Report: Understanding the Power of Hadoop as a Service

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Understanding the Power of Hadoop as a Service by Paul Miller:
Across a wide range of industries from health care and financial services to manufacturing and retail, companies are realizing the value of analyzing data with Hadoop. With access to a Hadoop cluster, organizations are able to collect, analyze, and act on data at a scale and price point that earlier data-analysis solutions typically cannot match.
While some have the skill, the will, and the need to build, operate, and maintain large Hadoop clusters of their own, a growing number of Hadoop’s prospective users are choosing not to make sustained investments in developing an in-house capability. An almost bewildering range of hosted solutions is now available to them, all described in some quarters as Hadoop as a Service (HaaS). These range from relatively simple cloud-based Hadoop offerings by Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud providers including Amazon, Microsoft, and Rackspace through to highly customized solutions managed on an ongoing basis by service providers like CSC and CenturyLink. Startups such as Altiscale are completely focused on running Hadoop for their customers. As they do not need to worry about the impact on other applications, they are able to optimize hardware, software, and processes in order to get the best performance from Hadoop.
In this report we explore a number of the ways in which Hadoop can be deployed, and we discuss the choices to be made in selecting the best approach for meeting different sets of requirements.
To read the full report, click here.

Cloudera CEO declares victory over big data competition

Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly doesn’t often mince words when it comes to describing his competition in the Hadoop space, or Cloudera’s position among those other companies. In October 2013, Reilly told me he didn’t consider Hortonworks or MapR to be Cloudera’s real competition, but rather larger data-management companies such as IBM and EMC-VMware spinoff Pivotal. And now, Reilly says, “We declare victory over at least one of our competitors.”

He was referring to Pivotal, and the Open Data Platform, or ODP, alliance it helped launched a couple weeks ago along with [company]Hortonworks[/company], [company]IBM[/company], [company]Teradata[/company] and several other big data vendors. In an interview last week, Reilly called that alliance “a ruse and, frankly, a graceful exit for Pivotal,” which laid off a number of employees working on its Hadoop distribution and is now outsourcing most of its core Hadoop development and support to Hortonworks.

You can read more from Reilly below, including his takes on Hortonworks, Hadoop revenues and Spark, as well as some expanded thoughts on the ODP. For more information about the Open Data Platform from the perspectives of the members, you can read our coverage of its launch in mid-February as well as my subsequent interview with Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden, who explains in some detail how that alliance will work.

If you want to hear about the fast-changing, highly competitive and multi-billion-dollar business of big data straight from horses’ mouths, make sure to attend our Structure Data conference March 18 and 19 in New York. Speakers include Cloudera’s Reilly and Hortonworks’ Bearden, as well as MapR CEO John Schroeder, Databricks CEO (and Spark co-creator) Ion Stoica, and other big data executives and users, including those from large firms such as [company]Lockheed Martin[/company] and [company]Goldman Sachs[/company].

GIGAOM STRUCTURE DATA 2014

You down with ODP? No, not me

While Hortonworks explains the Open Data Platform essentially as a way for member companies to build on top of Hadoop without, I guess, formally paying Hortonworks for support or embracing its entire Hadoop distribution, Reilly describes it as little more than a marketing ploy. Aside from calling it a graceful exit for Pivotal (and, arguably, IBM), he takes issue with even calling it “open.” If the ODP were truly open, he said, companies wouldn’t have to pay for membership, Cloudera would have been invited and, when it asked about the alliance, it wouldn’t have been required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

What’s more, Reilly isn’t certain why the ODP is really necessary technologically. It’s presently composed of four of the most mature Hadoop components, he explained, and a lot of companies are actually trying to move off of MapReduce (to Spark or other processing engines) and, in some cases, even the Hadoop Distributed File System. Hortonworks, which supplied the ODP core and presumably will handle much of the future engineering work, will be stuck doing the other members’ bidding as they decide which of several viable SQL engines and other components to include, he added.

“I don’t think we could have scripted [the Open Data Platform news] any better,” Reilly said. He added, “[T]he formation of the ODP … is a big shift in the landscape. We think it’s a shift to our advantage.”

(If you want a possibly more nuanced take on the ODP, check out this blog post by Altiscale CEO Raymie Stata. Altiscale is an ODP member, but Stata has been involved with the Apache Software Foundation and Hadoop since his days as Yahoo CTO and is a generally trustworthy source on the space.)

Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden at Structure Data 2014.

Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden at Structure Data 2014.

Really, Hortonworks isn’t a competitor?

Asked about the competitive landscape among Hadoop vendors, Reilly doubled down on his assessment from last October, calling Cloudera’s business model “a much more aggressive play [and] a much bolder vision” than what Hortonworks and MapR are doing. They’re often “submissive” to partners and treat Hadoop like an “add-on” rather than a focal point. If anything, Hortonworks has burdened itself by going public and by signing on to help prop up the legacy technologies that IBM and Pivotal are trying to sell, Reilly said.

Still, he added, Cloudera’s “enterprise data hub” strategy is more akin to the IBM and Pivotal business models of trying to become the centerpiece of customers’ data architectures by selling databases, analytics software and other components beside just Hadoop.

If you don’t buy that logic, Reilly has another argument that boils down to money. Cloudera earned more than $100 million last year (that’s GAAP revenue, he confirmed), while Hortonworks earned $46 million and, he suggested, MapR likely earned a similar number. Combine that with Cloudera’s huge investment from Intel in 2014 — it’s now “the largest privately funded enterprise software company in history,” Reilly said — and Cloudera owns the Hadoop space.

“We intend to take advantage” of this war chest to acquire companies and invest in new products, Reilly said. And although he wouldn’t get into specifics, he noted, “There’s no shortage of areas to look in.”

Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, at Structure 2014.

Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, at Structure 2014.

The future is in applications

Reilly said that more than 60 percent of Cloudera sales are now “enterprise data hub” deployments, which is his way of saying its customers are becoming more cognizant of Hadoop as an application platform rather than just a tool. Yes, it can still store lots of data and transform it into something SQL databases can read, but customers are now building new applications for things like customer churn and network optimization with Hadoop as the core. Between 15 and 20 financial services companies are using Cloudera to power detect money laundering, he said, and Cloudera has trained its salesforce on a handful of the most popular use cases.

One of the technologies helping make Hadoop look a lot better for new application types is Spark, which simplifies the programming of data-processing jobs and runs them a lot faster than MapReduce does. Thanks to the YARN cluster-management framework, users can store data in Hadoop and process it using Spark, MapReduce and other processing engines. Reilly reiterated Cloudera’s big investment and big bet on Spark, saying that he expects a lot of workloads will eventually run on it.

Databricks CEO (and AMPLab co-director) Ion Stoica.

Databricks CEO (and Spark co-creator) Ion Stoica.

A year into the Intel deal and …

“It is a tremendous partnership,” Reilly said.

[company]Intel[/company] has been integral in helping Cloudera form partnerships with companies such as Microsoft and EMC, as well as with customers such as MasterCard, he said. The latter deal is particularly interesting because Cloudera and Intel’s joint engineering on hardware-based encryption helped Cloudera deploy a PCI-compliant Hadoop cluster and MasterCard is now out pushing that system to its own clients via its MasterCard Advisors professional services arm.

Reilly added that Cloudera and Intel are also working together on new chips designed specifically for analytic workloads, which will take advantage of non-RAM memory types.

Asked whether Cloudera’s push to deploy more workloads in cloud environments is at odds with Intel’s goal to sell more chips, Reilly pointed to Intel’s recent strategy of designing chips especially for cloud computing environments. The company is operating under the assumption that data has gravity and that certain data that originates in the cloud, such as internet-of-things or sensor data, will stay there, while large enterprises will continue to store a large portion of their data locally.

Wherever they run, Reilly said, “[Intel] just wants more workloads.”

For now, Spark looks like the future of big data

Titles can be misleading. For example, the O’Reilly Strata + Hadoop World conference took place in San Jose, California, this week but Hadoop wasn’t the star of the show. Based on the news I saw coming out of the event, it’s another Apache project — Spark — that has people excited.

There was, of course, some big Hadoop news this week. Pivotal announced it’s open sourcing its big data technology and essentially building its Hadoop business on top of the [company]Hortonworks[/company] platform. Cloudera announced it earned $100 million in 2014. Lost in the grandstanding was MapR, which announced something potentially compelling in the form of cross-data-center replication for its MapR-DB technology.

But pretty much everywhere else you looked, it was technology companies lining up to support Spark: Databricks (naturally), Intel, Altiscale, MemSQL, Qubole and ZoomData among them.

