How To Install and Use ClickHouse on Debian 9

How To Install and Use ClickHouse on Debian 9
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Debian 9

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ClickHouse is an open-source, column-oriented analytics database created by Yandex for OLAP and big data use cases. ClickHouse’s support for real-time query processing makes it suitable for applications that require sub-second analytical results. ClickHouse’s query language is a dialect of SQL that enables powerful declarative querying capabilities while offering familiarity and a smaller learning curve for the end user.

Column-oriented databases store records in blocks grouped by columns instead of rows. By not loading data for columns absent in the query, column-oriented databases spend less time reading data while completing queries. As a result, these databases can compute and return results much faster than traditional row-based systems for certain workloads, such as OLAP.

Online Analytics Processing (OLAP) systems allow for organizing large amounts of data and performing complex queries. They are capable of managing petabytes of data and returning query results quickly. In this way, OLAP is useful for work in areas like data science and business analytics.

In this tutorial, you’ll install the ClickHouse database server and client on your machine. You’ll use the DBMS for typical tasks and optionally enable remote access from another server so that you’ll be able to connect to the database from another machine. Then you’ll test ClickHouse by modeling and querying example website-visit data.


  • One Debian 9 server with a sudo enabled non-root user and firewall setup. You can follow the initial server setup tutorial to create the user and set up the firewall.
  • (Optional) A secondary Debian 9 server with a sudo enabled non-root user and firewall setup. You can follow the initial server setup tutorial.

Step 1 — Installing ClickHouse

In this section, you will install the ClickHouse server and client programs using apt-get.

First, SSH into your server by running:

  1. ssh sammy@your_server_ip

dirmngr is a server for managing certificates and keys. It is required for adding and verifying remote repository keys, install it by running:

  1. sudo apt-get install -y dirmngr

Yandex maintains an APT repository that has the latest version of ClickHouse. Add the repository’s GPG key so that you’ll be able to securely download validated ClickHouse packages:

  1. sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv E0C56BD4

You will see output similar to the following:

Executing: /tmp/apt-key-gpghome.JkkcKnBAFY/gpg.1.sh --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv E0C56BD4 gpg: key C8F1E19FE0C56BD4: public key "ClickHouse Repository Key <milovidov@yandex-team.ru>" imported gpg: Total number processed: 1 gpg: imported: 1

The output confirms it has successfully verified and added the key.

Add the repository to your APT repositories list by executing:

  1. echo "deb http://repo.yandex.ru/clickhouse/deb/stable/ main/" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/clickhouse.list

Here you’ve piped the output of echo to sudo tee so that this output can print to a root-owned file.

Now, run apt-get update to update your packages:

  1. sudo apt-get update

The clickhouse-server and clickhouse-client packages will now be available for installation. Install them with:

  1. sudo apt-get install -y clickhouse-server clickhouse-client

You’ve installed the ClickHouse server and client successfully. You’re now ready to start the database service and ensure that it’s running correctly.

Step 2 — Starting the Service

The clickhouse-server package that you installed in the previous section creates a systemd service, which performs actions such as starting, stopping, and restarting the database server. systemd is an init system for Linux to initialize and manage services. In this section you’ll start the service and verify that it is running successfully.

Start the clickhouse-server service by running:

  1. sudo service clickhouse-server start

The previous command will not display any output. To verify that the service is running successfully, execute:

  1. sudo service clickhouse-server status

You’ll see output similar to the following:

clickhouse-server.service - ClickHouse Server (analytic DBMS for big data) Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/clickhouse-server.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Sat 2018-12-22 07:23:20 UTC; 1h 9min ago Main PID: 27101 (ClickHouse-serv) Tasks: 34 (limit: 1152) CGroup: /system.slice/ClickHouse-server.service └─27101 /usr/bin/ClickHouse-server --config=/etc/ClickHouse-server/config.xml

The output denotes that the server is running.

You have successfully started the ClickHouse server and will now be able to use the clickhouse-client CLI program to connect to the server.

Step 3 — Creating Databases and Tables

In ClickHouse, you can create and delete databases by executing SQL statements directly in the interactive database prompt. Statements consist of commands following a particular syntax that tell the database server to perform a requested operation along with any data required. You create databases by using the CREATE DATABASE table_name syntax. To create a database, first start a client session by running the following command:

  1. clickhouse-client

This command will log you into the client prompt where you can run ClickHouse SQL statements to perform actions such as:

  • Creating, updating, and deleting databases, tables, indexes, partitions, and views.

