Archive for August 25th, 2008

By Mayank Bawa in Analytics, Blogroll, Business analytics, MapReduce on August 25, 2008

I’m unbelievably excited about our new In-Database MapReduce feature!

Google has used MapReduce and GFS on page rank analysis, but the sky is really the limit for anyone to build powerful analytic apps. Curt Monash has posted an excellent compendium of applications that are successfully leveraging the MapReduce paradigm today.

A few examples of SQL/MapReduce functions that we’ve collaborated with our customers on so far:

1. Path Sequencing: SQL/MR functions can be used for developing regular expression matching of complex path sequences (eg. time series financial analysis or clickstream behavioral recommendations). It can also be extended to discover Golden Paths to reveal interesting behavioural patterns useful for segmentation, issue resolution, and risk optimization.

2. Graph Analysis: many interesting graph problems like BFS (breadth first search), SSSP (single source shortest path), APSP (all-pairs shortest path), and page rank that depend on graph traversal.

3. Machine Learning: several statistical algorithms like linear regression, clustering, collaborative filtering, naive bayes, support vector machine, and neural networks can be used to solve hard problems like pattern recognition, recommendations/market basket analysis, and classification/segmentation.

4. Data Transformations and Preparation: Large-scale transformations can be parameterized as SQL/MR functions for data cleansing and standardization, unleashing the true potential for Extract-Load-Transform pipelines and making large-scale data model normalization feasible. Push down also enables rapid discovery and data pre-processing to create analytical data sets used for advanced analytics such as SAS and SPSS.

These are just a few simple examples Aster has developed for our customers and partners via Aster’s In-Database MapReduce to help them with rich analysis and transformations of large data.

I’d like to finish with a simple code snippet example of a simple, yet powerful SQL/MR function we’ve developed called “Sessionization”

Our Internet customers have conveyed that defining a user session can’t be easily done (if at all) using standard SQL. One possibility is to use cookies but users frequently remove them or they expire.

Aster In-Database MapReduce

Aster developed a simple “Sessionization”Â? SQL/MR function via our standard Java API library to easily parameterize the discovery of a user session. A session would be defined by a timeout value (eg. in seconds). If the elapsed time between consecutive click events is greater than the timeout, this would signal a new session has begun for that user.

From a user perspective, the input is user clicks (eg. timestamp, userid). The output is to associate each click to a unique session identifier based on the Java procedure noted above. Here’s the simple syntax:

SELECT timestamp, userid, sessionid
FROM sessionize("timestamp", 600) ON clickstream
SEQUENCE BY timestamp

Indeed, it is that simple.

So simple, that we have reduced a complex multi-hour Extract-Load-Transform task into a toy example. That is the power of In-Database MapReduce!

By Mayank Bawa in Blogroll, Database, MapReduce on August 25, 2008

I am very pleased to announce today that Aster nCluster now brings together the expressive power of a MapReduce framework with the strengths of a Relational Database!

Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat at Google had invented the MapReduce framework in 2004 for processing large volumes of unstructured data on clusters of commodity nodes. Jeff and Sanjay’s goal was to provide a trivially parallelizable framework so that even novice developers (a.k.a interns) could write programs in a variety of languages (Java/C/C++/Perl/Python) to analyze data independent of scale. And, they have certainly succeeded.

Once implemented, the same MapReduce framework has been used successfully within Google (and outside, via Yahoo! sponsored Apache’s Hadoop) to analyze structured data as well.

In mapping our product trajectory, we realized early on that the intersection of MapReduce and Relational Databases for structured data analysis has a powerful consonance. Let me explain.

Relational Databases present SQL as an interface to manipulate data using a declarative interface rooted in Relational Algebra. Users can express their intent via set manipulations and the database runs off to magically optimize and efficiently execute the SQL request.

Such an abstraction is sunny and bright in the academic world of databases. However, any real-world practitioner of databases knows the limits of SQL and those of its Relational Database implementations: (a) a lack of expressive power in SQL (consider doing a Sessionization query in SQL!), and (b) a cost-based optimizer that often has a mind of its own refusing to perform the right operations.

Making an elephant dance!A final limitation of SQL is completely non-technical: most developers struggle with the nuances of making a database dance well to their directions. Indeed, a SQL maestro is required to perform interesting queries for data transformations (during ETL processing or Extract-Load-Transform processing) or data mining (during analytics).

These problems become worse at scale, where even minor weaknesses result in longer run-times. Most developers (the collective us), on the other hand, are much more familiar with programming in Java/C/C++/Perl/Python than in SQL.

MapReduce presents a simple interface for manipulating data: a map and a reduce function written in the language of choice (Java/C/C++/Perl/Python) of a developer. Its real power lies in the Expressivity it brings: it makes the phrasing of really interesting transformations and analytics breathtakingly easy. The fact that MapReduce, in its use of Map and Reduce functions is a “specific implementation of well known techniques developed nearly 25 years ago” is its beauty: every programmer understands it and knows how to leverage it.

As a computer scientist, I am thrilled at the simple elegant interface that we’ve enabled with SQL/MR. If our early beta trials with customers are any indication, databases have just taken a major step forward!

You can program a database too!You can now write against the database in a language of your choice and invoke these functions from within SQL to answer critical business questions. Data analysts will feel liberated to have simple powerful tools to compete effectively on analytics. More importantly, analysts now have simplicity, working within the environs of simple SQL that we all love.

The Aster nCluster will orchestrate resources transparently to ensure that tasks make progress and do not interfere with other concurrent queries and loads in the database.

Aster: Do More!We proudly present our SQL/MapReduce framework in Aster nCluster as the most powerful analytical database. Seamlessly integrating MapReduce with ANSI SQL provides a quantum leap that will empower analysts and ultimately unleash the power of data for the masses.

That is our prediction. And we are working to make it happen!