|By Roger Gaskell||
|September 7, 2011 09:30 AM EDT||
Is MapReduce the Holy Grail answer to the pressing problem of processing, analyzing and making sense of large and growing data volumes? Certainly it has potential in this arena, but there is a distressing gap between the amount of hype this technology - and its spinoffs - has received and the number of professionals who actually know how to integrate and make best use of it.
Industry watchers say it's just a matter of time before MapReduce sweeps through the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) market the same way open source technologies like Linux have done. In fact, in a recent blog post, Forrester's James Kobielus proclaimed that most EDW vendors will incorporate support for MapReduce's open source cousin Hadoop into the heart of their architectures to enable open, standards-based data analytics on massive amounts of data.
So, no more databases, just MapReduce? I'm not so sure. But don't misunderstand. It's not that MapReduce isn't an effective way to analyze data in some cases. The big names in Internet business are all using it - Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay et al - so it must be good, right? But it's worth taking a more measured view based both on the technical and the practical business merits. I believe that the two technologies are not so mutually exclusive; that they will work hand-in-hand and, in some cases, MapReduce will be integrated into the relational database (RDBMS).
Google certainly has proven that MapReduce excels at making sense out of the exabytes of unstructured data on the web, which it should, given that MapReduce was designed from the outset for manipulating very large data sets. MapReduce in this sense provides a way to put structure around unstructured data. We humans prefer structure; it's in our DNA. Without structure, we have no real way of adding value to the data. Unstructured data analytics is something of an oxymoron for a pattern-seeking hominid.
MapReduce helps us put structure around the unstructured so we can then make sense of it. It creates an environment wherein a data analyst can write two simple functions, a "mapper" and a "reducer," to perform the actual data manipulation, returning a result that is at once both an analysis of the data it has just mapped and summarized, as well as the structure for further analysis that will help provide insight into the data. Whether that further analysis is done in a MapReduce environment might be the more appropriate question.
From an infrastructure standpoint, MapReduce excels where performance and scalability are challenges. Applications written using the MapReduce framework are automatically parallelized, making it well suited to a large infrastructure of connected machines. As it scales applications across lots of servers made up of lots of nodes, the MapReduce framework also provides built-in query fault tolerance so that whatever hardware component might fail, a query would be completed by another machine. Further, MapReduce and its open source brethren can perform functions not possible in standard SQL (click-stream sessionization, nPath, graph production of potentially unbounded length in SQL).
What's not to love? At a basic level I believe the MapReduce framework is an inefficient way of analyzing data for the vast majority of businesses. The aforementioned capabilities of MapReduce are all well and good, provided you have a Google-like business replete with legions of programmers and vast amounts of server and memory capacity. Viewed from this perspective, it makes perfect sense that Google developed and used MapReduce: because it could. It had a huge and growing resource in its farms of custom-made servers, as well as armies of programmers constantly looking for new ways to take advantage of that seemingly infinite hardware (and the data collected on it), to do cool new things.
Similarly, the other high-profile adopters and advocates are also IT-savvy, IT-heavy companies and, like Google, have the means and ongoing incentive to get a MapReduce framework tailored to their particular needs and reap the benefits. Would a mid-size firm know how? It seems doubtful. While it has claimed that MapReduce is easy to use, even for programmers without experience with distributed systems, I know from field experience with customers that it does, in fact, take some pretty experienced folks to make best use of it.
Projects like Hive, Google Sawzall, Yahoo Pig and companies like Cloudera all, in essence, attempt to make the MapReduce paradigm easier for lesser experts to use and, in fact, make it behave for the end user more like a parallel database. But this raises the question: Why? It seems to be a bit of re-inventing the wheel. IT-heavy is not how most businesses operate today, especially in these economic times. The dot-com bubble is long over. Hardware budgets are limited and few companies relish the idea of hiring teams of programming experts to maintain even a valuable IT asset such as their data warehouse. They'd rather buy an off-the-shelf tool designed from the ground up to do high-speed data analytics.
