Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Ruxit Blog, VictorOps Blog, Jason Bloomberg, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Release Management , Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Lessons Learned from Real-World Big Data Implementations

The value of Big Data is in the insights that the data can provide

In the past few weeks I visited several Cloud and Big Data conferences that provided me with a lot of insight. Some people only consider the technology side of Big Data technologies like Hadoop or Cassandra. The real driver however is a different one. Business analysts have discovered Big Data technologies as a way to leverage tons of existing data and ask questions about customer behavior and all sorts relationships to drive business strategy. By doing that they are pushing their IT departments to run ever bigger Hadoop environments and ever faster real-time systems.

What's interesting from a technical side is that ad-hoc analytics on existing data is allowed to take some time. However ad-hoc implies people waiting for an answer, meaning we are talking about minutes and not hours. Another interesting insight is that Hadoop environments are never static or standalone. Most companies take in new data on a continuous basis via technologies like flume. This means Hadoop MapReduce jobs need to be able to keep up with the data flow, either by adding more hardware or by optimizing them.

There are multiple drivers to Big Data (actually there are a lot) but the two most important ones are these: Analytics and Technical Need for Speed. Let's look at some of those and the resulting takeaways.

The Value Is in the Insight Not the Volume
The value of Big Data is in the insights that the data can provide, not the sheer volume of it. The reason that more and more companies are keeping all of their log and transaction data is that they want to gain those insights. The sheer size of the data is rather an obstacle to this goal and has been for a long time. With Big Data technologies this value can be harnessed.

Don't Forget That Data Analysts Are People Too
Ad-hoc analytics doesn't have to be instant, but must not take hours either. It was interesting to see that time to result on ad-hoc analytics is considered important. This is because people are doing those queries, and people don't like to wait for hours. But even more important is that business analytics is often an iterative process. Ask a question, check the answer, refine or change the question. Hours long MapReduce jobs are prohibitive to this process.

New Data Is Coming in All the Time
Big Data environments are constantly fed new data. This is not really big news, but I was still surprised by the constant reiteration of this fact. The constant data growth means that ad-hoc queries get either slower over time or need to work on samples. To remedy this, companies are writing, scrubbing and categorizing MapReduce jobs. These jobs basically strip out all the unimportant stuff and put cleansed, streamline easy-to-access data into new files. Instead of executing analytics against raw files, the analyst works on a cleansed data set. The implications are that scrubbing jobs need to be maintained all the time (as data input is changing over time) and they need to be able to keep up with the velocity of the input. MapReduce is not allowed to run for hours, but needs to be quick and iterative.

Big Data Is Not Cheap
While it sounds obvious, it's something that's not talked about by the vendors unless specifically asked. Hadoop requires a lot of hardware and a lot of expertise. Especially the expertise is hard to come by as of yet. While hardware might be cheap (you don't need expensive boxes for Hadoop) the bigger the environment the higher the operational costs. That operational cost is the reason some Hadoop vendors exist on services alone and also why customers are demanding better monitoring and management solutions.

Data Must Be Accessible at Low Latencies to Provide Value
One very interesting fact is that most early adopters that use Hadoop for analytics use it for ad-hoc analytics and not as a traditional warehouse. They use MapReduce to do the heavy lifting that is usually reserved for ETL jobs and put the resulting dimensions in existing data warehouses or into a NoSQL solution like HBase, Cassandra or MongoDB. These solutions provide low latency access semantics and are then integrated in the transactional application world, e.g. to provide recommendations to the end users.

This does not absolve them from optimizing their Hadoop environment where they can, but it gives them the much needed real time access that Hadoop so far does not provide. This also makes for additional complexity that needs to be maintained and monitored.

NoSQL Solutions Need Management and Monitoring as Well
NoSQL solutions are most often used to provide low latency databases with failover and horizontal scaling characteristics. As expected, practitioners quickly run into new issues like distribution and wrong access patterns. Most NoSQL solutions lack sophisticated monitoring or performance analysis tools and require experts instead. Fortunately several companies are working on providing those tools and some APM vendors work hard to support NoSQL databases similar to normal databases. This is emphasized by another interesting finding: With a fast and scalable data storage, the application itself quickly becomes the response time and scaling bottleneck.

Applications Using NoSQL Technologies Are More Complex
Most NoSQL solutions surrender more complex logic like joins in order to achieve horizontally scalable data distribution. That logic is moved to the application - arguably this is where it should be anyway. NoSQL solutions require data to be stored in a query access optimized way - de-normalization is the key. The flip side of storing data multiple times and the need to keep it in sync on updates, is that the storage logic again becomes more complex. More application logic usually means less performance.

My conclusion as a performance engineer is relatively clear: Big Data requires Performance Management and Monitoring Tools to fulfill its promise in a cost effective and timely manner. Here are some suggestions on what you should think about when you start a Big Data project.

  1. Large Hadoop environments are hard to manage and operate. Without automation in terms of deployment, operations, monitoring and root cause analysis they quickly become unmanageable. Make sure to have a monitoring solution in place that informs you pro-actively of any infrastructure or software issues that would affect your operation. It needs to give you an easy way to pinpoint the root cause.
  2. The easiest way to identify new performance issues is to detect and analyze change. Adopt a life cycle and 24/7 production APM approach. It will enable you to notice changes in data and compute distribution over time. In addition a life cycle approach will allow you to immediately pin point any negative changes introduced by a new software release.
  3. Don't just throw more and more hardware at the problem. While you can use cheaper hardware for Hadoop, it's still cost. But more than that you have to consider the operational drag. Every node you add will make traditional log based analysis more complicated. Instead ensure that you have an APM solution in place that lets you understand and optimize MapReduce jobs at their core and reduce both the time and resources it takes to run them.
  4. Your Hadoop cluster is no island, but will always be connected in some form or the other to a real time or at least transactional system. Make sure that you have a monitoring solution in place that can support both.

