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Hillview project logo


Hillview: a big data spreadsheet. Hillview is a cloud-based application for browsing large datasets. The hillview user interface executes in a browser. Currently the software is alpha quality, under active development.


There is a Hillview user manual.

A short video shows the system in action in real-time.

You can test a demo of the system running on 15 small Amazon machines.

A paper describing the system in some detail. This is an extended version of the following publication Mihai Budiu, Parikshit Gopalan, Lalith Suresh, Udi Wieder, Han Kruiger, and Marcos K. Aguilera, Hillview: A trillion-cell spreadsheet for big data, in PVLDB 2019, 12(11).

Documentation for the internal APIs.

Installing Hillview on a local machine

Ubuntu or MacOS machines.

  • Install Java 8. At this point newer versions of Java will not work.
  • clone this github repository
  • run the script bin/
  • Download the Hillview release zip file. Save it in the top directory of Hillview.
  • Unzip the release unzip

Windows machines

  • Download and install Java 8.
  • Choose a directory for installing Hillview
  • Enable execution of powershell scripts; this can be done, for example, by running the following command in powershell as an administrator: Set-ExecutionPolicy unrestricted
  • Download and install the following script in the chosen directory
  • Run the installation script using Windows powershell:
> install-hillview.ps1

Running Hillview locally

Windows machines

All Windows scripts are in the bin folder:

> cd bin
  • Start Hillview processes:
> hillview-start.bat
  • If needed give permissions to the application to communicate through the Windows firewall
  • To stop hillview:
> hillview-stop.bat

Ubuntu or MacOS machines

All the following scripts are in the bin folder.

$ cd bin
  • Start the back-end service which performs all the data processing:
$ ./ &
  • Start the web server (the default port of the web server is 8080; if you want to change it, change the setting in apache-tomcat-9.0.4/conf/server.xml).
$ ./
  • start a web browser and open http://localhost:8080

  • when you are done stop the two services by killing the and jobs.

As an alternative, you can use the configuration service file bin/config-local.json and use the instructions for deploying Hillview on a cluster using this configuration file; this will run Hillview on the local machine.

  • (Optional, only if you have an installation for development, using the Java SDK) download and prepare the sample data:
$ ./ -a
$ ./

Deploying the Hillview service on a cluster

Hillview uses ssh to deploy code on the cluster. Prior to deployment you must setup ssh on the cluster to use password-less access to the cluster machines, as described here: You must also install Java on all machines in the cluster.

Please note that Hillview allows arbitrary access to files on the worker nodes from the client application running with the privileges of the user specified in the configuration file.

Service configuration

The configuration of the Hillview service is described in a Json file; two sample files are bin/config.jsonand bin/config-local.json.

// This file is a Json file that defines the configuration for a
// Hillview deployment.

  // Name of machine hosting the web server
  "webserver": "",
  // Names of the machines hosting the workers; the web
  // server machine can also act as a worker
  "aggregators": [
    // The "aggregators" level is optional; if it is
    // missing, the configuration should contain just an array of workers
      "name": "",
      "workers": [
    }, {
      "name": "",
      "workers": [
  // Network port where the workers listen for requests
  "worker_port": 3569,
  // Network port where aggregators listen for requests
  "aggregator_port": 3570,
  // Java heap size for Hillview workers
  "default_heap_size": "25G",
  // User account for running the Hillview service, default is current user
  "user": "hillview",
  // Folder where the hillview service is installed on remote machines
  "service_folder": "/home/hillview",
  // Version of Apache Tomcat to deploy
  "tomcat_version": "9.0.4",
  // Tomcat installation folder name
  "tomcat": "apache-tomcat-9.0.4",
  // If true delete old log files, default is false
  "cleanup": false,
  // This can be used to override the default_heap_size for specific machines.
  "workers_heapsize": {
    "": "20G"

Deployment scripts

All deployment scripts are written in Python, and are in the bin folder.

$ cd bin

Install the software on the machines:

$ ./ config.json

Start the Hillview services:

$ ./ config.json

To connect to the service open http://<webserver>:8080 in your web browser.

Stop the services:

$ ./ config.json

Query the status of the services:

$ ./status config.json

Data management

We provide some crude data management scripts and tools for clusters. They are described here.

