File Tail

Since HDFS does not support changing the data in a file after it is written, ORC stores the top level index at the end of the file. The overall structure of the file is given in the figure above. The file’s tail consists of 3 parts; the file metadata, file footer and postscript.

The metadata for ORC is stored using Protocol Buffers, which provides the ability to add new fields without breaking readers. This document incorporates the Protobuf definition from the ORC source code and the reader is encouraged to review the Protobuf encoding if they need to understand the byte-level encoding


The Postscript section provides the necessary information to interpret the rest of the file including the length of the file’s Footer and Metadata sections, the version of the file, and the kind of general compression used (eg. none, zlib, or snappy). The Postscript is never compressed and ends one byte before the end of the file. The version stored in the Postscript is the lowest version of Hive that is guaranteed to be able to read the file and it stored as a sequence of the major and minor version. There are currently two versions that are used: [0,11] for Hive 0.11, and [0,12] for Hive 0.12 or later.

The process of reading an ORC file works backwards through the file. Rather than making multiple short reads, the ORC reader reads the last 16k bytes of the file with the hope that it will contain both the Footer and Postscript sections. The final byte of the file contains the serialized length of the Postscript, which must be less than 256 bytes. Once the Postscript is parsed, the compressed serialized length of the Footer is known and it can be decompressed and parsed.

message PostScript { // the length of the footer section in bytes optional uint64 footerLength = 1; // the kind of generic compression used optional CompressionKind compression = 2; // the maximum size of each compression chunk optional uint64 compressionBlockSize = 3; // the version of the writer repeated uint32 version = 4 [packed = true]; // the length of the metadata section in bytes optional uint64 metadataLength = 5; // the fixed string "ORC" optional string magic = 8000; }

enum CompressionKind { NONE = 0; ZLIB = 1; SNAPPY = 2; LZO = 3; LZ4 = 4; ZSTD = 5; }


The Footer section contains the layout of the body of the file, the type schema information, the number of rows, and the statistics about each of the columns.

The file is broken in to three parts- Header, Body, and Tail. The Header consists of the bytes “ORC’’ to support tools that want to scan the front of the file to determine the type of the file. The Body contains the rows and indexes, and the Tail gives the file level information as described in this section.

message Footer { // the length of the file header in bytes (always 3) optional uint64 headerLength = 1; // the length of the file header and body in bytes optional uint64 contentLength = 2; // the information about the stripes repeated StripeInformation stripes = 3; // the schema information repeated Type types = 4; // the user metadata that was added repeated UserMetadataItem metadata = 5; // the total number of rows in the file optional uint64 numberOfRows = 6; // the statistics of each column across the file repeated ColumnStatistics statistics = 7; // the maximum number of rows in each index entry optional uint32 rowIndexStride = 8; }

Stripe Information

The body of the file is divided into stripes. Each stripe is self contained and may be read using only its own bytes combined with the file’s Footer and Postscript. Each stripe contains only entire rows so that rows never straddle stripe boundaries. Stripes have three sections: a set of indexes for the rows within the stripe, the data itself, and a stripe footer. Both the indexes and the data sections are divided by columns so that only the data for the required columns needs to be read.

message StripeInformation { // the start of the stripe within the file optional uint64 offset = 1; // the length of the indexes in bytes optional uint64 indexLength = 2; // the length of the data in bytes optional uint64 dataLength = 3; // the length of the footer in bytes optional uint64 footerLength = 4; // the number of rows in the stripe optional uint64 numberOfRows = 5; }

Type Information

All of the rows in an ORC file must have the same schema. Logically the schema is expressed as a tree as in the figure below, where the compound types have subcolumns under them.

