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Canal Format

Changelog-Data-Capture Format Format: Serialization Schema Format: Deserialization Schema

Canal is a CDC (Changelog Data Capture) tool that can stream changes in real-time from MySQL into other systems. Canal provides a unified format schema for changelog and supports to serialize messages using JSON and protobuf (protobuf is the default format for Canal).

Flink supports to interpret Canal JSON messages as INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE messages into Flink SQL system. This is useful in many cases to leverage this feature, such as

  • synchronizing incremental data from databases to other systems
  • auditing logs
  • real-time materialized views on databases
  • temporal join changing history of a database table and so on.

Flink also supports to encode the INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE messages in Flink SQL as Canal JSON messages, and emit to storage like Kafka. However, currently Flink can’t combine UPDATE_BEFORE and UPDATE_AFTER into a single UPDATE message. Therefore, Flink encodes UPDATE_BEFORE and UPDATE_AFTER as DELETE and INSERT Canal messages.

Note: Support for interpreting Canal protobuf messages is on the roadmap.


In order to use the Canal format the following dependencies are required for both projects using a build automation tool (such as Maven or SBT) and SQL Client with SQL JAR bundles.

Maven dependency SQL Client JAR

Note: please refer to Canal documentation about how to deploy Canal to synchronize changelog to message queues.

How to use Canal format

Canal provides a unified format for changelog, here is a simple example for an update operation captured from a MySQL products table:

  "data": [
      "id": "111",
      "name": "scooter",
      "description": "Big 2-wheel scooter",
      "weight": "5.18"
  "database": "inventory",
  "es": 1589373560000,
  "id": 9,
  "isDdl": false,
  "mysqlType": {
    "id": "INTEGER",
    "name": "VARCHAR(255)",
    "description": "VARCHAR(512)",
    "weight": "FLOAT"
  "old": [
      "weight": "5.15"
  "pkNames": [
  "sql": "",
  "sqlType": {
    "id": 4,
    "name": 12,
    "description": 12,
    "weight": 7
  "table": "products",
  "ts": 1589373560798,
  "type": "UPDATE"

Note: please refer to Canal documentation about the meaning of each fields.

The MySQL products table has 4 columns (id, name, description and weight). The above JSON message is an update change event on the products table where the weight value of the row with id = 111 is changed from 5.18 to 5.15. Assuming the messages have been synchronized to Kafka topic products_binlog, then we can use the following DDL to consume this topic and interpret the change events.

CREATE TABLE topic_products (
  -- schema is totally the same to the MySQL "products" table
  id BIGINT,
  name STRING,
  description STRING,
  weight DECIMAL(10, 2)
) WITH (
 'connector' = 'kafka',
 'topic' = 'products_binlog',
 'properties.bootstrap.servers' = 'localhost:9092',
 '' = 'testGroup',
 'format' = 'canal-json'  -- using canal-json as the format

After registering the topic as a Flink table, you can consume the Canal messages as a changelog source.

-- a real-time materialized view on the MySQL "products"
-- which calculates the latest average of weight for the same products
SELECT name, AVG(weight) FROM topic_products GROUP BY name;

-- synchronize all the data and incremental changes of MySQL "products" table to
-- Elasticsearch "products" index for future searching
INSERT INTO elasticsearch_products
SELECT * FROM topic_products;

Format Options

Option Required Default Type Description
required (none) String Specify what format to use, here should be 'canal-json'.
optional false Boolean Skip fields and rows with parse errors instead of failing. Fields are set to null in case of errors.
optional 'SQL' String Specify the input and output timestamp format. Currently supported values are 'SQL' and 'ISO-8601':
  • Option 'SQL' will parse input timestamp in "yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss.s{precision}" format, e.g '2020-12-30 12:13:14.123' and output timestamp in the same format.
  • Option 'ISO-8601' will parse input timestamp in "yyyy-MM-ddTHH:mm:ss.s{precision}" format, e.g '2020-12-30T12:13:14.123' and output timestamp in the same format.
optional 'FAIL' String Specify the handling mode when serializing null keys for map data. Currently supported values are 'FAIL', 'DROP' and 'LITERAL':
  • Option 'FAIL' will throw exception when encountering map value with null key.
  • Option 'DROP' will drop null key entries for map data.
  • Option 'LITERAL' will replace null key with string literal. The string literal is defined by option.
optional 'null' String Specify string literal to replace null key when '' is LITERAL.
optional (none) String Only read changelog rows which match the specific database (by comparing the "database" meta field in the Canal record).
optional (none) String Only read changelog rows which match the specific table (by comparing the "table" meta field in the Canal record).


Duplicate change events

Under normal operating scenarios, the Canal application delivers every change event exactly-once. Flink works pretty well when consuming Canal produced events in this situation. However, Canal application works in at-least-once delivery if any failover happens. That means, in the abnormal situations, Canal may deliver duplicate change events to message queues and Flink will get the duplicate events. This may cause Flink query to get wrong results or unexpected exceptions. Thus, it is recommended to set job configuration table.exec.source.cdc-events-duplicate to true and define PRIMARY KEY on the source in this situation. Framework will generate an additional stateful operator, and use the primary key to deduplicate the change events and produce a normalized changelog stream.

Data Type Mapping

Currently, the Canal format uses JSON format for serialization and deserialization. Please refer to JSON format documentation for more details about the data type mapping.