Discussion of Google’s data management technologies MapReduce and BigTable. Related subjects include:

May 21, 2012

Cool analytic stories

There are several reasons it’s hard to confirm great analytic user stories. First, there aren’t as many jaw-dropping use cases as one might think. For as I wrote about performance, new technology tends to make things better, but not radically so. After all, if its applications are …

… all that bloody important, then probably people have already been making do to get it done as best they can, even in an inferior way.

Further, some of the best stories are hard to confirm; even the famed beer/diapers story isn’t really true. Many application areas are hard to nail down due to confidentiality, especially but not only in such “adversarial” domains as anti-terrorism, anti-spam, or anti-fraud.

Even so, I have two questions in my inbox that boil down to “What are the coolest or most significant analytics stories out there?” So let’s round up some of what I know. Read more

January 8, 2012

Big data terminology and positioning

Recently, I observed that Big Data terminology is seriously broken. It is reasonable to reduce the subject to two quasi-dimensions:

given that

But the conflation should stop there.

*Low-volume/high-velocity problems are commonly referred to as “event processing” and/or “streaming”.

When people claim that bigness and structure are the same issue, they oversimplify into mush. So I think we need four pieces of terminology, reflective of a 2×2 matrix of possibilities. For want of better alternatives, my suggestions are:

Read more

October 10, 2011

Text data management, Part 1: Confusion

This is Part 1 of a three post series. The posts cover:

  1. Confusion about text data management.
  2. Choices for text data management (general and short-request).
  3. Choices for text data management (analytic).

There’s much confusion about the management of text data, among technology users, vendors, and investors alike. Reasons seems to include:

Above all: The use cases for text data vary greatly, just as the use cases for simply-structured databases do.

There are probably fewer people now than there were six years ago who need to be told that text and relational database management are very different things. Other misconceptions, however, appear to be on the rise. Specific points that are commonly overlooked include: Read more

October 3, 2010

Notes and links October 3 2010

Some notes, follow-up, and links before I head out to California:  Read more

July 31, 2010

Nested data structures keep coming up, especially for log files

Nested data structures have come up several times now, almost always in the context of log files.

I don’t have a grasp yet on what exactly is happening here, but it’s something.

July 6, 2010

Cassandra technical overview

Back in March, I talked with Jonathan Ellis of Rackspace, who runs the Apache Cassandra project. I started drafting a blog post then, but never put it up. Then Jonathan cofounded Riptano, a company to commercialize Cassandra, and so I talked with him again in May. Well, I’m finally finding time to clear my Cassandra/Riptano backlog. I’ll cover the more technical parts below, and the more business- or usage-oriented ones in a companion Cassandra/Riptano post.

Jonathan’s core claims for Cassandra include:

In general, Jonathan positions Cassandra as being best-suited to handle a small number of operations at high volume, throughput, and speed. The rest of what you do, as far as he’s concerned, may well belong in a more traditional SQL DBMS.  Read more

May 23, 2010

Various quick notes

As you might imagine, there are a lot of blog posts I’d like to write I never seem to get around to, or things I’d like to comment on that I don’t want to bother ever writing a full post about. In some cases I just tweet a comment or link and leave it at that.

And it’s not going to get any better. Next week = the oft-postponed elder care trip. Then I’m back for a short week. Then I’m off on my quarterly visit to the SF area. Soon thereafter I’ve have a lot to do in connection with Enzee Universe. And at that point another month will have gone by.

Anyhow: Read more

April 21, 2010

ITA Software and Needlebase

Rumors are flying that Google may acquire ITA Software. I know nothing of their validity, but I have known about ITA Software for a while. Random notes include:

ITA’s software does both price/reservation lookup/checking and reservation-making. I’ve had trouble keeping it straight, but I think the lookup is ITA’s actual business, and the reservation-making is ITA’s Next Big Thing. This is one of the ultimate federated-transaction-processing applications, because it involves coordinating huge OLTP systems run, in some cases, by companies that are bitter competitors with each other. Network latencies have to allow for intercontinental travel of the data itself.

Indeed, airline reservation systems are pretty much the OLTP ultimate in themselves. As the story goes, transaction monitors were pretty much invented for airline reservation systems in the 1960s.

A really small project for ITA Software is Needlebase. I stopped by ITA to look at Needlebase in January, and what it is is a very smart and hence interesting screen-scraping system. The idea is people publish database information to the web, and you may want to look at their web pages and recover the database records it is based on. Applications of this to the airline industry, which has 100s of 1000s of price changes per day — and I may be too low by one or two orders of magnitude when I say that — should be fairly obvious. ITA Software has aspirations of applying Needlebase to other sectors as well, or more precisely having users who do so. Last I looked, ITA hadn’t put significant resources behind stimulating Needlebase adoption — but Google might well change that.

Edit: I just re-found an old characterization of (some of) what ITA Software does by — who else? — Dan Weinreb:

I am working on our new product, an airline reservation system.  It’s an online transaction-processing system that must be up 99.99% of the time, maintaining maximum response time (e.g. on  It’s a very, very complicated system.  The presentation layer is written in Java using conventional techniques.  The business rule layer is written in Common Lisp; about 500,000 lines of code (plus another 100,000 or so of open source libraries).  The database layer is Oracle RAC.  We operate our own data centers, some here in Massachusetts and a disaster-recovery site in Canada (separate power grid).

Related links

March 12, 2010

Some NoSQL links

I plan to post a few things soon about MongoDB, Cassandra, and NoSQL in general. So I’m poking around a bit reading stuff on the subjects. Here are some links I found. Read more

February 11, 2010

More patent nonsense — Google MapReduce

Google recently received a patent for MapReduce. The first and most general claim is (formatting and emphasis mine): Read more

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