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1. Overview

In this tutorial, we’ll learn about Apache Calcite. It’s a powerful data management framework that can be used in various scenarios concerning data access. Calcite focuses on retrieving data from any source, not on storing it. Additionally, its query optimization capability enables faster and more efficient data retrieval.

Let’s delve into more detail, starting with the use cases where Apache Calcite is relevant.

2. Apache Calcite Use Cases

Due to its capabilities, Apache Calcite can be leveraged in several use cases:


It takes years to build query engines for new databases. However, Calcite helps get us started immediately with an out-of-the-box extendable SQL parser, validator, and optimizer. Calcite has been used in building databases, such as HerdDB, Apache Druid, MapD, and many more.

Because of Calcite’s capability to integrate with multiple databases, it’s widely used in building data warehouses and business intelligence tools, such as Apache Kyline, Apache Wayang, Alibaba MaxCompute, and many more.

Calcite is an integral component of streaming platforms, such as Apache Kafka, Apache Apex, and Flink, which help build tools that can present and analyze live feeds.

3. Any Data, Anywhere

Apache Calcite provides ready-made adapters to integrate with third-party data sources, including Cassandra, Elasticsearch, MongoDB, to name a few

Let’s explore this in greater detail.

3.1. High-Level Important Classes

Apache Calcite provides a robust framework for retrieving data. This framework is extendable; thus, custom new adapters can also be created. Let’s take a look at the important Java classes:


calcite api

The Apache Calcite adapters provide classes, such as ElasticsearchSchemaFactory, MongoSchemaFactory, FileSchemaFactory, implementing the interface SchemaFactory. The SchemaFactory helps connect the underlying data sources in a unified manner by creating a virtual Schema defined in a JSON/YAML model file.

3.2. CSV Adapter

Now let’s see an example where we’ll read the data from a CSV file using SQL query. Let’s begin by importing the necessary Maven dependencies required for using the file adapter in the pom.xml file:


Next, let’s define the model in the model.json:

  "version": "1.0",
  "defaultSchema": "TRADES",
  "schemas": [
      "name": "TRADES",
      "type": "custom",
      "factory": "org.apache.calcite.adapter.file.FileSchemaFactory",
      "operand": {
        "directory": "trades"

The FileSchemaFactory specified in the model.json looks into the trades directory for the CSV files, and creates a virtual TRADES schema. Subsequently, the CSV files under the trades directory are treated like tables.

Before we move on to see the file adapter in action, let’s look at the trade.csv file, which we’ll query using the calcite adapter:


The CSV file has three columns: tradeid, product, and qty. Additionally, the column headers also specify the data types. In total, there are three trade records in the CSV file.

Finally, let’s take a look at how to fetch the records using the Calcite adapter:

void whenCsvSchema_thenQuerySuccess() throws SQLException {
    Properties info = new Properties();
    info.put("model", getPath("model.json"));
    try (Connection connection = DriverManager.getConnection("jdbc:calcite:", info);) {
        Statement statement = connection.createStatement();
        ResultSet resultSet = statement.executeQuery("select * from");

        assertEquals(3, resultSet.getMetaData().getColumnCount());

        List<Integer> tradeIds = new ArrayList<>();
        while ( {

        assertEquals(3, tradeIds.size());

The Calcite adapter takes the model property to create a virtual schema mimicking the file system. Then, using the usual JDBC semantics, it fetches the records from the trade.csv file.

The file adapter can read not only CSV files, but also HTML and JSON files. Moreover, for handling CSV files, Apache Calcite also provides a special CSV adapter for handling advanced use cases that use CSVSchemaFactory.

3.3. In-Memory SQL Operation on Java Objects

Similar to the CSV adapter example, let’s look at another example where, with the help of Apache Calcite, we’ll run SQL queries on Java objects.

