A Simple Introduction to Apache Drill and Why Should You Use It

If you undertake any type of data analysis, you probably agree with the challenge of massive volumes of data in the industry. This is the purpose of developing Apache Drill.

This article will offer you a clear grasp of the Drill process, how to install it and its other activities on your system.

What is Apache Drill?

Apache Drill is an engine that is free. It allows for interactive development with an additional layer of security SQL analytics. Query and explore data from a wide range of NoSQL databases and file formats with this toolkit.

Apache Drill is a distributed MPP query layer for self describing data


Apache Drill is a SQL query engine that does not require a schema. Drill supports a wide range of NoSQL databases and file systems, including MongoDB, Amazon S3 and local files. Drill also supports a collection of typical relational databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Postgres. A single query can join data from various datastores into a single result set. If you have a collection of user profiles in MongoDB and a directory of event logs in Hadoop, you can combine the two collections together.

Apache Drill Installation

This guide will show you how to download the Apache Drill and extract its contents on your computer. Sample JSON and Parquet files are included in the Apache Drill archive, which you may query right away.

Installing Drill on Linux or Mac OS X

The latest version of Drill can be downloaded from the link here. Run the command as below:

curl -o apache-drill-1.18.0.tar.gz http://apache.mirrors.hoobly.com/drill/drill-1.18.0/apache-drill-1.18.0.tar.gz

Copy the files that has been downloaded and perform the extraction as below:

tar -xvzf <.tar.gz file name>

Once extracted, you can start Drill by the command below:

cd apache-drill-<version>

The message of the day displays, followed by the prompt ‘0: jdbc:drill:zk=local>‘. At this moment, you can submit Drill queries. Once the installation is a success, you can follow this guide to run queries on sample data.

What can Drill handle?

Out of the box, Drill is able to handle the below formats and external systems.


  • Sequence Files in Parquet, JSON, Avro, and Hadoop
  • Logs from the Apache and Nginx servers
  • Files containing logs
  • PCAP/PCAP-NG APIs that are industry-standard: ANSI SQL, ODBC/JDBC, RESTful APIs, and more.

For instance, you can run a query on a directory that contains JSON or Parquet log files (on your local machine, an NFS share, S3, HDFS, or MapR-FS, for example). No data needed to be loaded, no schema needed to be created or managed, and no pre-processing is required.

External Systems:

  • NoSQL databases include MongoDB, Apache HBase, and Apache Cassandra.
  • Analytical Processing in Real Time: Apache Kudu, Apache Druid, OpenTSDB
  • Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, Azure Blob Storage, Swift, and IBM Cloud
  • Open Time Series Database

Along with Hadoop, Drill supports a variety of non-relational databases. Drill provides a unique approach in comparison to more established SQL-on-Hadoop solutions such as Hive and Impala. The following table summarises the distinctions between Drill and SQL-Hadoop.

How Does it Work?

One of the main advantages of Apache drill is you can query across multiple databases. Drill makes advantage of storage plugins to read records from any data format in any database supported by the storage plugin.

Drill then begins conducting the necessary operations to execute the query, which may include filtering, sorting, joining, projecting (selecting certain columns), and so forth.

Sometimes, Drill may need to read all data and filter it separately, depending on the data source, which takes additional time. JSON files are sluggish to load since they are verbose text files that are parsed line by line.

Use Cases of Apache Drill

Apache Drill is mostly used in data analytics applications. When a large number of databases, files, logs, and other data types are dispersed across virtual machines, filesystems, databases, and servers, Apache Drill comes to the rescue.

Apache Drill adds significant value when data is dispersed across your IT architecture, but only when core data analyses are performed on a regular basis.

The following are some indications that your organisation may require Apache Drill implementation.