ORC column structure

The equivalent Hive DDL would be:

create table Foobar ( myInt int, myMap map<string, struct<myString : string, myDouble: double>>, myTime timestamp );

The type tree is flattened in to a list via a pre-order traversal where each type is assigned the next id. Clearly the root of the type tree is always type id 0. Compound types have a field named subtypes that contains the list of their children’s type ids.

message Type { enum Kind { BOOLEAN = 0; BYTE = 1; SHORT = 2; INT = 3; LONG = 4; FLOAT = 5; DOUBLE = 6; STRING = 7; BINARY = 8; TIMESTAMP = 9; LIST = 10; MAP = 11; STRUCT = 12; UNION = 13; DECIMAL = 14; DATE = 15; VARCHAR = 16; CHAR = 17; } // the kind of this type required Kind kind = 1; // the type ids of any subcolumns for list, map, struct, or union repeated uint32 subtypes = 2 [packed=true]; // the list of field names for struct repeated string fieldNames = 3; // the maximum length of the type for varchar or char in UTF-8 characters optional uint32 maximumLength = 4; // the precision and scale for decimal optional uint32 precision = 5; optional uint32 scale = 6; }

Column Statistics

The goal of the column statistics is that for each column, the writer records the count and depending on the type other useful fields. For most of the primitive types, it records the minimum and maximum values; and for numeric types it additionally stores the sum. From Hive 1.1.0 onwards, the column statistics will also record if there are any null values within the row group by setting the hasNull flag. The hasNull flag is used by ORC’s predicate pushdown to better answer ‘IS NULL’ queries.

message ColumnStatistics { // the number of values optional uint64 numberOfValues = 1; // At most one of these has a value for any column optional IntegerStatistics intStatistics = 2; optional DoubleStatistics doubleStatistics = 3; optional StringStatistics stringStatistics = 4; optional BucketStatistics bucketStatistics = 5; optional DecimalStatistics decimalStatistics = 6; optional DateStatistics dateStatistics = 7; optional BinaryStatistics binaryStatistics = 8; optional TimestampStatistics timestampStatistics = 9; optional bool hasNull = 10; }

For integer types (tinyint, smallint, int, bigint), the column statistics includes the minimum, maximum, and sum. If the sum overflows long at any point during the calculation, no sum is recorded.

message IntegerStatistics { optional sint64 minimum = 1; optional sint64 maximum = 2; optional sint64 sum = 3; }

For floating point types (float, double), the column statistics include the minimum, maximum, and sum. If the sum overflows a double, no sum is recorded.

message DoubleStatistics { optional double minimum = 1; optional double maximum = 2; optional double sum = 3; }

For strings, the minimum value, maximum value, and the sum of the lengths of the values are recorded.

message StringStatistics { optional string minimum = 1; optional string maximum = 2; // sum will store the total length of all strings optional sint64 sum = 3; }

For booleans, the statistics include the count of false and true values.

message BucketStatistics { repeated uint64 count = 1 [packed=true]; }

For decimals, the minimum, maximum, and sum are stored.

message DecimalStatistics { optional string minimum = 1; optional string maximum = 2; optional string sum = 3; }

Date columns record the minimum and maximum values as the number of days since the epoch (1/1/2015).

message DateStatistics { // min,max values saved as days since epoch optional sint32 minimum = 1; optional sint32 maximum = 2; }

Timestamp columns record the minimum and maximum values as the number of milliseconds since the epoch (1/1/2015).

message TimestampStatistics { // min,max values saved as milliseconds since epoch optional sint64 minimum = 1; optional sint64 maximum = 2; }

Binary columns store the aggregate number of bytes across all of the values.

message BinaryStatistics { // sum will store the total binary blob length optional sint64 sum = 1; }

User Metadata

The user can add arbitrary key/value pairs to an ORC file as it is written. The contents of the keys and values are completely application defined, but the key is a string and the value is binary. Care should be taken by applications to make sure that their keys are unique and in general should be prefixed with an organization code.

message UserMetadataItem { // the user defined key required string name = 1; // the user defined binary value required bytes value = 2; }

File Metadata

The file Metadata section contains column statistics at the stripe level granularity. These statistics enable input split elimination based on the predicate push-down evaluated per a stripe.

message StripeStatistics { repeated ColumnStatistics colStats = 1; }

message Metadata { repeated StripeStatistics stripeStats = 1; }