HBase: Avoid ScannerTimeoutException looking for needles in the haystack with RandomRowFilter

Scanner timeout exceptions happen in HBase when no network activity occurs between the client and server within the timeout period. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the one we’ll focus on here is the needle in a haystack case: you’re using a highly selective row filter, so the region server is scanning and discarding lots of data. While its great for performance that the data doesn’t come back to the client, the connection may time out.

The first easy fix is to reduce the caching you’re setting up on the connection. There’s only network activity per n (n=cache size) rows when caching is setup. Jeff Dwyer has a quick writeup about that.

If adjusting the cache still doesn’t work, what you can do is add a RandomRowFilter to randomly accept some small fraction of the rows and return them to the client. You just need to re-check the filters on the returned rows, but it may be more efficient than reducing cache size (and possibly more reliable). Just stack it with your existing filters as in the code sample below.

RandomRowFilter randomFilter = new RandomRowFilter(.001f);
FilterList orFilter = new FilterList(Operator.MUST_PASS_ONE);

Tune the constant based on estimates of your data sparsity and timeout settings and away you go

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