  • Managing enormous volumes of organised and unstructured data from multiple departments
  • The data is dispersed throughout our IT infrastructure, spanning numerous teams
  • Have unstructured data such as JSON stored in files that lack a consistent schema
  • Have tens of billions or more rows
  • Want to distribute the query across multiple machines in order to make it perform faster in parallel
  • You wish to gain access to data stored in several databases and file systems
  • You wish to connect data from these disparate data sources

Apache Drill has several BI tools like Tableau, Microsoft Excel for querying huge data. Apache Bookmark supports BI. This connection makes Apache Drill highly attractive in its preferred BI tools to users with an established investment to manage workloads on a scale.

Performance Measures of Apache Drill

Distributed Query Execution

Processing a query in a distributed database system entails optimisation at both the global and local levels. When you submit a Drill query, a client or application delivers the query to a Drillbit in the Drill cluster in the form of a SQL statement. Drillbits are the processes that coordinate, plan, and execute queries on each active Drill node and disperse query work throughout the cluster.

You can access Drill through the following ways:

A Drillbit becomes the middleman when it receives the query from multiple clients or applications. In most cases, the Drillbit is called a Foreman. The Foreman has special parsers implemented to convert the SQL queries into something the Drill understands, in particular SQL operators.

Columnar execution

Drill improves the storage and execution of columns by using a columnar in-memory data architecture. It avoids disc access for columns that are not engaged in a query when working with data in columnar formats, such as Parkett. Drill’s execution layer also does SQL processing, without row materialisation, directly on column data.


The vectorization in Drill enables the CPU to work on vectors rather than operate single values. A record lot has arrays of several records of values. Modern chip technology with good CPU architectures provides the technological underpinning for vectorized processing efficiently.

What are the Benefits of Apache Drill?

Let us take a look at the benefits of the Apache Drill.

  • Data from one node to several nodes may now be scaled. Only in seconds, data in the storage space of petabytes may be queried.
  • Drill allows user-defined features; users may thus utilise their logic to design personalised functions.
  • Thanks to the symmetrical and flexible design and simple installation, huge clusters may be easily deployed.
  • Without the bottleneck of data loading, schema construction and maintenance, transformations helps you to acquire insights quicker.
  • Without data transformation, multi-structured and nested data may be directly evaluated in non-relation data.
  • Able to use current big data technologies to analyse and experiment with core data.

What are the downsides of Apache Drill?

  • There are few aggregation functions, such as MINUS, DECODE, TO TIMESTAMP, GREATEST, LEAST. Drill lacks the support of several MySQL /Oracle/Hive supporting aggregate functions.
  • When it comes to running long queries, Drill is not really suitable. The machine resources is a trade-off if needed to run long-running execution of queries on a large database.
  • When processing the data not fit into memory, Drill automatically pours data into the disc. More disc space may be needed when you query large data sets.
  • If not properly optimised, Drill can consume large amounts of heap space. The use of HEAP memory does not just depend on the data source size, but on the SQL query complexity too. To solve this, Drill can use different caching mechanisms to improve the next query execution.

In Summary

Apache Drill is a strong tool to use the SQL language for many data sources. To slice and divide structured files like JSON on a tiny scale is a big victory.

On a wider scale, it would be fascinating to explore the way Apache Drill compares data with a tool such as Impala when looking at greater volumes over a cluster of computers.

In data analysis applications, Apache Drill is mainly utilised. Apache Drill rescues a wide range of databases, files, logs and other data types from virtual machines, file systems, databases and servers.

Apache Drill is mostly used in data analytics applications where the sources can come from many sources. Source: Unplash

Out of the box, Drill is able to handle CSV, TSV, PSV, JSON and many other data formats. Drill is also able to support NoSQL databases include MongoDB, Apache HBase, and Apache Cassandra.

Drill has multiple performance-ready design implementations such as vectorization, columnar execution and distributed querying that can be utilised from the start. Using Drill has its benefits and downsides as well. For example, Data from one node to several nodes may now be scaled.

Only in seconds, data in the storage space of petabytes may be queried. Moreover, Drill allows user-defined features; users may thus utilise their logic to design personalised functions.

Downsides, however, Drill lacks the support of several MySQL/Oracle/Hive supporting aggregate functions. When processing the data not fit into memory, Drill automatically pours data into the disc. More disc space may be needed when you query large data sets.