Spark isn’t inherently competitive with Hadoop — in fact, it was designed to work with Hadoop’s file system and is a major focus of every Hadoop vendor at this point — but it kind of is. Spark is known primarily as an in-memory data-processing framework that’s faster and easier than MapReduce, but it’s actually a lot more. Among the other projects included under the Spark banner are file system, machine learning, stream processing, NoSQL and interactive SQL technologies.

The Spark platform, minus the Tachyon file system and some younger related projects.

The Spark platform, minus the Tachyon file system and some younger related projects.

In the near term, it probably will be that Hadoop pulls Spark into the mainstream because Hadoop is still at least a cheap, trusted big data storage platform. And with Spark still being relatively immature, it’s hard to see too many companies ditching Hadoop MapReduce, Hive or Impala for their big data workloads quite yet. Wait a few years, though, and we might start seeing some more tension between the two platforms, or at least an evolution in how they relate to each other.

This will be especially true if there’s a big breakthrough in RAM technology or prices drop to a level that’s more comparable to disk. Or if Databricks can convince companies they want to run their workloads in its nascent all-Spark cloud environment.

Attendees at our Structure Data conference next month in New York can ask Spark co-creator and Databricks CEO Ion Stoica all about it — what Spark is, why Spark is and where it’s headed. Coincidentally, Spark Summit East is taking place the exact same days in New York, where folks can dive into the nitty gritty of working with the platform.

There were also a few other interesting announcements this week that had nothing to do with Spark, but are worth noting here:

  • [company]Microsoft[/company] added Linux support for its HDInsight Hadoop cloud service, and Python and R programming language support for its Azure ML cloud service. The latter also now lets users deploy deep neural networks with a few clicks. For more on that, check out the podcast interview with Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Machine Learning (and Structure Data speaker) Joseph Sirosh embedded below.
  • [company]HP[/company] likes R, too. It announced a product called HP Haven Predictive Analytics that’s powered by a distributed version of R developed by HP Labs. I’ve rarely heard HP and data science in the same sentence before, but at least it’s trying.
  • [company]Oracle[/company] announced a new analytic tool for Hadoop called Big Data Discovery. It looks like a cross between Platfora and Tableau, and I imagine will be used primarily by companies that already purchase Hadoop in appliance form from Oracle. The rest will probably keep using Platfora and Tableau.
  • [company]Salesforce.com[/company] furthered its newfound business intelligence platform with a handful of features designed to make the product easier to use on mobile devices. I’m generally skeptical of Salesforce’s prospects in terms of stealing any non-Salesforce-related analytics from Tableau, Microsoft, Qlik or anyone else, but the mobile angle is compelling. The company claims more than half of user engagement with the platform is via mobile device, which its Director of Product Marketing Anna Rosenman explained to me as “a really positive testament that we have been able to replicate a consumer interaction model.”

If I missed anything else that happened this week, or if I’m way off base in my take on Hadoop and Spark, please share in the comments.

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Pinterest is experimenting with MemSQL for real-time data analytics

Pinterest shed more light on how the social scrapbook and visual discovery service analyzes data in real time, it said in a blog post on Wednesday, also revealing details about how it’s exploring a combination of MemSQL and Spark Streaming to improve the process.

Currently, Pinterest uses a custom-built log-collecting agent dubbed Singer that the company attaches to all of its application servers. Singer then collects all those application log files and with the help of the real-time messaging framework Apache Kafka it can transfer that data to Storm or Spark and other “custom built log readers” that “process these events in real-time.”

Pinterest also uses its own log-persistence service called Secor to read that log data moving through Kafka and then write it to Amazon S3, after which Pinterest’s “self-serve big data platform loads the data from S3 into many different Hadoop clusters for batch processing,” the blog post stated.

Although this current system seems to be working decently for Pinterest, the company is also exploring how it can use MemSQL to help when people need to query the data in real time. So far, the Pinterest team has developed a prototype of a real-time data pipeline that uses Spark Streaming to pass data into MemSQL.

Here’s what this prototype looks like:

Pinterest real-time analytics

Pinterest real-time analytics

In this prototype, Pinterest can use Spark Streaming to pass the data related to each pin (along with geolocation information and what type of category does the pin belong to) to MemSQL, in which the data is then available to be queried.

