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ClickHouse in a General Analytical Workload (Based on a Star Schema Benchmark)

 | June 22, 2017 |  Posted In: Benchmarks, MySQL, Performance Schema


ClickHouseIn this blog post, we’ll look at how ClickHouse performs in a general analytical workload using the star schema benchmark test.

We have mentioned ClickHouse in some recent posts (ClickHouse: New Open Source Columnar Database, Column Store Database Benchmarks: MariaDB ColumnStore vs. Clickhouse vs. Apache Spark), where it showed excellent results. ClickHouse by itself seems to be event-oriented RDBMS, as its name suggests (clicks). Its primary purpose, using Yandex Metrica (the system similar to Google Analytics), also points to an event-based nature. We also can see there is a requirement for date-stamped columns.

It is possible, however, to use ClickHouse in a general analytical workload. This blog post shares my findings. For these tests, I used a Star Schema benchmark — slightly-modified so that able to handle ClickHouse specifics.

First, let’s talk about schemas. We need to adjust to ClickHouse data types. For example, the biggest fact table in SSB is “lineorder”. Below is how it is defined for Amazon RedShift (as taken from https://docs.aws.amazon.com/redshift/latest/dg/tutorial-tuning-tables-create-test-data.html):

For ClickHouse, the table definition looks like this:

From this we can see we need to use datatypes like UInt8 and UInt32, which are somewhat unusual for database world datatypes.

The second table (RedShift definition):

For ClickHouse, I defined as:

For reference, the full schema for the benchmark is here: https://github.com/vadimtk/ssb-clickhouse/blob/master/create.sql.

For this table, we need to define a rudimentary column C_FAKEDATE Date in order to use ClickHouse’s most advanced engine (MergeTree). I was told by the ClickHouse team that they plan to remove this limitation in the future.

To generate data acceptable by ClickHouse, I made modifications to ssb-dbgen. You can find my version here: https://github.com/vadimtk/ssb-dbgen. The most notable change is that ClickHouse can’t accept dates in CSV files formatted as “19971125”. It has to be “1997-11-25”. This is something to keep in mind when loading data into ClickHouse.

It is possible to do some preformating on the load, but I don’t have experience with that. A common approach is to create the staging table with datatypes that match loaded data, and then convert them using SQL functions when inserting to the main table.

Hardware Setup

One of the goals of this benchmark to see how ClickHouse scales on multiple nodes. I used a setup of one node, and then compared to a setup of three nodes. Each node is 24 cores of “Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2643 v2 @ 3.50GHz” CPUs, and the data is located on a very fast PCIe Flash storage.

For the SSB benchmark I use a scale factor of 2500, which provides (in raw data):

Table lineorder – 15 bln rows, raw size 1.7TB, Table customer – 75 mln rows

When loaded into ClickHouse, the table lineorder takes 464GB, which corresponds to a 3.7x compression ratio.

We compare a one-node (table names lineorderfull, customerfull) setup vs. a three-node (table names lineorderd, customerd) setup.

Single Table Operations


One node:

Three nodes:

We see a speed up of practically three times. Handling 4.6 billion rows/s is blazingly fast!

One Table with Filtering

One node:

Three nodes:

It’s worth mentioning that during the execution of this query, ClickHouse was able to use ALL 24 cores on each box. This confirms that ClickHouse is a massively parallel processing system.

Two Tables (Independent Subquery)

In this case, I want to show how Clickhouse handles independent subqueries:

One node:

Three nodes:

We  do not see, however, the close to 3x speedup on three nodes, because of the required data transfer to perform the match LO_CUSTKEY with C_CUSTKEY

Two Tables JOIN

With a subquery using columns to return results, or for GROUP BY, things get more complicated. In this case we want to GROUP BY the column from the second table.

First, ClickHouse doesn’t support traditional subquery syntax, so we need to use JOIN. For JOINs, ClickHouse also strictly prescribes how it must be written (a limitation that will also get changed in the future). Our JOIN should look like:

One node:

Three nodes:

In this case the speedup is not even two times. This corresponds to the fact of the random data distribution for the tables lineorderd and customerd. Both tables were defines as:

Where  rand() defines that records are distributed randomly across three nodes. When we perform a JOIN by LO_CUSTKEY=C_CUSTKEY, records might be located on different nodes. One way to deal with this is to define data locally. For example:

Three Tables JOIN

This is where it becomes very complicated. Let’s consider the query that you would normally write:

With Clickhouse’s limitations on JOINs syntax, the query becomes:

By writing queries this way, we force ClickHouse to use the prescribed JOIN order — at this moment there is no optimizer in ClickHouse and it is totally unaware of data distribution.

There is also not much speedup when we compare one node vs. three nodes:

One node execution time:

Three nodes execution time:

There is a way to make the query faster for this 3-way JOIN, however. (Thanks to Alexander Zaytsev from https://www.altinity.com/ for help!)

Optimized query:

Optimized query time:

One node:

Three nodes:

That’s an improvement of about 6.5 times compared to the original query. This shows the importance of understanding data distribution, and writing the optimal query to process the data.

Another option for dealing with JOIN complexity, and to improve performance, is to use ClickHouse’s dictionaries. These dictionaries are described here: https://www.altinity.com/blog/2017/4/12/dictionaries-explained.

I will review dictionary performance in future posts.

Another traditional way to deal with JOIN complexity in an analytics workload is to use denormalization. We can move some columns (for example, P_MFGR from the last query) to the facts table (lineorder).


  • ClickHouse can handle general analytical queries (it requires special schema design and considerations, however)
  • Linear speedup is possible, but it depends on query design and requires advanced planning — proper speedup depends on data locality
  • ClickHouse is blazingly fast (beyond what I’ve seen before) because it can use all available CPU cores for query, as shown above using 24 cores for single server and 72 cores for three nodes
  • Multi-table JOINs are cumbersome and require manual work to achieve better performance, so consider using dictionaries or denormalization
Vadim Tkachenko

Vadim Tkachenko co-founded Percona in 2006 and serves as its Chief Technology Officer. Vadim leads Percona Labs, which focuses on technology research and performance evaluations of Percona’s and third-party products. Percona Labs designs no-gimmick tests of hardware, filesystems, storage engines, and databases that surpass the standard performance and functionality scenario benchmarks. Vadim’s expertise in LAMP performance and multi-threaded programming help optimize MySQL and InnoDB internals to take full advantage of modern hardware. Oracle Corporation and its predecessors have incorporated Vadim’s source code patches into the mainstream MySQL and InnoDB products. He also co-authored the book High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, and Replication 3rd Edition.


  • Good day sir. I am interested in speaking with you about an opportunity. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Hi, I have been using Clickhouse Clusters for the last 5-6 months to process 50 + billion records in Super Quick time. Its the best ive seen even with JOINS, Dictionary Tables etc… Definitely recommend it….

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