DEV Community

Cover image for Assembling a query optimizer with Apache Calcite
Vladimir Ozerov
Vladimir Ozerov

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Assembling a query optimizer with Apache Calcite


Apache Calcite is a dynamic data management framework with SQL parser, optimizer, executor, and JDBC driver.

Many examples of Apache Calcite usage demonstrate the end-to-end execution of queries using JDBC driver, some built-in optimization rules, and the Enumerable executor. Our customers often have their own execution engines and JDBC drivers. So how to use Apache Calcite for query optimization only, without it's JDBC driver and Enumerable executor?

In this tutorial, we create a simple query optimizer using internal Apache Calcite classes.


First, we need to define the schema. We start with a custom table implementation. To create a table, you should extend Apache Calcite's AbstractTable. We pass two pieces of information to our table:

  1. Field names and types that we will use to construct the row type of the table (required for expression type derivation).
  2. Optional Statistic object that provides helpful information for query planner: row count, collations, unique table keys, etc.

Our statistic class exposes only row count information.

public class SimpleTableStatistic implements Statistic {

    private final long rowCount;

    public SimpleTableStatistic(long rowCount) {
        this.rowCount = rowCount;

    public Double getRowCount() {
        return (double) rowCount;

    // Other methods no-op
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We pass column names and types to our table class to construct the row type, which Apache Calcite uses to derive data types of expressions.

public class SimpleTable extends AbstractTable {

    private final String tableName;
    private final List<String> fieldNames;
    private final List<SqlTypeName> fieldTypes;
    private final SimpleTableStatistic statistic;

    private RelDataType rowType;

    private SimpleTable(
        String tableName, 
        List<String> fieldNames, 
        List<SqlTypeName> fieldTypes, 
        SimpleTableStatistic statistic
    ) {
        this.tableName = tableName;
        this.fieldNames = fieldNames;
        this.fieldTypes = fieldTypes;
        this.statistic = statistic;

    public RelDataType getRowType(RelDataTypeFactory typeFactory) {
        if (rowType == null) {
            List<RelDataTypeField> fields = new ArrayList<>(fieldNames.size());

            for (int i = 0; i < fieldNames.size(); i++) {
                RelDataType fieldType = typeFactory.createSqlType(fieldTypes.get(i));
                RelDataTypeField field = new RelDataTypeFieldImpl(fieldNames.get(i), i, fieldType);

            rowType = new RelRecordType(StructKind.PEEK_FIELDS, fields, false);

        return rowType;

    public Statistic getStatistic() {
        return statistic;
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Our table also implements Apache Calcite's ScannableTable interface. We do this only for demonstration purposes because we will use a certain Enumerable optimization rule in our example that will fail without this interface. You do not need to implement this interface if you are not going to use Apache Calcite Enumerable execution backend.

public class SimpleTable extends AbstractTable implements ScannableTable {
    public Enumerable<Object[]> scan(DataContext root) {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException("Not implemented");
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Finally, we extend Apache Calcite's AbstractSchema class to define our own schema. We pass a map from a table name to a table. Apache Calcite uses this map to resolve tables during semantic validation.

public class SimpleSchema extends AbstractSchema {

    private final String schemaName;
    private final Map<String, Table> tableMap;

    private SimpleSchema(String schemaName, Map<String, Table> tableMap) {
        this.schemaName = schemaName;
        this.tableMap = tableMap;

    public Map<String, Table> getTableMap() {
        return tableMap;
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We are ready to start the optimization.


The optimization process consists of the following phases:

  1. Syntax analysis that produces an abstract syntax tree (AST) from a query string.
  2. Semantic analysis of an AST.
  3. Conversion of an AST to a relational tree.
  4. Optimization of a relational tree.


Many Apache Calcite classes that we use for query optimization require configuration. However, there is no common configuration class in Apache Calcite that could be used by all objects. For this reason, we store the common configuration in a single object and then copy configuration values into other objects when needed.

In this specific example, we instruct Apache Calcite on how to process object identifiers: do not change identifier casing, use case-sensitive name resolution.

Properties configProperties = new Properties();

configProperties.put(CalciteConnectionProperty.CASE_SENSITIVE.camelName(), Boolean.TRUE.toString());
configProperties.put(CalciteConnectionProperty.UNQUOTED_CASING.camelName(), Casing.UNCHANGED.toString());
configProperties.put(CalciteConnectionProperty.QUOTED_CASING.camelName(), Casing.UNCHANGED.toString());

CalciteConnectionConfig config = new CalciteConnectionConfigImpl(configProperties);
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Syntax Analysis

First of all, we should parse the query string. The result of parsing is an abstract syntax tree, with every node being a subclass of SqlNode.

