Scalding REPL

In addition to production batch jobs, Scalding can be run interactively to help develop ad-hoc queries or give beginners a chance to learn about the platform step-by-step.

The Tutorial will walk through using the REPL in depth. Users already familiar with Scalding may wish to skip to the summary of REPL functionality below.

Quick Start

Starting up the REPL in local mode is as easy as:

> ./sbt "scalding-repl/run --local"

To run full HDFS mode on a remote machine, you must build the assembly jar and use the scald.rb script to rsync and ssh to the right machine:

> ./sbt assembly
> ./scripts/scald.rb --repl --hdfs --host <host to ssh to and launch jobs from>


Assuming you’ve checked out the Scalding code, the fastest way to start running Scalding is to launch the REPL in Local mode. Simply run:

> ./sbt "scalding-repl/run --local"

It will spend some time downloading and compiling, but should eventually show:

[info] Set current project to scalding (in build file:/Users/bholt/hub/scalding/)
import com.twitter.scalding._
import com.twitter.scalding.ReplImplicits._
import com.twitter.scalding.ReplImplicitContext._

As you can see, we’ve imported a bunch of Scalding code, including implicits that make it easier to run jobs interactively. Several of these enhancements are “enrichments” on Scalding’s TypedPipe. The tutorial will go into them in more detail.

Let’s take a look at some.

Viewing pipe contents

First, dump allows you to print what’s in a TypedPipe:

scala> // load a plain text file into a TypedPipe
     | val hello = TypedPipe.from(TextLine("tutorial/data/hello.txt"))
hello: com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipe[String] = com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@1aa9ad3d

scala> hello.dump
Hello world
Goodbye world

We can also load the contents into memory as a list:

scala> val lst = hello.toList
lst: List[String] = List(Hello world, Goodbye world)

In fact, both dump and toList use another TypedPipe enrichment, toIterator, which can be used directly if one wishes to stream over the data and perform some operation.

Remember that each of these operations run locally, so if you are actually working with large datasets, ensure that you do most of your work using TypedPipe operations, which will run through Cascading/Hadoop, and only call toIterator (or dump, or toList) once you’ve filtered the results sufficiently. Some helpful TypedPipe operations to downsize datasets are limit and sample.


Usually in Scalding, results are written to a Sink using .write(). However, the write only happens when the flow is actually run. That way you can build up a complicated flow with multiple sources and sinks and intermediate calculations and run it as one big job. When running interactively, however, we want a way to immediately run part of a job to see if it’s correct before moving on. When running in the REPL, save can be used in place of write to immediately run that pipe and write out the results.

scala> val hello = TypedPipe.from(TextLine("tutorial/data/hello.txt"))
hello: com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipe[String] = com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@6d2e147b

scala> val words = hello.flatMap(_.split("\\s+")).save(TypedTsv("words.tsv"))
words: com.twitter.scalding.TypedPipe[String] = com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@63387629

Conviently, this returns a new pipe reading from the file which can be used in subsequent computations.


When working interactively with large datasets, it is often useful to be able to save and re-use data that took significant work to generate. The Scalding REPL provides an easy way to explicitly save intermediate results and use these results in subsequent interactive work.

The snapshot enrichment on TypedPipe runs everything necessary to generate the output for the given pipe and saves it to temporary storage. In Local mode, it actually just saves it in memory; in Hadoop, it writes it out to a temporary SequenceFile. Scalding then returns a handle to this new Source as a new TypedPipe.

Snapshots should only be used within a single REPL session. In local mode, you have no choice because they only exist in memory. But even for Hadoop mode, it is not a good idea to try to re-use generated snapshots, as Kryo serialization is unstable and the temporary files may be cleaned up when not in use.

scala> // (using 'hello' TypedPipe declared above)
     | // split into words, returns TypedPipe all set to do the work (but not run yet)
     | val words = hello.flatMap(_.split("\\s+")).map(_.toLowerCase)
words: com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipe[String] = com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@69f4e6e4

scala> // save a snapshot
     | val s = words.snapshot
s: com.twitter.scalding.TypedPipe[String] = IterablePipe(List(hello, world, goodbye, world))

scala> // now take a look at what's in the snapshot
     | s.dump

You can see to create the snapshot, it ran a small Cascading job, and returned a TypedPipe with the result to us. Now, rather than spending that enormous amount of time to re-generate “words”, we can use s, our snapshot, to, for a change, count some words:

scala> val wordCount =, 1)).sumByKey
wordCount: com.twitter.scalding.typed.UnsortedGrouped[String,Int] = IteratorMappedReduce(scala.math.Ordering$String$@2c20bf29,com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@6d0d4bf5,<function2>,None,List(.<init>(<console>:20)))

scala> wordCount.snapshot.dump

Notice above how running wordCount with snapshot used the MemoryTap (snapshot) created before as its source. If, instead, we wanted to run the entire job end-to-end, we simply need to bypass the snapshots and use the original pipes:

scala> // remember, 'words' was a TypedPipe which reads from the original text file
     | words
res9: com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipe[String] = com.twitter.scalding.typed.TypedPipeFactory@69f4e6e4

scala>, 1)).sumByKey.dump

See, that time the “source” was the original text file.

Implicit snapshots

The previous example actually pulled out a subtle additional trick. Calling dump on the result of sumByKey ran the flow and printed the results. Because you may be dealing with large datasets, we want to run these pipes using Cascading in Hadoop. The toIterator method, which is called by dump, doesn’t want to have to iterate over excessively large datasets locally, so it calls snapshot, which runs the flow in Cascading, and then toIterator can iterate over the snapshot. However, each call to dump as above will need to re-run, because we aren’t keeping a handle to the snapshot around. If a flow is taking a while to run, try saving the results to a snapshot first, then using that snapshot to further understand the data.

Running on Hadoop

So far, we’ve only been running in Cascading’s Local mode, which emulates what Hadoop will do, but cannot handle actually large datasets. The easiest way to launch the REPL in Hadoop mode is to use the scald.rb script.

# must first create the massive assembly jar with all the code
scalding$ ./sbt assembly
# then launch the REPL
scalding$ ./scripts/scald.rb --repl --hdfs