This topic describes the window functions, time attributes, and window types supported by Flink SQL.

Window functions

Flink SQL supports aggregation over infinite windows. You do not need to explicitly define windows in SQL statements. Flink SQL also supports aggregation over a specific window. For example, if you want to count the number of users who clicked a URL in the previous minute, you can define a window to collect data about user clicks in the previous minute. Then, you can compute the data in the window to obtain the result.

Flink SQL supports window aggregates and over aggregates. This topic describes window aggregates. Window aggregates support the windows that are defined based on the following time attributes: event time and processing time. The TUMBLE, HOP, and SESSION window functions are supported for each time attribute.
Warning The TUMBLE, HOP, and SESSION functions cannot be used with the LAST_VALUE, FIRST_VALUE, or TopN function. If you use these window functions with the LAST_VALUE, FIRST_VALUE, or TopN function, the data becomes out of order and is discarded. As a result, the output data is abnormal.

Time attributes

Flink SQL supports two time attributes: event time and processing time. For more information about time attributes, see Time attributes. Flink aggregates data in windows based on the time attributes. The windowing method varies based on the time attributes.
  • Event time: the event time that you provide in the data store.
    The system closes a window based on the watermark that is generated based on the event time of the data. A window ends only when the value of the watermark is later than the time when the window closes. The output data is generated when the window ends. The window generates output data only if the data that triggers the window to end flows into Flink. Watermarks for a single thread are incremented. If parallel threads or multiple source tables exist, the minimum watermark value is used.
    • If an out-of-order data record in which the time is later than the current time exists in the source table or no data is involved in a parallel thread, the window may not end and the output data may be abnormal. To avoid this issue, you must specify an offset based on the out-of-order data and make sure that data exists in all parallel threads. If window termination cannot be triggered because no data exists in a parallel thread of the source table or a partition of the source table, you can add table.exec.source.idle-timeout: 10s to the Additional Configuration section on the Advanced tab to trigger the termination of the window. For more information about this parameter, see Configuration.
    • After data is processed by using GROUP BY, JOIN operations on two data streams, or OVER window nodes, the watermark property is lost and the event time can no longer be used for windowing.
  • Processing time: the local system time at which the system processes an event.
    The processing time is generated by Flink and does not exist in your raw data. Therefore, you must explicitly define a Processing Time column.
    Note The processing time is affected by the speed at which events reach Flink and the order in which data is processed in Flink. Therefore, the results of each backtrack may be different.

Cascading windows

The event time attribute of the rowtime column no longer takes effect after a window operation is complete. You can use a helper function such as TUMBLE_ROWTIME, HOP_ROWTIME, or SESSION_ROWTIME to obtain max(rowtime) of the rowtime column in a window. You can use the obtained value as the rowtime of the time window. The value is window_end - 1 and is of the TIMESTAMP data type. The TIMESTAMP value has the rowtime attribute. For example, if the time span of a window is [00:00, 00:15), 00:14:59.999 is returned.

In the following example, 1-hour tumbling windows are used to aggregate data based on the aggregation results of 1-minute tumbling windows. This helps you meet various window requirements.
  username varchar,
  click_url varchar,
  eventtime varchar,                                                        
  ts AS TO_TIMESTAMP(eventtime),
  WATERMARK FOR ts AS ts - INTERVAL '2' SECOND   -- Define a watermark for rowtime. 
) with (

  window_start TIMESTAMP,
  window_end TIMESTAMP,
  username VARCHAR,
  clicks BIGINT
) with (
  'connector'='datahub'        -- Log Service allows you to export only VARCHAR-type DDL statements. Therefore, DataHub is used to store data. 

CREATE TEMPORARY VIEW one_minute_window_output AS 
  TUMBLE_ROWTIME(ts, INTERVAL '1' MINUTE) as rowtime,  -- Use TUMBLE_ROWTIME as the aggregation time of the level-two window. 
  COUNT(click_url) as cnt
FROM user_clicks

BEGIN statement set;
INSERT INTO tumble_output
FROM one_minute_window_output
GROUP BY TUMBLE(rowtime, INTERVAL '1' HOUR), username;