LanguageManual SortBy
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Syntax of Order By

The ORDER BY syntax in Hive QL is similar to the syntax of ORDER BY in SQL language.

There are some limitations in the "order by" clause. In the strict mode (i.e., hive.mapred.mode=strict), the order by clause has to be followed by a "limit" clause. The limit clause is not necessary if you set hive.mapred.mode to nonstrict. The reason is that in order to impose total order of all results, there has to be one reducer to sort the final output. If the number of rows in the output is too large, the single reducer could take a very long time to finish.

Syntax of Sort By

The SORT BY syntax is similar to the syntax of ORDER BY in SQL language.

Hive uses the columns in SORT BY to sort the rows before feeding the rows to a reducer. The sort order will be dependent on the column types. If the column is of numeric type, then the sort order is also in numeric order. If the column is of string type, then the sort order will be lexicographical order.

Difference between Sort By and Order By

Hive supports SORT BY which sorts the data per reducer. The difference between "order by" and "sort by" is that the former guarantees total order in the output while the latter only guarantees ordering of the rows within a reducer. If there are more than one reducer, "sort by" may give partially ordered final results.

Note: It may be confusing as to the difference between SORT BY alone of a single column and CLUSTER BY. The difference is that CLUSTER BY partitions by the field and SORT BY if there are multiple reducers partitions randomly in order to distribute data (and load) uniformly across the reducers.

Basically, the data in each reducer will be sorted according to the order that the user specified. The following example shows

The query had 2 reducers, and the output of each is:

Setting Types for Sort By

After a transform, variable types are generally considered to be strings, meaning that numeric data will be sorted lexicographically. To overcome this, a second SELECT statement with casts can be used before using SORT BY.

Syntax of Cluster By and Distribute By

Cluster By and Distribute By are used mainly with the Transform/Map-Reduce Scripts. But, it is sometimes useful in SELECT statements if there is a need to partition and sort the output of a query for subsequent queries.

Cluster By is a short-cut for both Distribute By and Sort By.

Hive uses the columns in Distribute By to distribute the rows among reducers. All rows with the same Distribute By columns will go to the same reducer. However, Distribute By does not guarantee clustering or sorting properties on the distributed keys.

For example, we are Distributing By x on the following 5 rows to 2 reducer:

Reducer 1 got

Reducer 2 got

Note that all rows with the same key x1 is guaranteed to be distributed to the same reducer (reducer 1 in this case), but they are not guaranteed to be clustered in adjacent positions.

In contrast, if we use Cluster By x, the two reducers will further sort rows on x:

Reducer 1 got

Reducer 2 got

Instead of specifying Cluster By, the user can specify Distribute By and Sort By, so the partition columns and sort columns can be different. The usual case is that the partition columns are a prefix of sort columns, but that is not required.

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