Bristol Hadoop Workshop Spring 2010

This was a one-day event hosted by HP Laboratories, Bristol, and co-organised by HPLabs and Bristol University. It was a followup to the 2009 workshop, again a meeting of locals to discuss what they were up to and look at Hadoop in physics, among other things.

Julien Nioche: Behemoth


Julien Nioche at digitalPebble has been working on Natural Language Processing at scale.

The goal is large scale document analysis based on Hadoop; to let you deploy GATE or UIMA applications on Hadoop clusters. It was driven by the need to implement this for more than one client client, opened it up to avoid writing from scratch every time.

Workflow: load to HDFS, import to Behemoth Doc format (PDF, HTML, WARC, Nutch segments, etc. uses Apache Tika to extract text and metadata). Output (key==URI, value=BehemothDocument)


Demo: shows that the JobTracker JSP page had been extended with GATE metrics.

Future work: cascading support and Avro for cross-language code, SOLR and Mahout. It needs to be tested at scale. Run @200K documents so far, Julien would be interested in anyone with a datacentre and an NLP problem.

James Jackson: Hadoop and High Energy Physics

James is from CERN and the CMS experiment -he spoke about ongoing work exploring using Hadoop for HEP event mining.

The LHC experiments -Atlas, CMS, etc- generate event data, most of which is uninteresting. Physics events can be split into

To make life complicated there is a lot of noise on the detectors, timing problems can have stuff come in out of order. You need to do a lot of filtering and look for signals a long way off random noise before you can declare that you've found something interesting.

Most physicists not only code as if they were writing FORTRAN, they never wrote good FORTRAN either. (this is a complaint by Greg Wilson in Toronto - the computing departments never teach software engineering to all the scientists who are expected to code as part of their day to day science).

HDFS has been used as a filestore in some of the US CMS Tier-2 sites, the new work that James discussed was that of actually treating physics problems as MapReduce jobs. They are bringing up a cluster of machines with storage for this, but would also like to use idle CPU time on other machines in the datacentre -there was some discussion on how to do this MAPREDUCE-1603 is now a feature request asking for a way to make the assessing of availability a feature that supported plugins. This would allow someone to write something that looked at non-Hadoop workload of machines and reduced the number Hadoop slots to report as being available when busy with other work.

Leo Simons: The BBC

Leo spoke about their CouchDB back end for the BBC web site

Lots of fun with incomplete resharding causing intermittent replication failures. When an app saw a 404, it created a new doc as it expected this and kept going, created extra load and resulted in a 7h replication.

Steve Loughran, HP: New Roles in the cloud


Steve argued that with machine allocation/release being an API call away, you can avoid some of the problems of classic applications (needing large capital investment based on demand estimations), but there is a price: everything needs to be agile. There is no way to hard code hostnames into JSP, PHP or ASP pages; no way to offload High Availability problems to the hardware vendors. Your architects need to think about how to include load measurement in their design, how to make the application adapt to machines coming or going. Hadoop was cited as an example of an application designed to be un-agile: it does have hardcoded and cached hostnames in the configuration files; the workers' reaction to any NameNode or JobTracker failure is to spin waiting for it to come back, not to look up the hostnames in case they have moved. Similarly, the blacklisting process, while ideal for physical machines, is not the right way to deal with failures in virtual infrastructure, where the moment a machine starts playing up you ask for a new one.

The talk concluded with a demo of the CloudFarmer prototype UI, which is a simple front end on a model-driven infrastructure. In CloudFarmer, one person specifies the machine roles with disk image options, VM requirements, a list of (protocol, port, path) strings for URLS, and some other values. The web and RESTy interfaces then let callers create instances of each role; the URL lists are turned into absolute values for the web UI to work with.

Hadoop deployment with CloudFarmer was shown, and while HDFS came up, the JobTracker wasn't so happy. This led to a discussion on another problem in this world: debugging from log files in a world where the VMs can go away without much warning.

Tim Hive

Slides of Hive @

Why Hive?

  1. Developers have some familiarity with SQL, especially the web team that live off python. Make queries like how many people hit a page. Business people don't do MySQL, like the advertising team; they bring the questions to the developers who use the console.
  2. Liked the ability to import from different sources
  3. It worked, at the time they looked, Pig didn't.

Example: Rage against the machine vs Joe from X-factor.

Example: "reach": how many people have listened to an artist? Example: "popularity": how often it is listened to Workflow: scrobbles -> hive -> solr


Question: Has anyone tried to do any Object-Relational mappings? no.

Sanders van der Waal: Community Engagement


Sanders van der Waal from OSSWatch gave a talk on Community Engagement. OSSWatch provide consultation and some support on Open Source in UK Higher Education and Universities, and have been getting involved in Hadoop in the past year as it makes a good platform for some scientific research, as well as a place for CS people to explore scheduling problems.

Sanders emphasised that there is no Open Source community other than that which the users choose to make themselves; he also looked at the benefits of local groups -face to face discussion- with the risks -you are restricted in your contacts, and the discussions tend not to be archived/searchable as per mailing lists and bug tracker issues.

There is a workshop in Oxford on June 24 & 25 on technology transfer, followed by a BarCamp on June 26; all are welcome.

Sanders talk triggered an interesting discussion on whether the Grid model had delivered on what it had promised, or not. The answer: some stuff got addressed, but some things (storage) had been ignored, and turned out to be rather important.

Thomas Sandholm: Economic Scheduling of Hadoop Jobs


Thomas Sandholm joined us from via videoconference to talk about the scheduler that he and Kevin Lai wrote.

The scheduler is in the contrib directory for Hadoop 0.21; it's not easy to backport as it uses the scheduler plugin API.

BristolHadoopWorkshopSpring2010 (last edited 2010-04-01 18:32:59 by SteveLoughran)