SQL + MapReduce: Leave No Data Behind

By Dennis Barker

September 2, 2008

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of working in a big beer warehouse knows that getting the suds from rack to truck sometimes requires a forklift, sometimes a straddle stacker, and sometimes a plain, old pallet jack. A big data warehouse is no different. As data stores zoom past terabyte range and beyond, and business demands require retrieving something other than 12-ounce cans, one type of forklift doesn’t always do the trick.

Greenplum, a developer of massively parallel database technology, is bringing those other kinds of forklifts to the data warehouse. By incorporating MapReduce within its database engine, the company is giving enterprises more ways than SQL to manipulate and analyze extremely large amounts of data.

Greenplum is in the business of humongous databases; customers typically have terabytes to store and sort. (The company says it has two shall-not-be-named customers with production databases of the formerly mythical petabyte size.) From the start, Greenplum designed its software to be a massively parallel system — the idea being that without high-speed parallel processing, a database won’t be a truly useful decision support tool in a big-time data warehouse.

“Businesses have enormous amounts of data that they want to be able to monetize, but they run into the challenges of analyzing data at that very large scale,” says Ben Werther, director of product management for Greenplum. “And with data scattered everywhere, it becomes even more difficult. We believe parallelism is the only way to analyze massive amounts of data and provide answers quickly. The old approach, what you’d find with Oracle, for example, doesn’t scale adequately to handle situations where data is spanning tens of hundreds of nodes. We’ve designed to scale out very linearly in order to accommodate the exponential increase in data volumes and number of users.”

Parallel Design

Greenplum’s database has its roots in PostgresSQL, an open source system known for its enterprise-grade features. On top of that, Greenplum has added its own dataflow engine and capabilities, including a high-speed data loader, to create a highly parallel platform for data warehousing, Werther says.

One of the keys to Greenplum’s approach is query parallelism, where queries are distributed among individual compute nodes. Greenplum Database breaks complex workloads down into small tasks and dispatches them to multiple software processing units working in parallel and connected to high-speed disk. Each “segment server” is a database processor that owns and operates on its piece of the data, performing relational chores like joins and sorts. The database system is made of a number of self-contained parallel-processing units that can scale to handle queries on demand. Greenplum says that because its approach automatically distributes data and handles query workloads in parallel across all available hardware, it outperforms general-purpose database systems. “You need to push processing down to where the data is,” Werther says. “Our shared-nothing architecture moves your computation to as close to your data as possible, and distributes it across as many nodes as available.”

To beat the high price of the traditional, proprietary multiprocessing systems that have typically handled huge data loads, Greenplum designed its database to run on low-cost, off-the-shelf servers. Customers can choose the hardware and vendor they prefer. A typical compute host would have a pair of multicore CPUs (usually Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron), 16GB of RAM, anywhere from 16 to 48 500GB SATA disks, and running Linux or Solaris. A typical rack would hold as much as 24TB.

Greenplum’s database technology also is available “embodied in the data warehouse appliance” from Sun, via a SunFire X4500 Opteron-based server with up to 20 CPUs and 100 TB of storage. Sun says this integrated, turnkey system beats any competition in speed by loading a terabyte in about a minute and in price that works out to about $20,000 per terabyte.  “It’s a solution for those who don’t want to match hardware and software themselves,” says Werther. “It works out of the gate. Those customers who want to choose their own hardware can download the software from our site.”

The New Forklift

Despite its speedy parallel performance and sophisticated SQL capabilities, Greenplum recognized that its database wasn’t helping everyone in a company get the answers they needed. “There’s a lot more interesting analyses our customers want to do beyond what they can do with SQL,” Werther says. “They want different ways of looking at that data, they want to run their own custom algorithms to perform text analysis … and do things that won’t fit in a SQL table. They want to be able to examine input from any source and in any format, and be able to do it across hundreds of terabytes of data. They want to do it at Internet-scale.”

As it happens, there’s a company called Google that also wants to extract useful information from its considerable daily collection of data — information that it can’t get at using SQL. Google uses MapReduce, a programming model for working with very large data sets; it’s also described as a framework for distributed systems, and a computational framework for harnessing many machines. MapReduce programs are automatically parallelized. In theory, it’s simple enough for programmers to use even if they lack experience with distributed systems. The folks at Google use it for gargantuan tasks like building a Web index to small queries from a single developer. (In one month alone, Google’s MapReduce location reportedly processed more than 403,000TB.)

With its new version due this month, Greenplum brings support for MapReduce to the rest of the world. “MapReduce makes it easy to write programs to analyze very big amounts of data,” Werther says. “Customers like having all this data, but they want to get their programmers and math people to come up with new statistical analysis tools so they can extract the very specific types of business intelligence that they need. They want to do analysis with tools like R. They want to ask very specific questions of the data that they can’t ask with SQL, but they don’t want to get rid of SQL. There are things you can do with SQL that MapReduce could never provide.” With the new version of Greenplum, users can combine SQL and MapReduce in the same query, Werther says.