  • Executing queries to retrieve data that is optionally filtered and grouped using various conditions.

In this step, with the ClickHouse client ready for inserting data, you’re going to create a database and table. For the purposes of this tutorial, you’ll create a database named test, and inside that you’ll create a table named visits that tracks website-visit durations.

Now that you’re inside the ClickHouse command prompt, create your test database by executing:


You’ll see the following output that shows that you have created the database:

CREATE DATABASE test Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.003 sec.

A ClickHouse table is similar to tables in other relational databases; it holds a collection of related data in a structured format. You can specify columns along with their types, add rows of data, and execute different kinds of queries on tables.

The syntax for creating tables in ClickHouse follows this example structure:

CREATE TABLE table_name
    column_name1 column_type [options],
    column_name2 column_type [options],
) ENGINE = engine

The table_name and column_name values can be any valid ASCII identifiers. ClickHouse supports a wide range of column types; some of the most popular are:

  • UInt64: used for storing integer values in the range 0 to 18446744073709551615.

  • Float64: used for storing floating point numbers such as 2039.23, 10.5, etc.

  • String: used for storing variable length characters. It does not require a max length attribute since it can store arbitrary lengths.

  • Date: used for storing dates that follow the YYYY-MM-DD format.

  • DateTime: used for storing dates coupled with time and follows the YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format.

After the column definitions, you specify the engine used for the table. In ClickHouse, Engines determine the physical structure of the underlying data, the table’s querying capabilities, its concurrent access modes, and support for indexes. Different engine types are suitable for different application requirements. The most commonly used and widely applicable engine type is MergeTree.

Now that you have an overview of table creation, you’ll create a table. Start by confirming the database you’ll be modifying:

  1. USE test;

You will see the following output showing that you have switched to the test database from the default database:

USE test Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.001 sec.

The remainder of this guide will assume that you are executing statements within this database’s context.

Create your visits table by running this command:

  1. CREATE TABLE visits (
  2. id UInt64,
  3. duration Float64,
  4. url String,
  5. created DateTime
  6. ) ENGINE = MergeTree()
  8. ORDER BY id;

Here’s a breakdown of what the command does. You create a table named visits that has four columns:

  • id: The primary key column. Similarly to other RDBMS systems, a primary key column in ClickHouse uniquely identifies a row; each row should have a unique value for this column.

  • duration: A float column used to store the duration of each visit in seconds. float columns can store decimal values such as 12.50.

  • url: A string column that stores the URL visited, such as http://example.com.

  • created: A date and time column that tracks when the visit occurred.

After the column definitions, you specify MergeTree as the storage engine for the table. The MergeTree family of engines is recommended for production databases due to its optimized support for large real-time inserts, overall robustness, and query support. Additionally, MergeTree engines support sorting of rows by primary key, partitioning of rows, and replicating and sampling data.

If you intend to use ClickHouse for archiving data that is not queried often or for storing temporary data, you can use the Log family of engines to optimize for that use-case.

After the column definitions, you’ll define other table-level options. The PRIMARY KEY clause sets id as the primary key column and the ORDER BY clause will store values sorted by the id column. A primary key uniquely identifies a row and is used for efficiently accessing a single row and efficient colocation of rows.

On executing the create statement, you will see the following output:

CREATE TABLE visits ( id UInt64, duration Float64, url String, created DateTime ) ENGINE = MergeTree() PRIMARY KEY id ORDER BY id Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.010 sec.

In this section, you’ve created a database and a table to track website-visits data. In the next step, you’ll insert data into the table, update existing data, and delete that data.

Step 4 — Inserting, Updating, and Deleting Data and Columns

In this step, you’ll use your visits table to insert, update, and delete data. The following command is an example of the syntax for inserting rows into a ClickHouse table:

INSERT INTO table_name VALUES (column_1_value, column_2_value, ....);

Now, insert a few rows of example website-visit data into your visits table by running each of the following statements:

  1. INSERT INTO visits VALUES (1, 10.5, 'http://example.com', '2019-01-01 00:01:01');
  1. INSERT INTO visits VALUES (2, 40.2, 'http://example1.com', '2019-01-03 10:01:01');
  1. INSERT INTO visits VALUES (3, 13, 'http://example2.com', '2019-01-03 12:01:01');
  1. INSERT INTO visits VALUES (4, 2, 'http://example3.com', '2019-01-04 02:01:01');

You’ll see the following output repeated for each insert statement.

