Layer 4 of the Big Data Stack: Analytical Data Warehouses
Layer 2 of the Big Data Stack: Operational Databases
The Cloud in the Context of Big Data

Big Data and the Origins of MapReduce

MapReduce is increasingly becoming useful for big data. In the early 2000s, some engineers at Google looked into the future and determined that while their current solutions for applications such as web crawling, query frequency, and so on were adequate for most existing requirements, they were inadequate for the complexity they anticipated as the web scaled to more and more users.

These engineers determined that if work could be distributed across inexpensive computers and then connected on the network in the form of a “cluster,” they could solve the problem. Distribution alone was not a sufficient answer. This distribution of work must be performed in parallel for the following three reasons:

  • The processing must be able to expand and contract automatically.

  • The processing must be able to proceed regardless of failures in the network or the individual systems.

  • Developers leveraging this approach must be able to create services that are easy to leverage by other developers. Therefore, this approach must be independent of where the data and computations have executed.

MapReduce was designed as a generic programming model. Some of the initial implementations provided all the key requirements of parallel execution, fault tolerance, load balancing, and data manipulation. The engineers in charge of the project named the initiative MapReduce because it combines two capabilities from existing functional computer languages: map and reduce.

Google engineers designed MapReduce to solve a specific practical problem. Therefore, it was designed as a programming model combined with the implementation of that model — in essence, a reference implementation.

The reference implementation was used to demonstrate the practicality and effectiveness of the concept and to help ensure that this model would be widely adopted by the computer industry. Over the years, other implementations of MapReduce have been created and are available as both open source and commercial products.

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