MapR-Streams Crash Course

I was writing another blog post focusing on a hanging error in MapR-Streams, and I ended up going into some good detail on the basic architecture of the product.  So, I though it was worth breaking out into its own blog.

What is MapR-Streams?

MapR-Streams is basically MapR’s version of Apache Kafka.  It is built into their cluster automatically though; it is actually a part of their core file system (along with MapR-DB).

Apache Kafka and MapR-Streams are basically a newer form of message queuing service that is particularly well-geared for big data and extremely high loads (read: millions of messages a per second in many common use cases).

As we dive into more detail, you can refer to this diagram to get a mental picture of how the product is used.  It was taken from a MapR presentation which can be found right here.


MapR-Streams Basics

  • You create a “stream” in MapR.
  • A stream is a container for topics.
  • A topic is basically a message queue broken into partitions.
  • Each partition is a unit of parallelism… realistically, each one is basically a queue within the topic.
  • Each partition is replicated to multiple servers for high availability.
  • Messages within each partition are guaranteed to be in the order in which they were sent.

Programming Languages

MapR-Streams can be used with a variety of languages including Java, Python, and C++.  It also has a RESTFUL interface which would make it available from pretty much anywhere.

Writing Messages

You use the Kafka APIs to send messages to MapR-Streams topics.  There is some one-off code to configure the producer; but after that, it’s pretty must just 1-2 lines of code to send a message from then on.

When sending the messages, you can either:

  1. Target the topic with no partitions specified.  This will cause messages you send to be distributed across all partitions in the topic.
  2. Target specific partitions in a topic to send to.  For example, I could make sure that all metrics messages for Server A’s CPU metric went to partition #3.  This way, they would be guaranteed to be in order when read by any consumers.

Creating a Kafka Producer:

public static void configureProducer(String[] args) {
    Properties props = new Properties();
    producer = new KafkaProducer(props);

Sending a Sample Message:

ProducerRecord rec = new ProducerRecord(
topic, messageText);

You can find a full producer example from MapR here (I just referenced code from it):

Consuming Messages

When you want to consume messages from a topic, usually the Kafka subscribe API is used (although there is an alternative/older assign API too).

  • When you subscribe to a topic, you provide a consumer-group name; it’s just an arbitrary string; you could call it “woohoo!” if you felt like it.
  • All consumers that subscribe to the same topic with the same consumer-group will “share” the partitions of that topic.  By share, I mean that consumers will all get a subset of the partitions.  A partition is only ever owned by one consumer a time.
  • MapR-Streams stores a long integer offset for each partition for each consumer group.  So, if you had 2 consumer-groups reading a topic with 4 partitions, MapR-Streams would be tracking 8 offsets.

As practical example… If I have 2 Java processes, each with 2 threads having 1 consumer each, then I have 4 consumers running.  If the consumers subscribe to a topic with 16 partitions, it is likely that each of the 4 consumes will end up with 4 partitions.

Again, only one consumer in a consumer-group can own a partition of a topic at a time.  So… if the consumer dies or is shut down, it will release the partition, and another consumer will automatically pick it up (which is totally awesome).  This means that you can have 4 servers reading the same topic in parallel and you can be confident that if one server dies, the other 3 will pick up its share of the load transparently without you doing anything on the client side.

Creating a Kafka Consmer:

public static void configureConsumer(String[] args) {
    Properties props = new Properties();

    consumer = new KafkaConsumer(props);

Consuming Messages:

List topics = new ArrayList();

//You should wrap this line in a loop so it happens forever, or until you
//have met some terminal condition.
ConsumerRecords consumerRecords = consumer.poll(

Iterator iterator =

while (iterator.hasNext()) {
    ConsumerRecord record =;
    System.out.println((" Consumed Record: " +

You can find a full consumer example from MapR here (I just referenced code from it):

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