ENTRIES TAGGED "Hadoop ecosystem"

Cloudera Impala: Bringing the SQL and Hadoop Worlds Together

By John Russell

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When I came to work on the Cloudera Impala project, I found many things that were familiar from my previous experience with relational databases, UNIX systems, and the open source world. Yet other aspects were all new to me. I know from documenting both enterprise software and open source projects that it’s a special challenge when those two aspects converge. A lot of new users come in with 95% of the information they need, but they don’t know where the missing or outdated 5% is. One mistaken assumption or unfamiliar buzzword can make someone feel like a complete beginner. That’s why I was happy to have the opportunity to write this overview article, with room to explore how users from all kinds of backgrounds can understand and start using the Cloudera Impala product.

For database users, the Apache Hadoop ecosystem can feel like a new world:

  • Sysadmins don’t bat an eye when you say you want to work on terabytes or petabytes of data.
  • A networked cluster of machines isn’t a complicated or scary proposition. Instead, it’s the standard environment you ask an intern to set up on their first day as a training exercise.
  • All the related open source projects aren’t an either-or proposition. You work with a dozen components that all interoperate, stringing them together like a UNIX toolchain.
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Near realtime, streaming, and perpetual analytics

Hadoop moves from batch to near realtime: next up, placing streaming data in context

Simple example of a near realtime app built with Hadoop and HBase
Over the past year Hadoop emerged from its batch processing roots and began to take on interactive and near realtime applications. There are numerous examples that fall under these categories, but one that caught my eye recently is a system jointly developed by China Mobile Guangdong (CMG) and Intel1. It’s an online system that lets CMG’s over 100 million subscribers2 access and pay their bills, and examine their CDR’s (call detail records) in near realtime.

A service for providing detailed billing information is an important customer touch point. Repeated/extended downtimes and data errors could seriously tarnish CMG’s image. CMG needed a system that could scale to their current (and future) data volumes, while providing the low-latency responses consumers have come to expect from online services. Scalability, price and open source3 were important criteria in persuading the company to choose a Hadoop-based solution over4 MPP data warehouses.

In the system it co-developed with Intel, CMG stores detailed subscriber billing records in HBase. This amounts to roughly 30 TB/month, but since the service lets users browse up to six months of billing data it provides near realtime query results on much larger amounts of data. There are other near realtime applications built from Hadoop components (notably the continuous compute system at Yahoo!), that handle much larger data sets. But what I like about the CMG example is that it’s an application that most people understand right away (a detailed billing lookup system), and it illustrates that the Hadoop ecosystem has grown beyond batch processing.

Besides powering their online billing lookup service, CMG uses its Hadoop platform for analytics. Data from multiple sources (including phone device preferences, usage patterns, and cell tower performance) are used to compute customer segments and targeted promotions. Over time, Hadoop’s ability to handle large amounts of unstructured data opens up other data sources that can potentially improve CMG’s current analytic models.

Contextualize: Streaming and Perpetual Analytics
This leads me to something “realtime” systems are beginning to do: placing streaming data in context. Streaming analytics operates over fixed time windows and is used to identify “top k” trending items, heavy-hitters, and distinct items. Perpetual analytics takes what you’re observing now and places it in the context of what you already know. As much as companies appreciate metrics produced by streaming engines, they also want to understand how “realtime observations” affect their existing knowledge base.

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HBase looks more appealing to data scientists

New open source tools for interactive SQL analysis, model development and deployment

When Hadoop users need to develop apps that are “latency sensitive”, many of them turn to HBase1. Its tight integration with Hadoop makes it a popular data store for real-time applications. When I attended the first HBase conference last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of companies and applications that rely on HBase. This year’s conference was even bigger and I ran into attendees from a wide range of companies. Another set of interesting real-world case studies were showcased, along with sessions highlighting work of the HBase team aimed at improving usability, reliability, and availability (bringing down mean time to recovery has been a recent area of focus).

HBase: lines of code

HBase has had a reputation of being a bit difficult to use – its core users have been data engineers, not data scientists. The good news is that as HBase gets adopted by more companies, tools are being developed to open it up to more users. Let me highlight some tools that will appeal to data scientists.

