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SciDB 19.11 arrow 0.16.0 Build Status

Prototype SciDB API similar to Hadoop Streaming. The operator sends SciDB array data into the stdin of the process and reads its stdout (hence 'streaming').



stream(ARRAY [, ARRAY2], PROGRAM [, format:'...'][, types:('...')][, names:('...')])


  • ARRAY is a SciDB array expression
  • PROGRAM is a full command line to the child program to stream data through
  • format is either format:'tsv' for the tab-separated values (TSV) interface, format:'feather' for Apache Arrow, Feather format, or format:'df' for the R binary data.frame interface (see below); tsv is the default
  • types is a comma-separated list of expected returned column SciDB types - used only with format:'df'
  • names is an optional set of comma-separated output column names and must be the same length as types - used only with format:'df'; default column names are a0,a1,...
  • ARRAY2 is an optional second array; if used, data from this array will be streamed to the child first

Communication Protocol

The SciDB stream operator communicates with the external child program using the standard output, stdout pipe. The communication protocol is as follows:

  1. SciDB sends to the child one chunk of data
  2. Child reads the entire data chunk from SciDB
  3. Child sends a chunk of response data to SciDB. A 0-size hunk is expected if the child has no output data
  4. If more data is available on the SciDB side, proceed to step 1
  5. Child sends a final chunk of response data to SciDB. A 0-size chunk is expected if the child has no final data

Data Transfer Format

Three data transfer formats are available, each with their own strengths.

Tab Separated Values (TSV) for Flexibility

For each local chunk, each SciDB instance will convert all the attributes into a block of TSV text, preceded by an integer with the total number of lines. For example:

1   \N   1.1
2    B    \N
3   CD   2.3

Only attributes are transferred, so apply() the dimensions if you need them. The child process is expected to fully consume the entire chunk and then output a response in the same format. SciDB then consumes the response and sends the next chunk. At the end of the exchange, SciDB sends to the child process a zero-length message like so:


Which means "end of interaction". After that, the child is required to return another response, and then may legally self-terminate or wait for SciDB to terminate it. Note that the child may return an empty 0 message in response to any of the messages from SciDB. To recap, 0 from SciDB to child means "no more data" whereas 0 from child to SciDB means "no data right now."

The child responses are returned in an array of <response:string> [instance_id, chunk_no] with the "number of lines" header and the final newline character removed. Depending on the contents, one way to parse such an array would be using the deprecated parse() operator provided in We might re-consider its deprecated status given this newfound utility.

# Note that you will need to compile the program `examples/client.cpp` in order
# for the next command to work. A `Makefile` is provided
$ iquery -aq "parse(stream(apply(build(<a:double>[i=1:10,10,0], random()%5), b, random()%10), '$MYDIR/examples/stream_test_client'), num_attributes:3)"
{source_instance_id,chunk_no,line_no} a0,a1,a2,error
{0,0,0} 'Hello','4','5',null
{0,0,1} 'Hello','1','3',null
{0,0,2} 'Hello','2','6',null
{0,0,3} 'Hello','4','0',null
{0,0,4} 'Hello','2','8',null
{0,0,5} 'Hello','3','7',null
{0,0,6} 'Hello','2','2',null
{0,0,7} 'Hello','2','8',null
{0,0,8} 'Hello','4','8',null
{0,0,9} 'Hello','2','6',null
{0,0,10} 'OK','thanks!',null,'short'

All SciDB missing codes are converted to \N when transferring to the child.

Apache Arrow/Feather for Fast Transfer

Each chunk is converted Apache Arrow and written to the output in Feather format. The Feather data is preceded by its size in bytes. The supported types are int64, double, string and binary.

Just like in the TSV case, SciDB shall send one message per chunk to the child, each time waiting for a response. SciDB then sends an empty message to the child at the end of the interaction. The child must respond to each message from SciDB using either an empty or non-empty message. The data from the child is expected in the same format, the size in bytes followed by data in Feather format.

To use the Feather format, specify format:'featheras an argument to thestreamoperator. For data coming from the child process, the type of each attribute has to be specified using thetypes:...argument. The names of each attribute can be specified as well using thenames:...` argument. See the Python example for more details.

For Python the SciDB-stream library provides functions for reading data from SciDB as Pandas DataFrames and for sending Pandas DataFrames to SciDB.

DataFrame Interface for Fast Transfer to R

Each chunk is converted to the binary representation of the R data.frame-like list, one column per attribute. Only double, string, or int32 attributes are allowed. For example:

list(a0=as.integer(c(1,2,3)), a1=c(NA, 'B', 'CD'), a2=c(1.1, NA, 2.3))

Similar to the TSV interface, an empty message is an empty list:


Just like in the TSV case, SciDB shall send one message per chunk to the child, each time waiting for a response. SciDB then sends an empty message to the child at the end of the interaction. The child must respond to each message from SciDB using either an empty or non-empty message. For convenience, the names of the SciDB attributes are passed as names of the list elements. However, the names of the R output columns going in the other direction are disregarded. Instead, the user may specify attribute names with names:. The user must also specify the types of columns returned by the child process using types: - again using only string, double and int32. The returned data are split into attributes and returned as: <a0:type0, a1:type1,...>[instance_id, chunk_no, value_no] where a0,a1,.. are default attribute names that may be overridden with names: and the types are as supplied.