Developing Hillview

Software Dependencies

  • Back-end: Ubuntu Linux > 16 or MacOS
  • Java 8, Maven build system, various Java libraries (Maven will manage the libraries)
  • Front-end: Typescript, webpack, Tomcat app server, node.js; some JavaScript libraries: d3, pako, and rx-js
  • Cloud service management: Python3
  • IDEA Intellij for development (optional)

Installing Java

We use Java 8; newer versions will not work.

First, download a JDK (for Linux x64 or MacOS) from here: Note: it is not enough to have a Java VM installed, you need a JDK.

Make sure to download the tarball version of the JDK.

For Linux: Unpack the JDK, and set your JAVA_HOME environment variable to point to the unpacked folder (e.g, /jdk/jdk1.8.0_101). To set your JAVA_HOME environment variable, add the following to your ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc.

$ export JAVA_HOME="<path-to-jdk-folder>"

(For MacOS you do not need to set up JAVA_HOME.)

Installing other software needed

The following shell script will install the other required dependencies for building and testing.

On MacOS you first need to install Homebrew. One way to do that is to run

$ /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

To install all other dependencies you can run:

$ cd bin
$ ./

For old versions of Ubuntu this may fail, so you may have to install the required dependencies manually.

Impala Java libraries

If you want to access the Impala database you will need to download and install the JDBC connectors for Impala libraries from Cloudera. (These are not free software, so they are not available in Java Maven repositories.) You should install these in your local Maven repository, e.g. in the ~/.m2/com/cloudera/impala folder. You may also need to adjust the version of the libraries in the file platform/pom.xml.

Building Hillview

  • Build the software:
$ cd bin
$ ./ -a

Build details

Hillview is currently split into two separate Maven projects.

  • platform: pure Java, includes the entire back-end. This produces a JAR file platform/target/hillview-jar-with-dependencies.jar. This part can be built with:
$ cd platform
$ mvn clean install
$ cd ..
  • web: the web server, web client and web services; this project links to the result produced by the platform project. This produces a WAR (web archive) file web/target/web-1.0-SNAPSHOT.war. This part can be built with:
$ cd web
$ mvn package
$ cd ..

Contributing code

You will need to sign a CLA (Contributor License Agreement) to contribute code to Hillview under an Apache-2 license. This is very standard.

Setup IntelliJ IDEA

Download and install Intellij IDEA: You can just untar the Linux binary in a place of your choice and run the shell script ideaXXX/bin/ The web projects uses capabilities only available in the paid version of Intellij IDEA.

One solution is to load only the module that you want to contribute to: move to the corresponding folder: cd platform or cd web and start IntelliJ there.

Alternatively, if you have IntelliJ Ultimate you can create an empty project in the hillview folder, and then import three modules (from File/Project structure/Modules, add three modules: web/pom.xml, platform/pom.xml, and the root folder hillview itself).

Using git to contribute

  • Fork the repository using the "fork" button on github, by following these instructions:
  • Run IntelliJ code inspection (Analyze/Inspect code) before commit and solve all open issues.
  • Submit them into your own forked repository and send us a pull request.

In more detail, here is a step-by-step guide to committing your changes:

  1. Create a new branch for each fix; give it a nice suggestive name:
    • git branch yourBranchName
    • git checkout yourBranchName
    • The main benefit of using branches is that you can have multiple branches active at the same time, one for each independent fix.
  2. git add <files that changed>
  3. git commit -m "Description of commit"
  4. git fetch upstream
  5. git rebase upstream/master
  6. Resolve conflicts, if any (rebase won't work if you don't; as you find conflicts you will need to git add the files you have merged, and then you may need to use git rebase --continue or git rebase --skip)
  7. Test, analyze merged version.
  8. git push -f origin yourBranchName. You won't need the -f if you are not updating a previous push to this branch.
  9. Create a pull request to merge your new branch into master (using the web ui).
  10. Delete your branch after the merging has been done git branch -D yourBranchName
  11. To run the program you should try the master branch:
  • git checkout master
  • git fetch upstream
  • git rebase upstream/master
  • git push origin master

Guidance in writing code

  • The pseudorandom generator is implemented in the class and uses Mersenne Twister. Do not use the Java Random class, but this one.

  • By default all pointers are assumed to be non-null; use the @Nullable annotation (from javax.annotation) for all pointers which can be null. Use Converters.checkNull to cast a @Nullable to a @NonNull pointer.

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