For analysts that understand SQL, the prototype could be useful as a way to analyze data in real time using a mainstream language.

WunderBar sensor kit gets notifications app for broader appeal

The open-source WunderBar kit is a distinctive attempt to get app developers to shift their attention to the internet of things. It takes the form of a chocolate bar, the individual pieces of which can be broken off, with each piece containing different sensor functionality, such as temperature and humidity, sound, light and proximity, and motion, and with low-energy Bluetooth tying the system together.

Whereas other systems like Spark and LittleBits are more geared toward people who like to fiddle around with little wires, WunderBar firm Relayr specifically targets app developers who are only starting to think about hardware. The system comes with software development kits (SDKs) for Android and iOS, and months after launch there are already interesting ideas springing up, such as InsulinAngel’s temperature-sensing capsule for the kits diabetics have to carry around (you don’t want the insulin to spoil) and BabyBico, a system that uses Wunderbar’s accelerometer and sound sensor to monitor babies’ sleeping patterns.

But Berlin-based Relayr, which has an international distribution deal with German electronics retailer Conrad, wants to broaden WunderBar’s appeal. To that end, on Thursday it released a new app called TellMeWhen, which makes it easy for WunderBar owners to get simple notifications when, for example, the proximity sensor is activated, or when the accelerometer and gyroscope detect movement, or when the temperature sensor’s environment gets too hot or cold.

WunderBar kit with "chocolate" casing

WunderBar kit with “chocolate” casing

“The goal of TellMeWhen was to provide immediate value for both developers and non-techies,” Paul Hopton, Relayr’s chief engineer, Paul Hopton, told me. “We have had a lot of interest from people who are not developers and would like to learn to program to be able to solve simple problems in their life with the WunderBar. We hadn’t expected that. We designed the TellMeWhen app to be able to deliver immediate value for these people. We are also reworking a lot of the documentation to cater for people who are absolute newbies.”

The app will work on any Android phone running version 4.0.3 of the OS or higher. Initially, it’s just doing direct notifications, but Hopton said Relayr hopes to fully integrate the platform with IFTTT in the second quarter of 2015. “Depending on feedback, we may also add some simple features like tweeting in the next major version of TellMeWhen,” he said.

I’ve been playing around with the WunderBar kit and a beta version of TellMeWhen and, as someone who doesn’t have the first clue about coding and breaks into a cold sweat at the sight of a breadboard, I very much like the concept. I found the WunderBar “onboarding” process – getting the system set up on my home Wi-Fi and fully communicating with the separate Relayr management app – a little shaky, with a fair amount of logging out and in again to get it to work, but once it was working it did what it promised to do.

Having recently bought a Raspberry Pi as well, I’m also glad to see that the WunderBar kit’s bridge module will plug into that (I need to get more into tinkering.) The bridge will also connect Wunderbar with the Grove and Arduino systems. With a field as new as the internet of things, and with so many low-cost toys to play with, compatibility is a definite benefit — particularly as the Wunderbar kit isn’t so cheap itself, coming in at just over $200.

This article was updated at 8.35am PT to change “Android 4.3” to “Android 4.0.3”.

Want to make data scientist money? Learn data science tools

O’Reilly Media released the results of its second-annual data science salary survey on Thursday (available for free download here), and the results were not too surprising. Essentially, it shows that people who work with tools designed for big data, machine learning, statistical computing and cloud computing make more money — often between $20,000 and $30,000 more a year, based on median incomes — than people whose jobs only involve tools such as SQL and Excel.

In that regard, the survey doesn’t really tell us anything new. All the talk over the past couple years about competitive recruitment and high salaries for data scientists was true, and it was true precisely because companies want the people who know how to work with new technologies. They want this decade’s data scientists — people who can build AI systems or pipelines for streaming sensor data — not last decade’s data analysts.

The survey has all sorts of interesting findings about how much people earn based on tools or combinations of tools they use, but two charts probably sum it up the best. The first shows the gap in median incomes between people who use Hadoop and people who do not.

survey2

The second shows how use of bigger, faster and sometimes more advanced tools such as HBase, Storm and Spark increases median salaries even more.

survey1People can dismiss buzzwords like big data and data science all they want, but they’re tied to some very real and very powerful technologies. And apparently a lot more money, too.

It’s a good thing companies are still hiring.