Like MapReduce, commercially available massively parallel processing databases specifically built for rapid, high volume data analytics will provide immense data scale and query fault tolerance. They also have a proven track record of customer deployments and deliver equal if not better performance on Big Data problems. Perhaps as important, today's next-generation MPP analytic databases give businesses the flexibility to draw on a deep pool of IT labor skilled in established conventions such as SQL.
As mentioned earlier, unstructured data seems like a natural for MapReduce analysis. A rising tide of chatter is focused on the increasing problem - and importance - of unstructured data. There is more than a bit of truth to this. As the Internet of everything becomes more and more a reality, data is generated everywhere; but our experience to date is that businesses are most interested in data derived from the transactional systems they've wired their businesses on top of, where structure is a given.
Another difficulty faces companies even as MapReduce becomes more integrated into the overall enterprise data analysis strategy. MapReduce is a framework. As the hype and interest have grown, MapReduce solutions are being created by database vendors in entirely non-standard and incompatible ways. This will further limit the likelihood that it will become the centerpiece of an EDW. Business has demonstrated time and again that it prefers open standards and interoperability.
Finally, I believe a move toward a programmer-centric approach to data analysis is both inefficient and contrary to all other prevailing trends of technology use in the enterprise. From the mobile workforce to the rise of social enterprise computing, the momentum is away from hierarchy. I believe this trend is the only way the problem of making Big Data actionable will be effectively addressed. In his classic book on the virtues of open source programming, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric S. Raymond put forth the idea that open source was an effective way to address the complexity and density of information inherent in developing good software code. His proposition, "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow," could easily be restated for Big Data as, "given enough analysts, all trends are apparent." The trick is - and really always has been - to get more people looking at the data. You don't achieve that end by centering your data analytics efforts on a tool largely geared to the skills of technical wizards.
MapReduce-type solutions as they currently exist are most effective when utilized by programmer-led organizations focused on maximizing their growing IT assets. For most businesses seeking the most efficient way to quickly turn their most valuable data into revenue generating insight, MPP databases will likely continue to hold sway, even as MapReduce-based solutions find a supporting role.
Puppet Labs has announced the next major update to its flagship product: Puppet Enterprise 2015.2. This release includes new features providing DevOps teams with clarity, simplicity and additional management capabilities, including an all-new user interface, an interactive graph for visualizing infrastructure code, a new unified agent and broader infrastructure support.
Sep. 5, 2015 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 600
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
Sep. 5, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 402
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and e...
Sep. 5, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 246
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 573
In their Live Hack” presentation at 17th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty and Paul Fletcher, Chief Security Evangelists at Alert Logic, will provide the audience with a chance to see a live demonstration of the common tools cyber attackers use to attack cloud and traditional IT systems. This “Live Hack” uses open source attack tools that are free and available for download by anybody. Attendees will learn where to find and how to operate these tools for the purpose of testing their own IT infrastructu...
Sep. 4, 2015 09:30 PM EDT Reads: 538
DevOps Summit, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development...
Sep. 4, 2015 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,666
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Sep. 4, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 456
Whether you like it or not, DevOps is on track for a remarkable alliance with security. The SEC didn’t approve the merger. And your boss hasn’t heard anything about it. Yet, this unruly triumvirate will soon dominate and deliver DevSecOps faster, cheaper, better, and on an unprecedented scale. In his session at DevOps Summit, Frank Bunger, VP of Customer Success at ScriptRock, will discuss how this cathartic moment will propel the DevOps movement from such stuff as dreams are made on to a prac...
Sep. 4, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 282
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
Sep. 4, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 508
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and a...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 534
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the ...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing thes...
Sep. 4, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 150
Organizations from small to large are increasingly adopting cloud solutions to deliver essential business services at a much lower cost. According to cyber security experts, the frequency and severity of cyber-attacks are on the rise, causing alarm to businesses and customers across a variety of industries. To defend against exploits like these, a company must adopt a comprehensive security defense strategy that is designed for their business. In 2015, organizations such as United Airlines, Sony...
Sep. 4, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 547
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 983