INSERT INTO visits VALUES Ok. 1 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.004 sec.

The output for each row shows that you’ve inserted it successfully into the visits table.

Now you’ll add an additional column to the visits table. When adding or deleting columns from existing tables, ClickHouse supports the ALTER syntax.

For example, the basic syntax for adding a column to a table is as follows:

ALTER TABLE table_name ADD COLUMN column_name column_type;

Add a column named location that will store the location of the visits to a website by running the following statement:

  1. ALTER TABLE visits ADD COLUMN location String;

You’ll see output similar to the following:

ALTER TABLE visits ADD COLUMN location String Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.014 sec.

The output shows that you have added the location column successfully.

As of version 19.3.6, ClickHouse doesn’t support updating and deleting individual rows of data due to implementation constraints. ClickHouse has support for bulk updates and deletes, however, and has a distinct SQL syntax for these operations to highlight their non-standard usage.

The following syntax is an example for bulk updating rows:

ALTER TABLE table_name UPDATE  column_1 = value_1, column_2 = value_2 ...  WHERE  filter_conditions;

You’ll run the following statement to update the url column of all rows that have a duration of less than 15. Enter it into the database prompt to execute:

  1. ALTER TABLE visits UPDATE url = 'http://example2.com' WHERE duration < 15;

The output of the bulk update statement will be as follows:

ALTER TABLE visits UPDATE url = 'http://example2.com' WHERE duration < 15 Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.003 sec.

The output shows that your update query completed successfully. The 0 rows in set in the output denotes that the query did not return any rows; this will be the case for any update and delete queries.

The example syntax for bulk deleting rows is similar to updating rows and has the following structure:

ALTER TABLE table_name DELETE WHERE filter_conditions;

To test deleting data, run the following statement to remove all rows that have a duration of less than 5:

  1. ALTER TABLE visits DELETE WHERE duration < 5;

The output of the bulk delete statement will be similar to:

ALTER TABLE visits DELETE WHERE duration < 5 Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.003 sec.

The output confirms that you have deleted the rows with a duration of less than five seconds.

To delete columns from your table, the syntax would follow this example structure:

ALTER TABLE table_name DROP COLUMN column_name;

Delete the location column you added previously by running the following:

  1. ALTER TABLE visits DROP COLUMN location;

The DROP COLUMN output confirming that you have deleted the column will be as follows:

ALTER TABLE visits DROP COLUMN location String Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.010 sec.

Now that you’ve successfully inserted, updated, and deleted rows and columns in your visits table, you’ll move on to query data in the next step.

Step 5 — Querying Data

ClickHouse’s query language is a custom dialect of SQL with extensions and functions suited for analytics workloads. In this step, you’ll run selection and aggregation queries to retrieve data and results from your visits table.

Selection queries allow you to retrieve rows and columns of data filtered by conditions that you specify, along with options such as the number of rows to return. You can select rows and columns of data using the SELECT syntax. The basic syntax for SELECT queries is:

SELECT func_1(column_1), func_2(column_2) FROM table_name WHERE filter_conditions row_options;

Execute the following statement to retrieve url and duration values for rows where the url is http://example.com.

  1. SELECT url, duration FROM visits WHERE url = 'http://example2.com' LIMIT 2;

You will see the following output:

SELECT url, duration FROM visits WHERE url = 'http://example2.com' LIMIT 2 ┌─url─────────────────┬─duration─┐ │ http://example2.com │ 10.5 │ └─────────────────────┴──────────┘ ┌─url─────────────────┬─duration─┐ │ http://example2.com │ 13 │ └─────────────────────┴──────────┘ 2 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.013 sec.

The output has returned two rows that match the conditions you specified. Now that you’ve selected values, you can move to executing aggregation queries.

Aggregation queries are queries that operate on a set of values and return single output values. In analytics databases, these queries are run frequently and are well optimized by the database. Some aggregate functions supported by ClickHouse are:

  • count: returns the count of rows matching the conditions specified.

  • sum: returns the sum of selected column values.

  • avg: returns the average of selected column values.

Some ClickHouse-specific aggregate functions include:

  • uniq: returns an approximate number of distinct rows matched.