NoSQL applications tend to have more complex logic. The very performance and scalability of the store depends on correct data access and data distribution. An good monitoring solution allows you to monitor and optimize that additional complexity with ease; it also enables you to understand how your application access the data and how that access is distributed across your NoSQL cluster in your production system. The best way to ensure a scalable and fast NoSQL store is to ensure optimal distribution and access patterns.

Conclusion
Big Data is still very much an emerging technology and its promises are huge. But in order to deliver on those promises it must be cost and time effective to those that harness its value - The Business and not just technology experts.

More Stories By Michael Kopp

Michael Kopp has over 12 years of experience as an architect and developer in the Enterprise Java space. Before coming to CompuwareAPM dynaTrace he was the Chief Architect at GoldenSource, a major player in the EDM space. In 2009 he joined dynaTrace as a technology strategist in the center of excellence. He specializes application performance management in large scale production environments with special focus on virtualized and cloud environments. His current focus is how to effectively leverage BigData Solutions and how these technologies impact and change the application landscape.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
What does “big enough” mean? It’s sometimes useful to argue by reductio ad absurdum. Hello, world doesn’t need to be broken down into smaller services. At the other extreme, building a monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is just asking for trouble: it’s too big, and it needs to be decomposed.
Early in my DevOps Journey, I was introduced to a book of great significance circulating within the Web Operations industry titled The Phoenix Project. (You can read our review of Gene’s book, if interested.) Written as a novel and loosely based on many of the same principles explored in The Goal, this book has been read and referenced by many who have adopted DevOps into their continuous improvement and software delivery processes around the world. As I began planning my travel schedule last...
Docker containerization is increasingly being used in production environments. How can these environments best be monitored? Monitoring Docker containers as if they are lightweight virtual machines (i.e., monitoring the host from within the container), with all the common metrics that can be captured from an operating system, is an insufficient approach. Docker containers can’t be treated as lightweight virtual machines; they must be treated as what they are: isolated processes running on hosts....
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
The pricing of tools or licenses for log aggregation can have a significant effect on organizational culture and the collaboration between Dev and Ops teams. Modern tools for log aggregation (of which Logentries is one example) can be hugely enabling for DevOps approaches to building and operating business-critical software systems. However, the pricing of an aggregated logging solution can affect the adoption of modern logging techniques, as well as organizational capabilities and cross-team ...
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
Skeuomorphism usually means retaining existing design cues in something new that doesn’t actually need them. However, the concept of skeuomorphism can be thought of as relating more broadly to applying existing patterns to new technologies that, in fact, cry out for new approaches. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gordon Haff, Senior Cloud Strategy Marketing and Evangelism Manager at Red Hat, discussed why containers should be paired with new architectural practices such as microservices rathe...
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
Puppet Labs has announced the next major update to its flagship product: Puppet Enterprise 2015.2. This release includes new features providing DevOps teams with clarity, simplicity and additional management capabilities, including an all-new user interface, an interactive graph for visualizing infrastructure code, a new unified agent and broader infrastructure support.
DevOps has traditionally played important roles in development and IT operations, but the practice is quickly becoming core to other business functions such as customer success, business intelligence, and marketing analytics. Modern marketers today are driven by data and rely on many different analytics tools. They need DevOps engineers in general and server log data specifically to do their jobs well. Here’s why: Server log files contain the only data that is completely full and accurate in th...
It’s been proven time and time again that in tech, diversity drives greater innovation, better team productivity and greater profits and market share. So what can we do in our DevOps teams to embrace diversity and help transform the culture of development and operations into a true “DevOps” team? In her session at DevOps Summit, Stefana Muller, Director, Product Management – Continuous Delivery at CA Technologies, answered that question citing examples, showing how to create opportunities for ...
Several years ago, I was a developer in a travel reservation aggregator. Our mission was to pull flight and hotel data from a bunch of cryptic reservation platforms, and provide it to other companies via an API library - for a fee. That was before companies like Expedia standardized such things. We started with simple methods like getFlightLeg() or addPassengerName(), each performing a small, well-understood function. But our customers wanted bigger, more encompassing services that would "do ...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Whether you like it or not, DevOps is on track for a remarkable alliance with security. The SEC didn’t approve the merger. And your boss hasn’t heard anything about it. Yet, this unruly triumvirate will soon dominate and deliver DevSecOps faster, cheaper, better, and on an unprecedented scale. In his session at DevOps Summit, Frank Bunger, VP of Customer Success at ScriptRock, will discuss how this cathartic moment will propel the DevOps movement from such stuff as dreams are made on to a prac...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ernest Mueller, Product Manager at Idera, will explain the best practices and lessons learned for tracking and optimizing costs while delivering a cloud-hosted service. He will describe a DevOps approach where the applications and systems work together to track usage, model costs in a granular fashion, and make smart decisions at runtime to minimize costs. The trickier parts covered include triggering off the right metrics; balancing resilience and redundancy ...
The Microservices architectural pattern promises increased DevOps agility and can help enable continuous delivery of software. This session is for developers who are transforming existing applications to cloud-native applications, or creating new microservices style applications. In his session at DevOps Summit, Jim Bugwadia, CEO of Nirmata, will introduce best practices, patterns, challenges, and solutions for the development and operations of microservices style applications. He will discuss ...