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The Java.net JavaOne 2012 Conversations: Konstantin Shvachko

Posted by editor on December 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM PST

I introduced myself to Konstantin Shvachko after hearing him speak in the Duke's Choice Awards BOF session at JavaOne 2012 (Hadoop was a 2012 award winner). Konstantin happened to be sitting right next to me in the audience, so before we exited the session, I asked him if we could arrange a chat before JavaOne ended.

You've probably heard of Hadoop, but a great many likely don't know much about it. In the Duke's BOF, Hadoop was described as enabling distributed processing of big data sets across clusters of computers. The project was started as part of a 2004 web crawling project. Strategies from a Google paper were adapted to Java in the development of Hadoop.

In the BOF, Konstantin noted that Hadoop has been utilized for some unusual (apparently unanticipated) use cases. For example, dating sites use Hadoop a lot. Also, major oil companies use Hadoop in processing data gathered by boats that drag sounding sensors that measure and map the bottom of the ocean. Hadoop is also used by high-energy physics researchers who utilize colliders in their studies.

Konstantin concluded, in the BOF, that an operating system is a good analogy for what Hadoop is, and what it does.

The next day, when we met in the JavaOne Hilton lobby, I asked Konstantin to identify the largest operational Hadoop deployments. I was very surprised by his answer. The largest Hadoop deployments in terms of data volume include:

  • Yahoo (a 20-Petabyte cluster)
  • eBay (20-25 Petabyte cluster)
  • Facebook (about 100 Petabytes)

At that point, my thought was: what? Hadoop is a critical infrastructural component that facilitates some of the biggest global sites? Yet, so few people have even heard of Hadoop?

Konstantin supplemented the statistics by noting that eBay implements about 1000 Hadoop nodes, and Yahoo implements about 4000 Hadoop nodes.

Konstantin then got more into the operating system analogy for Hadoop. Hadoop is like an operating system for distributed computing, where data management is the critical factor. I myself work on data analysis projects where my data center is receiving enormous amounts of data. My weekly meetings are filled with data management issues. Efficient parallel processing within clusters is essential for so many situations today.

Konstantin talked about one of his current areas of research and development. He's working on a new file system. The Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) may be sufficient for today's biggest sites. But, Konstantin notes, HDFS has its limitations: "There's a single point of failure, the master node. And, that master node can ultimately become a bottleneck."

So, considering this, does Konstantin just say "oh, well!"? Yeah, right! This is where Giraffa comes in. Konstantin describes Giraffa as being a means for replacing the HDFS master node with distributed clustered servers that facilitate the creation of clusters of master nodes.

Take a look at Giraffa to see what Konstantin's talking about here. It's about fail-safe protected replication of HDFS master nodes. So, today's single master node HDFS systems are sufficient to meet the needs of tiny sites like Yahoo, eBay, and Facebook... With Giraffa, Konstantin's looking ahead to a future that will be quite different from today. Since he's already preparing for that future, I think that when it arrives, we'll be ready too!

Thanks for paving the road ahead in advance, Konstantin! You're truly a visionary whose vision we need going forward!


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