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It’s getting easier to build Big Data applications

Analytic engines on top of Hadoop simplify the creation of interesting, low-cost, scalable applications

Hadoop’s low-cost, scale-out architecture has made it a new platform for data storage. With a storage system in place, the Hadoop community is slowly building a collection of open source, analytic engines. Beginning with batch processing (MapReduce, Pig, Hive), Cloudera has added interactive SQL (Impala), analytics (Cloudera ML + a partnership with SAS), and as of early this week, real-time search. The economics that led to Hadoop dominating batch processing is permeating other types of analytics.

Another collection of open source, Hadoop-compatible analytic engines, the Berkeley Data Analytics Stack (BDAS), is being built just across the San Francisco Bay. Starting with a batch-processing framework that’s faster than MapReduce (Spark), it now includes interactive SQL (Shark), and real-time analytics (Spark Streaming). Sometime this summer, frameworks for machine-learning (MLbase) and graph analytics (GraphX) will be released. A cluster manager (Mesos) and an in-memory file system (Tachyon) allow users of other analytic frameworks to leverage the BDAS platform. (The Python data community is looking at Tachyon closely.)

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Strata Week: AWS and Rackspace, compared

How Amazon Web Services and Rackspace measure up; IBM's Watson goes to school; Google researches data; and what will we call really, really big data?

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Rackspace vs Amazon

Rackspace LogoAs Rackspace continues to ramp up its services to compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS) — this week, announcing a partnership with Hortonworks to develop a cloud-based enterprise-ready Hadoop platform to compete against Amazon’s Elastic MapReduce — Derrick Harris at GigaOm compared apples to apples.

John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, told Harris the most fundamental difference between the two services is the level of control given to the customer. Harris writes that Rackspace’s new Hadoop services aims to give the customer “granular control over how their systems are configured and how their jobs run,” providing “the experience of owning a Hadoop cluster without actually owning any of the hardware.” Engates pointed out, “It’s not MapReduce as a service; it’s more Hadoop as a service.”

Harris also points out that Rackspace is considering making moves into NoSQL and looks at AWS’ DynamoDB service. He notes that Amazon and Rackspace aren’t the only players on any of these fields, pointing to the likes of Microsoft’s HDInsight, IBM’s BigInsights, Qubole, Infochimps, MongoDB, Cassandra and CouchDB-based services.

In related news, Rackspace announced its new Cloud Networks feature this week that allows customers to design their own networks on Rackspace’s Cloud Servers. In an interview with Jack McCarthy at CRN, Engates explained the background:

“When we went from dedicated physical networks to our public cloud, we lost the ability to segment these networks. We used to have a vLAN. As we moved to OpenStack, we wanted to give our customers the ability to enable segmented networks in the cloud. Cloud Networks gives customers a degree of control over how they build networks in the cloud, whether it’s building networks application servers or for Web servers or databases.”

Engates also points out the networks are software-defined, “so customers can program their network on the fly.” You can read more about the new feature on the Rackspace blog.

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Strata Week: Big problems in the age of big data

Big data and big problems, open data monetization, Hortonworks' first year, and a new Hadoop Partner Ecosystem launches

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the data space this week.

Big data, Big Brother, big problems

Adam Frank took a look at some of the big problems with big data this week over at NPR. Franks addresses issues in analyzing the sheer volume of complex information inherent in big data. Learning to sort through and mine vasts amounts of data to extrapolate meaning will be a “trick,” he writes, but it turns out the big problems with big data go deeper than volume.

Creating computer models to simulate complex systems with big data, Franks notes, ultimately creates something a bit different from reality: “the very act of bringing the equations over to digital form means you have changed them in subtle ways and that means you are solving a slightly different problem than the real-world version.” Analysis, therefore, “requires trained skepticism, sophistication and, remarkably, some level of intuition about the systems we study,” he writes.

Franks also raises the problem of big data becoming a threat to individuals within society:

“Everyday we are scattering ‘digital breadcrumbs’ into the data-verse. Credit card purchases, cell phone calls, Internet searches: Big Data means memory storage has become so cheap that all data about all those aspects of our lives can be harvested and put to use. And it’s exactly the use of all that harvested data that can pose a threat to society.”

The threat comes from the Big Brother aspect of being constantly monitored in ways we’ve never before imagined, and Franks writes, “It may also allows levels of manipulation that are new and truly unimaginable.” You can read more of Franks thoughts on what it means to live in the age of big data here. (We’ve covered related ethics issues with big data here on Strata.)

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