We pass a part of our common configuration to the parser configuration, then instantiate SqlParser, and finally perform the parsing. If you have a custom SQL syntax, you may pass a custom parser factory class to the configuration.

public SqlNode parse(String sql) throws Exception {
    SqlParser.ConfigBuilder parserConfig = SqlParser.configBuilder();

    SqlParser parser = SqlParser.create(sql,;

    return parser.parseStmt();
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Semantic Analysis

The goal of semantic analysis is to ensure that the produced abstract syntax tree is valid. Semantic analysis includes the resolution of object and function identifiers, data types inference, checking the correctness of certain SQL constructs (e.g., a group key in the GROUP BY statement).

The validation is performed by the SqlValidatorImpl class, one of the most complex classes in Apache Calcite. This class requires several supporting objects. First, we create an instance of RelDataTypeFactory, which provides SQL type definitions. We use the built-in type factory, but you may also provide your custom implementation if need.

RelDataTypeFactory typeFactory = new JavaTypeFactoryImpl();
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Then, we create a Prepare.CatalogReader object that provides access to database objects. This is where our previously defined schema comes into play. Catalog reader consumes our common configuration object to have an object name resolution mechanics consistent with the one we used during parsing.

SimpleSchema schema = ... // Create our custom schema

CalciteSchema rootSchema = CalciteSchema.createRootSchema(false, false);
rootSchema.add(schema.getSchemaName(), schema);

Prepare.CatalogReader catalogReader = new CalciteCatalogReader(
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Then, we define a SqlOperatorTable, the library of SQL functions and operators. We use the built-in library. You may also provide your implementation with custom functions.

SqlOperatorTable operatorTable = ChainedSqlOperatorTable.of(
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We created all the required supporting objects. Now we instantiate the built-in SqlValidatorImpl. As usual, you may extend it if you need a custom validation behavior (such as custom error messages).

SqlValidator.Config validatorConfig = SqlValidator.Config.DEFAULT

SqlValidator validator = SqlValidatorUtil.newValidator(
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Finally, we perform validation. Keep the validator instance because we will need it for AST conversion to a relational tree.

SqlNode sqlNode = parse(sqlString);
SqlNode validatedSqlNode = validator.validate(node);
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Conversion to a Relational Tree

AST is not convenient for query optimization because the relational semantics of it's nodes is too complicated. It is much more convenient to perform query optimization on a tree of relational operators, defined by the RelNode subclasses, such as Scan, Project, Filter, Join, etc. We use SqlToRelConverter, another monstrous class of Apache Calcite, to convert the original AST into a relational tree.

Interestingly, to create a converter, we must create an instance of a cost-based planner VolcanoPlanner first. This is one of Apache Calcite's abstraction leaks.

To create the VolcanoPlanner, we again pass the common configuration and the RelOptCostFactory that the planner will use to calculate costs. In a production-grade optimizer, you are likely to define a custom cost factory, because the built-in factories take in count only cardinality of relations, which is often insufficient for proper cost estimation.

You should also specify which physical operator properties the VolcanoPlanner should track. Every property has a descriptor that extends Apache Calcite's RelTraitDef class. In our example, we register only the ConventionTraitDef, which defines the execution backend for a relational node.

VolcanoPlanner planner = new VolcanoPlanner(

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We then create a RelOptCluster, a common context object used during conversion and optimization.

RelOptCluster cluster = RelOptCluster.create(
    new RexBuilder(typeFactory)
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We can create the converter now. Here we set a couple of configuration properties for a subquery unnesting, which is out of this post's scope.

SqlToRelConverter.Config converterConfig = SqlToRelConverter.configBuilder()

SqlToRelConverter converter = new SqlToRelConverter(
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Once we have the converter, we can create the relational tree.

public RelNode convert(SqlNode validatedSqlNode) {
    RelRoot root = converter.convertQuery(validatedSqlNode, false, true);

    return root.rel;
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

During the conversion, Apache Calcite produces a tree of logical relational operators, are abstract and do not target any specific execution backend. For this reason, logical operators always have the convention trait set to Convention.NONE. It is expected that you will convert them into physical operators during the optimization. Physical operators have a specific convention different from Convention.NONE.


Optimization is a process of conversion of a relation tree to another relational tree. You may do rule-based optimization with heuristic or cost-based planners, HepPlanner and VolcanoPlanner respectively. You may also do any manual rewrite of the tree without rule. Apache Calcite comes with several powerful rewriting tools, such as RelDecorrelator and RelFieldTrimmer.

