Big data tools for midcaps and others


Applications and Examples

Practical applications of Hadoop are very diverse. They include: analyzing web clickstream data to optimize conversion rates, evaluating sensor data of machinery for the optimization of production processes, analyzing server logfiles for improved security, making forecasts on the basis of geolocation data, data mining of social media activities for a better understanding of the target audience, statistical processing of search indexes and RFID data  – the list never ends.

Banks and insurance companies use applications based on Hadoop to rate clients on the basis of their financial history using pattern recognition algorithms. This approach helps financial institutions put a stop to credit card abuse, among other things, and better assess the creditworthiness of their customers in the scope of risk management.

In e-commerce and online and mobile advertising, Hadoop is used to compute product recommendations. The behavior of a visitor in your own webshop and on social media serves as the basis for exploring the visitor's preferences. Data centers, telcos, and web hosting providers use Hadoop-based solutions to identify bottlenecks or errors in networks at an early stage by evaluating network traffic statistics. Another example is algorithms for analyzing the meaning of text messages. Some e-commerce providers and telecommunications service providers use this technique to evaluate customer requests.

Solutions based on Hadoop also let you combine several different data sources and thus create multidimensional analyses.

One of the pioneers in the use of Hadoop for multidimensional data analysis is the gaming industry. After all, casinos are particularly vulnerable: Fraud occurs, and they can lose a lot of money in a few minutes. Analytics solutions for big data have proven their value in fraud detection and in exploring the target audience. Thanks to big data, casino operators can create granular customer profiles. The Flamingo Hotel of Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas alone employs 200 big data analysts. Specialized analytics solutions for the gaming industry, such as Kognitio [3], are based on Hadoop.

Game chips, customer loyalty cards, and even liquor bottles in bars like Aria Hotel and Casino are equipped with RFID tags. This technology makes it possible to track activities in real time. Casinos consistently analyze all these acquired values as finely granulated data. "Casinos employ the most talented cryptographers, computer security experts and game theorists" says John Pironti, the chief information risk strategist with data protection specialists Archer Technologies [4].

Security technologies such as video surveillance or RFID tracking produce huge amounts of data. Relevant data are never discarded because they are just too valuable, and this is where Hadoop enters the game  – as a distributed filesystem. While casinos are experimenting with these innovations, companies in other industries are trying to apply their experiences to their own business.

On the basis of Hadoop, tailor-made solutions can be programmed to manage data assets more efficiently. An example of this is Red Bull Media House GmbH's Media Asset Management (Figure 2). Germany's ADACOR Hosting GmbH from Essen tested multiple solutions for media asset management on behalf of the Austrian company. The task was to create a central repository of content, such as video clips, photos and audio files, in various formats and at various quality levels so that customers could quickly and easily access this data at any time from anywhere.

Figure 2: The media asset management platform of Austria's Red Bull Media House GmbH is based on HDFS.

The requirements included elastic scalability without maintenance windows, minimal downtime for hardware glitches, data replication, fast data delivery, ease of management, and a better cost-benefit ratio than standard solutions such as EMC storage could offer. The shortlist included, among other options, NFS, GlusterFS, Lustre, Openfiler, CloudStore, and finally HDFS.

As an initial approach, NFS was investigated as a very popular, stable, and proven filesystem in the Unix world. NFS disappointed ADACOR with its poor performance and lack of features such as data replication. The resulting application would have had to handle distributed storage management itself. The overhead would have been just too great.

The second candidate under the microscope was GlusterFS. ADACOR Hosting GmbH already had some good experience with this filesystem in a different context, especially in terms of performance. As the number of nodes in a GlusterFS cluster increases, so does the maximum data throughput. What disqualified GlusterFS in the eyes of the testers was its very high administrative overhead and impractical scalability with mandatory downtime.

Lustre impressed in terms of performance, scalability, and convenient administration, but this solution also lacked robust replication at the time of implementation. Openfiler dropped out of the shortlist, because the system took several days to complete a rebuild of only 3TB of data. CloudStore was rejected by ADACOR because of a lack of stability. Only HDFS impressed across the board and most closely met the customer's requirements.

Big Data: A Question of Flexibility

A myth that stubbornly persists in the IT industry is that big data is only usable or affordable for large enterprises. Midcaps almost all self-evidently and firmly believe you cannot even think about big data unless you have petabytes of data. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you "only" have datasets of 10 or 50TB, Hadoop is still a useful solution. Big data is not about a certain amount of data but about the lack of data structure.

Actually, the question is not whether a company qualifies for big data. Many companies face a very different challenge: a data management problem. A proprietary data warehouse will quickly reach the capacity limits of a single machine, which is how isolated data silos initially emerged. If you want to gain actionable insights from data, you need a distributed cluster filesystem like HDFS, which grows with the requirements, and a framework like Hadoop.

For midcaps, no factual or financial reasons exist for not using big data. Admittedly, the most vocal users of Hadoop include some of the biggest names in IT, social media, and the entertainment industry, including Amazon Web Services, AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, and HP. However, Hadoop 2.2.x is especially appealing for smaller companies with tight budgets: It is easy to program, free, platform independent, and open source.