When sending data to child, all SciDB missing codes are converted to the R NA. In the opposite direction, R NA values are converted to SciDB null (missing code 0).

A quick example:

$ iquery -aq "stream(apply(build(<val:double> [i=1:5,5,0], i), s, 'Hello'), 'Rscript $MYDIR/examples/R_identity.R', format:'df', 'types:('double','string'), names:('a','b'))"
{instance_id,chunk_no,value_no} a,b
{0,0,0} 1,'Hello'
{0,0,1} 2,'Hello'
{0,0,2} 3,'Hello'
{0,0,3} 4,'Hello'
{0,0,4} 5,'Hello'

The next section discusses the companion R package and shows some really cool examples.

R package

See the package vignettes and source code in this software repository for more details.

For installing the R package, see:

Python package

A Python library is available for the stream plugin from Python. The library makes available a number of utility functions for interacting with the stream operator. The data format used to interact with the library is Pandas DataFrame. Internally, the data is transferred using the Apache Arrow library. Please the the package README file for instructions on installing the package, API documentation, and examples.

Stability and Security

SciDB shall terminate all the child processes and cancel the query if any of the child processes deviate from the exchange protocol or exit early. SciDB shall also kill all the child processes if the query is cancelled for any reason.


When using the SciDB Enterprise Edition in password mode, the user must be at least in the operator role in order to run stream() with an arbitrary command. An optional list of approved commands can be created in the file /opt/scidb/VV.VV/stream_allowed, one command per line. The commands in that file are allowed for any user. This is in addition to all array read and write permissions that apply just like they do in all other operators. For example:

$ cat /tmp/
echo 1
echo "Yo!"

#Root can run anything:
$ iquery --auth-file=/home/scidb/.scidb_root_auth -aq "stream(filter(build(<val:double>[i=0:0,1,0],0),false), '/tmp/')"
{instance_id,chunk_no} response
{0,0} 'Yo!'
{1,0} 'Yo!'
{2,0} 'Yo!'
{3,0} 'Yo!'
{4,0} 'Yo!'
{5,0} 'Yo!'
{6,0} 'Yo!'
{7,0} 'Yo!'

#This user isn't in the 'operators' role:
$ iquery --auth-file=/home/scidb/.scidb_auth -aq "stream(filter(build(<val:double>[i=0:0,1,0],0),false), '/tmp/')"
UserException in file: src/namespaces/CheckAccess.cpp function: operator() line: 73
Error description: Query processor error. Insufficient permissions, need {[(db:)A],} but only have {[(ns:XYZ)lr],[(ns:public)RAclrud],}.

#Add this command to the list of allowed commands:
$ echo "/tmp/" >> /opt/scidb/16.9/etc/stream_allowed

#Now anyone can run this command:
$ iquery --auth-file=/home/scidb/.scidb_auth -aq "stream(filter(build(<val:double>[i=0:0,1,0],0),false), '/tmp/')"
{instance_id,chunk_no} response
{0,0} 'Yo!'
{1,0} 'Yo!'
{2,0} 'Yo!'
{3,0} 'Yo!'
{4,0} 'Yo!'
{5,0} 'Yo!'
{6,0} 'Yo!'
{7,0} 'Yo!'

Beyond this, the user assumes risks inherent in running arbitrary code next to a database: one should make sure the memory is adequate, child processes shouldn't fork other processes, ensure the security model is not compromised and so on.


Install Apache Arrow

Due to a version conflict with the Protocol Buffers library included with the official Apache Arrow packages, we use Apache Arrow packages custom built for SciDB.

CentOS 6

> sudo yum install \

> sudo wget --output-document /etc/yum.repos.d/bintray-rvernica-rpm.repo \
> sudo yum install arrow-devel

CentOS 7

> sudo yum install \

> sudo wget --output-document /etc/yum.repos.d/bintray-rvernica-rpm.repo \
> sudo yum install arrow-devel


> cat <<APT_LINE | tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/bintray-rvernica.list
deb trusty universe

> apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv 46BD98A354BA5235
> apt-get update
> apt-get install libarrow-dev libarrow0

Install plug-in

The easiest way is to first set up dev_tools ( Then it goes something like this:

$ iquery -aq "load_library('dev_tools')"
Query was executed successfully

$ iquery -aq "install_github('paradigm4/stream')"
{i} success
{0} true

$ iquery -aq "load_library('stream')"
Query was executed successfully

$ iquery -aq "stream(filter(build(<val:double>[i=0:0,1,0],0),false), 'printf \"1\nWhat is up?\n\"')"
{instance_id,chunk_no} response
{0,0} 'What is up?'
{1,0} 'What is up?'
{2,0} 'What is up?'
{3,0} 'What is up?'