Typically, to optimize a relational tree, you will perform multiple optimization passes using rule-based optimizers and manual rewrites. Take a look at the default optimization program used by Apache Calcite JDBC driver or multi-phase query optimization in Apache Flink.

In our example, we will use VolcanoPlanner to perform cost-based optimization. We already instantiated the VolcanoPlanner before. Our inputs are a relational tree to optimize, a set of optimization rules, and traits that the optimized tree's parent node must satisfy.

public RelNode optimize(
    RelOptPlanner planner,
    RelNode node, 
    RelTraitSet requiredTraitSet, 
    RuleSet rules
) {
    Program program = Programs.of(RuleSets.ofList(rules));

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode


In this example, we will optimize the TPC-H query №6. The full source code is available here. Run the OptimizerTest to see it in action.

    SUM(l.l_extendedprice * l.l_discount) AS revenue
    l.l_shipdate >= ?
    AND l.l_shipdate < ?
    AND l.l_discount between (? - 0.01) AND (? + 0.01)
    AND l.l_quantity < ?
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We define the Optimizer class that encapsulates the created configuration, SqlValidator, SqlToRelConverter and VolcanoPlanner.

public class Optimizer {
    private final CalciteConnectionConfig config;
    private final SqlValidator validator;
    private final SqlToRelConverter converter;
    private final VolcanoPlanner planner;

    public Optimizer(SimpleSchema schema) {
        // Create supporting objects as explained above
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Next, we create the schema with the lineitem table.

SimpleTable lineitem = SimpleTable.newBuilder("lineitem")
    .addField("l_quantity", SqlTypeName.DECIMAL)
    .addField("l_extendedprice", SqlTypeName.DECIMAL)
    .addField("l_discount", SqlTypeName.DECIMAL)
    .addField("l_shipdate", SqlTypeName.DATE)

SimpleSchema schema = SimpleSchema.newBuilder("tpch").addTable(lineitem).build();

Optimizer optimizer = Optimizer.create(schema);
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now we use our optimizer to parse, validate, and convert the query.

SqlNode sqlTree = optimizer.parse(sql);
SqlNode validatedSqlTree = optimizer.validate(sqlTree);
RelNode relTree = optimizer.convert(validatedSqlTree);
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The produced logical tree looks like this.

LogicalAggregate(group=[{}], revenue=[SUM($0)]): rowcount = 1.0, cumulative cost = 63751.137500047684
  LogicalProject($f0=[*($1, $2)]): rowcount = 1875.0, cumulative cost = 63750.0
    LogicalFilter(condition=[AND(>=($3, ?0), <($3, ?1), >=($2, -(?2, 0.01)), <=($2, +(?3, 0.01)), <($0, ?4))]): rowcount = 1875.0, cumulative cost = 61875.0
      LogicalTableScan(table=[[tpch, lineitem]]): rowcount = 60000.0, cumulative cost = 60000.0
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Finally, we optimize the relational tree and convert it into the Enumerable convention. We use logical rules that convert and merge LogicalProject and LogicalFilter into compound LogicalCalc, and physical rules that convert logical nodes into Enumerable nodes.

RuleSet rules = RuleSets.ofList(

RelNode optimizerRelTree = optimizer.optimize(
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The produced physical tree looks like this. Notice that all nodes are Enumerable, and that Project and Filter nodes have been replaced with Calc.

EnumerableAggregate(group=[{}], revenue=[SUM($0)]): rowcount = 187.5, cumulative cost = 62088.2812589407
  EnumerableCalc(expr#0..3=[{inputs}], expr#4=[*($t1, $t2)], expr#5=[?0], expr#6=[>=($t3, $t5)], expr#7=[?1], expr#8=[<($t3, $t7)], expr#9=[?2], expr#10=[0.01:DECIMAL(3, 2)], expr#11=[-($t9, $t10)], expr#12=[>=($t2, $t11)], expr#13=[?3], expr#14=[+($t13, $t10)], expr#15=[<=($t2, $t14)], expr#16=[?4], expr#17=[<($t0, $t16)], expr#18=[AND($t6, $t8, $t12, $t15, $t17)], $f0=[$t4], $condition=[$t18]): rowcount = 1875.0, cumulative cost = 61875.0
    EnumerableTableScan(table=[[tpch, lineitem]]): rowcount = 60000.0, cumulative cost = 60000.0
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode


Apache Calcite is a flexible framework for query optimization. In this blog post, we demonstrated how to optimize SQL queries with Apache Calcite parser, validator, converter, and rule-based optimizer. In future posts, we will dig into individual components of Apache Calcite. Stay tuned!

We are always ready to help you with your SQL query optimizer design. Just let us know.

Top comments (0)