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How to Optimize MapReduce Tasks

Aside from optimizing the actual application code with MapReduce for big data projects, you can use some optimization techniques to improve the reliability and performance. They fall into three categories: hardware/network topology, synchronization, and file system.

Big data hardware/network topology

Independent of application, the fastest hardware and networks will likely yield the fastest run times for your software. A distinct advantage of MapReduce is the capability to run on inexpensive clusters of commodity hardware and standard networks. If you don’t pay attention to where your servers are physically organized, you won’t get the best performance and high degree of fault tolerance necessary to support big data tasks.

Commodity hardware is often stored in racks in the data center. The proximity of the hardware within the rack offers a performance advantage as opposed to moving data and/or code from rack to rack. During implementation, you can configure your MapReduce engine to be aware of and take advantage of this proximity.

Keeping the data and the code together is one of the best optimizations for MapReduce performance. In essence, the closer the hardware processing elements are to each other, the less latency you will have to deal with.

Big data synchronization

Because it is inefficient to hold all the results of your mapping within the node, the synchronization mechanisms copy the mapping results to the reducing nodes immediately after they have completed so that the processing can begin right away. All values from the same key are sent to the same reducer, again ensuring higher performance and better efficiency.

The reduction outputs are written directly to the file system, so it must be designed and tuned for best results.

Big data file system

Your MapReduce implementation is supported by a distributed file system. The major difference between local and distributed file systems is capacity. To handle the huge amounts of information in a big data world, file systems need to be spread across multiple machines or nodes in a network.

MapReduce implementations rely on a master-slave style of distribution, where the master node stores all the metadata, access rights, mapping and location of files and blocks, and so on. The slaves are nodes where the actual data is stored. All the requests go to the master and then are handled by the appropriate slave node. As you contemplate the design of the file system, you should consider the following:

  • Keep it warm: As you might expect, the master node could get overworked because everything begins there. Additionally, if the master node fails, the entire file system is inaccessible until the master is restored. A very important optimization is to create a “warm standby” master node that can jump into service if a problem occurs with the online master.

  • The bigger the better: File size is also an important consideration. Lots of small files (less than 100MB) should be avoided. Distributed file systems supporting MapReduce engines work best when they are populated with a modest number of large files.

  • The long view: Because workloads are managed in batches, highly sustained network bandwidth is more important than quick execution times of the mappers or reducers. The optimal approach is for the code to stream lots of data when it is reading and again when it is time to write to the file system.

  • Keep it secure: But not overly so. Adding layers of security on the distributed file system will degrade its performance. The file permissions are there to guard against unintended consequences, not malicious behavior. The best approach is to ensure that only authorized users have access to the data center environment and to keep the distributed file system protected from the outside.

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