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Version: v1.15.0

zed Tutorial

zq is great, but what if we have a lot of data on which we want to perform search and analytics? This is where the zed command comes in. zed builds on the type system and language found in zq and adds a high performance data lake on top.

Note: zed is currently in alpha form. Check out its current status in the zed README.

Creating a Lake

We start by creating our Zed lake. First we'll set the ZED_LAKE environment variable that tells zed where we want to store our lake:

$ export ZED_LAKE=$HOME/.zedlake

Next we instruct zed to initialize our lake:

$ zed init


lake created: /path/to/home/.zedlake

Adding data to our lake

Let's add some data.

Data is stored in pools in a Zed lake. You might say a pool is similar to a table in a SQL database except unlike a SQL table a Zed pool has no schema to which underlying data must adhere. Any data is welcome in a Zed pool! A Zed pool does have a pool key (or field) by which data is sorted. You might think of a pool key as a pool's primary index. Though individual values in a pool are not required to have the pool key field, it is nice to have a pool key that fits the data since this will allow Zed to efficiently query data within a range of the pool key without having to touch the entire data set.

For this primer we'll work with pull requests on this public repository via the GitHub API. Let's create a pool to store this data and use the field created_at as the pool key, sorted in descending order:

$ zed create -orderby created_at:desc prs


pool created: prs <unique pool ID>

Using zed ls we can view all the pools in the lake:

$ zed ls


prs <pool_id> key created_at order desc

Let's add some pull request data I've prefetched from the GitHub API here:

$ zed load -use prs github1.zng


<commit_id> committed

Our data has been committed. The -use prs argument in zed load tells zed to load our data into the prs pool.

Querying our data

With our data now loaded let's run a quick count() query to verify that we have the expected data. To do this we'll use the zed query command. To those familiar with zq, zed query operates similarly except it doesn't accept file input arguments since it queries pools.

$ zed query -use prs 'count()'



This looks good so far, but let's do something more interesting. First let's use the zed use command to set prs as our default pool so we don't have to type the -use argument every time we operate on this pool.

$ zed use prs

We can run an aggregation to see who has created the most PRs during the time range of this first data set:

$ zed query 'count() by user:=user.login | sort -r count'



A productive few weeks for McCanne!

We can use the min and max aggregations to see the time range of our data set:

$ zed query -Z 'min(created_at), max(created_at)'


min: 2019-11-11T19:50:46Z,
max: 2019-12-05T16:56:57Z

That's not a lot of data, so let's add some more.

Adding additional data

Additional data can be added to our pool by running zed load on our second data set:

$ zed load github2.zng

Running our min(created_at), max(created_at) query, we'll see that we now have almost two years of pull requests:

$ zed query -Z 'min(created_at), max(created_at)'


min: 2019-11-11T19:50:46Z,
max: 2021-09-19T19:31:43Z

Now let's run a bucketed aggregation to count approximate PRs per month (specifically, PRs bucketed in 12 equal spans of a year):

$ zed query 'count() by ts:=bucket(created_at, 1y/12) | sort ts'



There are lots of PRs that happened in the ~30 day block starting on 4/19/2020, so let's zoom in here and see who created these PRs:

$ zed query 'from prs range 2020-04-19T16:00:00Z to 2020-05-20T02:00:00Z
| count() by user:=user.login | sort -r count'



McCanne is once again in the lead but Henri is not far behind.

The important thing demonstrated in the above query is the use of the from operator. The from operator specifies to query the main branch of the prs pool and also defines a time range for the query. The range part of the query is an important distinction from zq. Whereas zq would be required to scan the entire data set to execute this query, this Zed pool which stores data sorted by created_at can skip all data that doesn't fall within the range 2020-04-19T16:00:00Z to 2020-05-20T02:00:00Z. This results in a much faster query over the limited range.

Time travel

Suppose we made a mistake by loading the last chunk of data. Perhaps we applied the wrong transform to the incoming data. Is there any way we can fix this? Similar to version control systems like git, a Zed lake maintains a linear history (or commit log) of all the changes made to a pool. There are many advantages to having data stored in this manner, one of which is that we can easily discard changes we don't want.

First we'll use zed log command to view the history of commits (IDs will vary in your output):

$ zed log


commit 26i2N0uu6wEo5XAhPMid6eQsamF
Author: nibs@Matthews-MacBook-Air-2.local
Date: 2022-03-21T26:03:25Z

loaded 1 data object

26i2MyhTem11tTOS2HSa1cgnYyz 1900 records in 765024 data bytes

commit 26i2MeIlGMoGHzjpbZttKtUuSFb
Author: nibs@Matthews-MacBook-Air-2.local
Date: 2022-03-21T19:47:19Z

loaded 1 data object

26i2Mi5xPdaTRxbho05DUhTYHIx 100 records in 46000 data bytes

Let's revert the most recent commit:

zed revert 26i2N0uu6wEo5XAhPMid6eQsamF


"main": 26i2N0uu6wEo5XAhPMid6eQsamF reverted in 26nY9AYOxx2WtSfKGjof9R2MOYb

We can run count() to see we're back to our original 100 values.

$ zed query 'count()'



If we made a mistake and we'd like to keep the data, we can also revert our revert commit:

$ zed revert 26nY9AYOxx2WtSfKGjof9R2MOYb

Running count() will show we're back to 2000 values:

$ zed query 'count()'



Running as a service

Now that we've compiled an interesting data set, how might we share this with others? Using the zed serve command we can launch our Zed lake as a service that will allow multiple clients to query and add data to the same lake. In a separate console window run:

$ zed serve -lake $HOME/.zedlake


{"level":"info","ts":1647957396.828584,"msg":"Open files limit raised","limit":10240}

We now have a service running on http://localhost:9867. If we set the ZED_LAKE environment variable we defined at the beginning to this URL we can run the full set of zed commands against this service:

$ export ZED_LAKE=http://localhost:9867
$ zed query -Z 'min(created_at), max(created_at)'


min: 2019-11-11T19:50:46Z,
max: 2021-08-10T19:48:56Z

Where to go from here?

Obviously this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of things that can be done with the zed command. Some suggested next steps:

  1. Dig deeper into Zed lakes by having a look at the zed README.
  2. Get a better idea of ways you can query your data by looking at the Zed language documentation.

If you have any questions or run into any snags, join the friendly Zed community at the Brim Data Slack workspace.