("outputTable")

// convert result Table into a DataStream[Row]
val stream: DataStream[Row] = result.toAppendStream[Row]
# use TableConfig in python API
t_config = TableConfig()
# set query parameters
t_config.set_idle_state_retention_time(timedelta(hours=12), timedelta(hours=24))

env = StreamExecutionEnvironment.get_execution_environment()
table_env = StreamTableEnvironment.create(env, t_config)

# define query
result = ...

# create TableSink
sink = ...

# register TableSink
table_env.register_table_sink("outputTable",  # table name
                              sink)  # table sink

# emit result Table via a TableSink
result.insert_into("outputTable")

In the following we describe the parameters of the TableConfig and how they affect the accuracy and resource consumption of a query.

Idle State Retention Time

Many queries aggregate or join records on one or more key attributes. When such a query is executed on a stream, the continuous query needs to collect records or maintain partial results per key. If the key domain of the input stream is evolving, i.e., the active key values are changing over time, the continuous query accumulates more and more state as more and more distinct keys are observed. However, often keys become inactive after some time and their corresponding state becomes stale and useless.

For example the following query computes the number of clicks per session.

SELECT sessionId, COUNT(*) FROM clicks GROUP BY sessionId;

The sessionId attribute is used as a grouping key and the continuous query maintains a count for each sessionId it observes. The sessionId attribute is evolving over time and sessionId values are only active until the session ends, i.e., for a limited period of time. However, the continuous query cannot know about this property of sessionId and expects that every sessionId value can occur at any point of time. It maintains a count for each observed sessionId value. Consequently, the total state size of the query is continuously growing as more and more sessionId values are observed.

The Idle State Retention Time parameters define for how long the state of a key is retained without being updated before it is removed. For the previous example query, the count of a sessionId would be removed as soon as it has not been updated for the configured period of time.

By removing the state of a key, the continuous query completely forgets that it has seen this key before. If a record with a key, whose state has been removed before, is processed, the record will be treated as if it was the first record with the respective key. For the example above this means that the count of a sessionId would start again at 0.

There are two parameters to configure the idle state retention time:

  • The minimum idle state retention time defines how long the state of an inactive key is at least kept before it is removed.
  • The maximum idle state retention time defines how long the state of an inactive key is at most kept before it is removed.

The parameters are specified as follows:

TableConfig tConfig = ...

// set idle state retention time: min = 12 hours, max = 24 hours
tConfig.setIdleStateRetentionTime(Time.hours(12), Time.hours(24));
val tConfig: TableConfig = ???

// set idle state retention time: min = 12 hours, max = 24 hours
tConfig.setIdleStateRetentionTime(Time.hours(12), Time.hours(24))
t_config = ...  # type: TableConfig

# set idle state retention time: min = 12 hours, max = 24 hours
t_config.set_idle_state_retention_time(timedelta(hours=12), timedelta(hours=24))

Cleaning up state requires additional bookkeeping which becomes less expensive for larger differences of minTime and maxTime. The difference between minTime and maxTime must be at least 5 minutes.

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