  • topK: returns an array of the most frequent values of a specific column using an approximation algorithm.

To demonstrate the execution of aggregation queries, you’ll calculate the total duration of visits by running the sum query:

  1. SELECT SUM(duration) FROM visits;

You will see output similar to the following:

SELECT SUM(duration) FROM visits ┌─SUM(duration)─┐ │ 63.7 │ └───────────────┘ 1 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.010 sec.

Now, calculate the top two URLs by executing:

  1. SELECT topK(2)(url) FROM visits;

You will see output similar to the following:

SELECT topK(2)(url) FROM visits ┌─topK(2)(url)──────────────────────────────────┐ │ ['http://example2.com','http://example1.com'] │ └───────────────────────────────────────────────┘ 1 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.010 sec.

Now that you have successfully queried your visits table, you’ll delete tables and databases in the next step.

Step 6 — Deleting Tables and Databases

In this section, you’ll delete your visits table and test database.

The syntax for deleting tables follows this example:

DROP TABLE table_name;

To delete the visits table, run the following statement:

  1. DROP TABLE visits;

You will see the following output declaring that you’ve deleted the table successfully:

DROP TABLE visits Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.005 sec.

You can delete databases using the DROP database table_name syntax. To delete the test database, execute the following statement:

  1. DROP DATABASE test;

The resulting output shows that you’ve deleted the database successfully.

DROP DATABASE test Ok. 0 rows in set. Elapsed: 0.003 sec.

You’ve deleted tables and databases in this step. Now that you’ve created, updated, and deleted databases, tables, and data in your ClickHouse instance, you’ll enable remote access to your database server in the next section.

Step 7 — Setting Up Firewall Rules (Optional)

If you intend to only use ClickHouse locally with applications running on the same server, or do not have a firewall enabled on your server, you don’t need to complete this section. If instead, you’ll be connecting to the ClickHouse database server remotely, you should follow this step.

Currently your server has a firewall enabled that disables your public IP address accessing all ports. You’ll complete the following two steps to allow remote access:

  • Modify ClickHouse’s configuration and allow it to listen on all interfaces.

  • Add a firewall rule allowing incoming connections to port 8123, which is the HTTP port that ClickHouse server runs.

If you are inside the database prompt, exit it by typing CTRL+D.

Edit the configuration file by executing:

  1. sudo nano /etc/clickhouse-server/config.xml

Then uncomment the line containing <!-- <listen_host></listen_host> -->, like the following file:



    <!-- Listen specified host. use :: (wildcard IPv6 address), if you want to accept connections both with IPv4 and IPv6 from everywhere. -->
    <!-- <listen_host>::</listen_host> -->
    <!-- Same for hosts with disabled ipv6: -->

    <!-- Default values - try listen localhost on ipv4 and ipv6: -->

Save the file and exit nano. For the new configuration to apply restart the service by running:

  1. sudo service clickhouse-server restart

You won’t see any output from this command. ClickHouse’s server listens on port 8123 for HTTP connections and port 9000 for connections from clickhouse-client. Allow access to both ports for your second server’s IP address with the following command:

  1. sudo ufw allow from second_server_ip/32 to any port 8123
  1. sudo ufw allow from second_server_ip/32 to any port 9000

You will see the following output for both commands that shows that you’ve enabled access to both ports:

Rule added

ClickHouse will now be accessible from the IP that you added. Feel free to add additional IPs such as your local machine’s address if required.

To verify that you can connect to the ClickHouse server from the remote machine, first follow the steps in Step 1 of this tutorial on the second server and ensure that you have the clickhouse-client installed on it.

Now that you have logged into the second server, start a client session by executing:

  1. clickhouse-client --host your_server_ip

You will see the following output that shows that you have connected successfully to the server:

ClickHouse client version 19.3.6. Connecting to your_server_ip:9000 as user default. Connected to ClickHouse server version 19.3.6 revision 54415. hostname :)

In this step, you’ve enabled remote access to your ClickHouse database server by adjusting your firewall rules.


You have successfully set up a ClickHouse database instance on your server and created a database and table, added data, performed queries, and deleted the database. Within ClickHouse’s documentation you can read about their benchmarks against other open-source and commercial analytics databases and general reference documents. Further features ClickHouse offers include distributed query processing across multiple servers to improve performance and protect against data loss by storing data over different shards.

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