LinkedIn, the vast social/professional networking site, is a customer case in point. “They want to be able to do different sorts of analysis for their people-you-may-know feature. They want to analyze the text of user profiles, for example. By using MapReduce for queries, they can get at things that would otherwise require pulling the data into a separate program, on separate servers, running the data, then putting it back in the database. We don’t just operate against data in the database. We reach out and stream data from file systems and journal applications, too.”

Another customer, publisher O’Reilly Media, says it has seen query times drop from 10 hours to six minutes since replacing its previous system with Greenplum. The company depends on quick analysis of technology and buyer trends in order to bring timely publications to market. Research Director Roger Magoulas says the integration of MapReduce means “incredible efficiency because complex SQL queries can be written in a few lines of code.”

Being able to access data from standard files is a huge benefit of MapReduce, Werther says. “Users can write MapReduce programs in just a few lines of a language they already know, such as Perl or Python, in order to process and analyze terabytes of unstructured data for things like keyword analysis and content indexing. You can’t do the sorts of mining they need to do in SQL.”

Because Greenplum users can now write MapReduce functions in languages like Perl, they can take advantage of open source toolkits to do the sorts of things not usually available with a relational database system, including freeform text analysis, statistical analysis and HTML parsing, Werther says. “In conversation with some customers who are involved in banking and stock exchanges, we learned that a surprising number of them said they were thinking of working with MapReduce in order to do smarter analysis. They still need the SQL analysis, of course, but they also want to expand and take advantage of the capabilities of MapReduce and other tools. They want their database administrators to have the tools they need, but business analysts and programmers need to get at other types of business intelligence. We’re serving both constituencies.”

“The core benefit of MapReduce is price/performance because it allows the cost benefits of parallelization to be applied to analyses that are hard to parallelize otherwise,” says Curt Monash, database technology expert, proprietor of Monash Research and editor of DBMS2. “Programmers benefit from MapReduce because it makes parallelization much easier to program. Business users benefit from MapReduce because they get answers they otherwise might not.”
Don’t Leave Answers on the Floor

Greenplum says it currently has more than 50 customers, including Skype, Sun and the giant Indian company Reliance Communications. Their industries include finance, transportation, manufacturing, telecom, health care and retail, Werther says. “They have some of the largest data warehouses in the world,” he says, “typically 10 to 100 terabytes. We believe that our core capabilities of parallel processing, scalability and, now, multiple ways to examine those terabytes of data will enable these companies to pour data in and let everyone access it.”

“It shouldn’t be prohibitive to store and access data. It should be easy to write analysis and queries against data on massively parallel machines. We need to get away from the world of never enough capacity, fragmented data, and lack of the right tools if we’re to extract the kinds of intelligence and value we need from business data. By combining SQL and MapReduce, we think we’re opening up a new frontier of analytics.

“The idea,” Werther says, “is that no data shall be left behind.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Supercomputer Research Reveals Star Cluster Born Outside Our Galaxy

July 11, 2020

The Milky Way is our galactic home, containing our solar system and continuing into a giant band of densely packed stars that stretches across clear night skies around the world – but, it turns out, not all of those st Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprised of Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia A100 GPUs, and featuri Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Announces First Adaptive Computing Challenge

July 9, 2020

A new contest is challenging the computing world. Xilinx has announced the first Xilinx Adaptive Computing Challenge, a competition that will task developers and startups with finding creative workload acceleration solutions. Xilinx is running the Adaptive Computing Challenge in partnership with Hackster.io, a developing community... Read more…

By Staff report

Reviving Moore’s Law? LBNL Researchers See Promise in Heterostructure Oxides

July 9, 2020

The reality of Moore’s law’s decline is no longer doubted for good empirical reasons. That said, never say never. Recent work by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers suggests heterostructure oxides may b Read more…

By John Russell

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 1) Industries of the Future (IotF), chaired be Dario Gil (d Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Best Practices for Running Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Workloads on AWS

The scalable nature and variable demand of CFD workloads makes them well-suited for a cloud computing environment. Many of the AWS instance types, such as the compute family instance types, are designed to include support for this type of workload.  Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Penguin Computing Brings Cascade Lake-AP to OCP Form Factor

July 7, 2020

Penguin Computing, a subsidiary of SMART Global Holdings, Inc., announced yesterday (July 6) a new Tundra server, Tundra AP, that is the first to implement the Intel Xeon Scalable 9200 series processors (codenamed Cascad Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers


Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This