The biggest challenge to using Hadoop is by no means financial; rather, it stems from a lack of know-how. The first step is to leverage the low-budget data processing capabilities and rugged data protection with Hadoop. After the company has begun to reap the benefits of these cost reductions, it can then expand its own data analysis activities. Only at this stage does it make sense to employ data scientists to pursue more challenging questions using data analysis solutions based on Hadoop.

Next-Gen MapReduce

The changes in Hadoop 2.2.0 are profound and thoughtful. The innovations are based on modularization of the engine. This bold step is designed to enrich the Hadoop ecosystem, adding plugins and other enhancements. It also promises additional flexibility for the Hadoop administrator. For example, the admin can already replace some built-in algorithms with external modules to benefit from extended functionality. This is true of, for example, shuffle and sort. These modules can be used in parallel and even combined with the built-in algorithms.

The key new features in version 2.2.0 include the introduction of YARN (Yet Another Resource Negotiator) as an optional replacement for MapReduce. MapReduce in Hadoop 1.x (Figure  3) is not optimal for all workloads. It achieves its best performance where duties can be clearly distributed and parallelized. Many shortcomings of MapReduce are things of the past, however, following the introduction of YARN.

Figure 3: Hadoop 1.x relies on hard partitioning of the existing resources in the cluster, which in turn results in less than optimal use of the available capacity. Jobs that could not be distributed by Map() and Reduce() ran accordingly slower.

YARN is a development of MapReduce version 2 (MRv2). YARN is based directly on HDFS and assumes the role of a distributed operating system for resource management for big data applications (Figure 4). Thanks to YARN, you can use Hadoop 2.2.x to interweave interactive workloads, real-time workloads, and automated workloads (see the box "Big Data Applications with Support for YARN") .

Big Data Applications with Support for YARN

A variety of applications can benefit from efficient resource management by YARN (Figure 5).

The list of YARN-optimized big data applications includes: Apache Giraph (visualization); Apache Hama (BSP); Apache Hadoop MapReduce (batch processing); Apache Tez (batch and interactive jobs in RAM); Apache S4/Samza/Storm (real-time processing of data streams); Apache Spark (iterative and interactive applications); Elastic Search; Cloudera Llama (a YARN implementation of Impala, a hybrid ad hoc query engine with support for the SQL dialect HiveQL); Data Torrent (data analysis); HOYA (HBase on YARN); and RedPoint (data management).

Figure 4: The architecture of Hadoop 2.x: Resource management by YARN is based on logical units of resource containers; requesting resources is now separated from the application logic.

Additionally, YARN is backward-compatible with MapReduce at the API level (hadoop-0.20.205); at the same time, it improves Hadoop's compatibility with other projects by the Apache Software Foundation. If you insist on using the legacy version of MapReduce, you can now load it as a module. This should not be necessary, however, because MapReduce applications are binary-compatible between the two generations of Hadoop.

The most important change in YARN compared with the classic MapReduce is allocation of the two job tracker functions – resource management and time management/workload monitoring  – to two separate daemons: the global ResourceManager (RM) and the job-specific ApplicationMaster (AM).

The ResourceManager comprises two components: the scheduler and the application manager. The scheduler is responsible for allocating resources to different active applications but is not responsible for monitoring the workloads. The scheduler takes into account both the resource requirements of individual applications as well as the capacity limitations of the cluster.

In the current version, the scheduler, unfortunately, can only manage one resource: memory. In future versions of YARN, it will be possible to allocate CPU cycles, storage, and network bandwidth to the cluster's individual applications.

Resources are allocated by partitioning resource containers. These are virtual compute entities in a cluster node, and a node can possess several such containers. The application manager (the second basic component in the Resource Manager besides the scheduler) accepts workload orders. To do this, the application manager initiates the process of setting up the first resource container for the ApplicationMaster and launches it (or reboots it after a crash). The application-specific ApplicationMaster requests the necessary resource containers from the scheduler (the scheduler is part of the ResourceManager) and begins to monitor them.

HDFS has two types of server or cluster nodes: NameNodes and DataNodes. NameNodes manage the metadata, and the actual data blocks are kept on the DataNodes. A separate NodeManager is responsible for each node in the cluster (i.e., each single machine). It monitors the use of container resources and reports the current activities of the respective nodes to the ResourceManager/Scheduler.

The new architecture allows for significant cost savings (Figure 5). Yahoo estimates the improvements achieved in node utilization to be 60 to 150 percent per day. Yahoo tested YARN with 365PB of data with 400,000 jobs on 40,000 cluster nodes and a total computation time of 10 million hours. A high-availability implementation of the YARN ResourceManager is planned for a future release.

Figure 5: Applications with support for YARN in Hadoop 2.x: MapReduce is now a module in userspace and is binary-compatible with legacy applications from Hadoop 1.x.

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