It is important to realize that the client directly handles all communication with the RegionServers, there is no proxy at the server side. Consequently the client needs to do the service discovery and caching as well as the connection and thread management necessary. And hence some of the complexity is understandable: The client is part of the cluster.
See also this blog post. Before HBASE-5682 a client would potentially never recover when it could not reach the cluster. And before HBASE-4805 and HBASE-6326, a client could not - with good conscience - be used in a long running ApplicationServer.
An important aspect of any client library is what I like to call "time to exception". If things go wrong the client should (at least as an option) fail fast and let the calling application - which has the necessary semantic context - decide how to handle this situation.
Unfortunately the HBase and Zookeeper clients were not designed with this in mind.
Among the various time outs are:
- ZK session timeout (zookeeper.session.timeout)
- RPC timeout (hbase.rpc.timeout)
- RecoverableZookeeper retry count and retry wait (zookeeper.recovery.retry, zookeeper.recovery.retry.intervalmill)
- Client retry count and wait (hbase.client.retries.number, hbase.client.pause)
HBASE-6326 fixes one issue, where .META. and -ROOT- lookups would be nested, each time causing a ZK timeout N^2 times (N being the client retry count, 10 by default), which itself would be retried by RecoverableZookeeper (3 by default).
The defaults for some of these settings are optimized for the various server side components. If the network "blips" for five seconds the RegionServers should not abort themselves. So a session timeout of 180s makes sense there.
For clients running inside a stateless ApplicationServer the design goals are different. Short timeouts of five seconds seem reasonable. A failure is quickly detected and the application can react (potentially by controlled retrying).
With the fixes in the various jiras mentioned above, it is now possible (in HBase 0.94+) to set the various retry counts and timeouts to low values and get reasonably short timespans after which the client would report a connection error to calling application thread.
And this is in fact what should done when the HBaseClient (HTable, etc) is used inside an ApplicationServer for HBase requests that are synchronous in the calling thread (for example a web server serving data from HBase).