Assume two arrays of Employee and Department classes in the CompanySchema class:

public class CompanySchema {
    public Employee[] employees;
    public Department[] departments;

Now let’s take a look at the Employee class:

public class Employee {
    public String name;
    public String id;

    public String deptId;

    public Employee(String name, String id, String deptId) { = name; = id;
        this.deptId = deptId;

Similar to the Employee class, let’s define the Department class:

public class Department {
    public String deptId;
    public String deptName;

    public Department(String deptId, String deptName) {
        this.deptId = deptId;
        this.deptName = deptName;

Let’s assume there are three departments: Finance, Marketing, and Human Resources. We’ll run a query on the CompanySchema object to find the number of employees in each of the departments:

void whenQueryEmployeesObject_thenSuccess() throws SQLException {
    Properties info = new Properties();
    info.setProperty("lex", "JAVA");
    Connection connection = DriverManager.getConnection("jdbc:calcite:", info);
    CalciteConnection calciteConnection = connection.unwrap(CalciteConnection.class);
    SchemaPlus rootSchema = calciteConnection.getRootSchema();
    Schema schema = new ReflectiveSchema(companySchema);
    rootSchema.add("company", schema);
    Statement statement = calciteConnection.createStatement();
    String query = "select dept.deptName, count( "
      + "from company.employees as emp "
      + "join company.departments as dept "
      + "on (emp.deptId = dept.deptId) "
      + "group by dept.deptName";

    assertDoesNotThrow(() -> {
        ResultSet resultSet = statement.executeQuery(query);
        while ( {
  "Dept Name:" + resultSet.getString(1)
              + " No. of employees:" + resultSet.getInt(2));

Interestingly, the method runs fine and fetches the results as well. In the method, the Apache Calcite class ReflectiveSchema helps create the Schema of the CompanySchema object. Then it runs the SQL query and fetches the records using the standard JDBC semantics.

This example proves that, irrespective of the source, Calcite can fetch data from anywhere using SQL statements.

4. Query Processing

Query processing is Apache calcite’s core functionality.

Standard JDBC drivers or SQL clients execute queries on databases. In contrast, Apache Calcite, after parsing and validating the query, intelligently optimizes them for efficient execution, saving resources and boosting performance.

4.1. Decoding Query Processing Steps

Calcite offers pretty standard components that help in query processing:


calcite components

Interestingly, we can also extend these components to meet the specific requirements of any database. Let’s understand more about these steps in detail.

4.2. SQL Parser and Validator

As part of the parsing process, the parser converts the SQL query into a tree-like structure called AST (Abstract Syntax Tree).

Let’s assume a SQL query on two tables, Teacher and Department:

From Teacher join 
Department On (Department.deptid = Teacher.deptid)
Where = 'Science'

First, the query parser converts the query into an AST, and then performs a basic syntactic validation:


calcite ast

calcite ast

Further, the validator validates the nodes semantically:

  • validating the functions and operators
  • validating the database objects, like tables and columns, against the database’s catalog

4.3. Relational Expression Builder

Subsequently, after the validation step, the relational expression builder converts the syntax tree using some of the common relational operators:

  • LogicalTableScan: Reads data from a table
  • LogicalFilter: Selects rows based on a condition
  • LogicalProject: Chooses specific columns to include
  • LogicalJoin: Combines rows from two tables based on matching values

Considering the AST shown earlier, the corresponding logical relational expression derived from it would be:

        $ AS name0,
        $ AS name1
            ($ = 'Science')
                ($0.deptid = $1.deptid)

In the relational expression, $0 and $1 represent the tables Teacher and Department. Essentially, it’s a mathematical expression that helps understand what operations will be carried out to get the results. However, it has no information related to execution.

4.4. Query Optimizer

Then the Calcite optimizer applies optimization on the relational expression. Some common optimizations include:

  • Predicate Pushdown: Pushing filters as close to the data source as possible to reduce the amount of data fetched
  • Join Reordering: Rearranging join order to minimize intermediate results and improve efficiency
  • Projection Pushdown: Pushing down projections to avoid unnecessary columns from being processed
  • Index Usage: Identifying and utilizing indexes to speed up data retrieval

4.5. Query Planner, Generator, and Executor

Following optimization, the Calcite Query Planner creates an execution plan for executing the optimized query. The execution plan specifies the exact steps to be taken by the query engine to fetch and process data. This is also called a physical plan specific to the back-end query engine.

Then the Calcite Query Generator generates code in a language specific to the chosen execution engine.

Finally, the Executor connects to the database to execute the final query.

5. Conclusion

In this article, we explored the capabilities of Apache Calcite, which rapidly equips databases with standardized SQL parsers, validators, and optimizers. This frees vendors from developing years-long query engines, and empowers them to prioritize back-end storage. Additionally, Calcite’s ready-made adapters simplify connection to diverse databases, helping to develop a unified integration interface.

Moreover, by leveraging Calcite, database developers can accelerate time-to-market, and deliver robust, versatile SQL capabilities.

The code used in this article is available over on GitHub.

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