This lesson discusses material from chapter 14. Objectives important
to this lesson:
This is the last chapter to cover in this text. The first topic is
Big Data, which the text has a hard time defining. It seems to be characterized,
but not quantified, partly because hardware and software solutions keep
changing. Things that are hard to do get easier with better hardware
and software, so giving us measurements in the text would only be good
for a relatively short time.
What the author can do is to explain that Big Data is characterized
by being hard to handle in three different ways. Each of them
can be remembered with a word that starts with the letter v:
Volume - This refers to a body of data that is hard to handle
with the available technology because there is so much of it.
The text remarks that Google and Amazon felt this problem early in
their operations due to their success and continuing popularity, and
the volume of data they keep, and that they provide to their increasing
number of users.
Velocity - The text explains that this refers to the rate
at which data is added to and changed in the organization's information
systems. Again, think of a large vendor with an ever changing set
of data that it provides to customers (or the public), some of which
is new, some of which is old, and much of which must be updated quickly
and regularly. The text discusses the Amazon's ability to track all
the items a customer has browsed, in addition to the ones that were
actually ordered. This may help you think about the increase such
tracking causes to volume as well as to velocity.
Variety - This is about having data that does not
have a common structure, which leads to our example organization
having to handle more kinds of data, obtained from many sources, and
stored in a variety of ways. Previously in the text, we encountered
the ideas of structured and unstructured data. Big Data requires that
the system have the ability to process unstructured data, data that
has not been confined to tables built according to business rules.
If the system can apply structures and interpretation of data when
it is searched, it can still be used in the database. A term the chapter
introduces is polyglot persistence, which means the continuation
of using multiple languages. The phrase is not really about many languages,
but about many data types, and many ways of managing the different
The text provides some details about data collected by the Disney company
about each current guest in one of their parks, pointing out that such
data changes continuously during each person's experience of that park.
If makes you wonder about the advisability of keeping Big Data like
As the body of data that needs to be processed continues to grow, the
text discusses two standard methods of handling the increased load.
Scaling up - Adding RAM and installing better processors
are two classic methods to scale up a system, to increase its ability
to grow by improving existing hardware.
Scaling out - Adding more hardware, such as creating a new
cluster of servers to handle increasing loads, is an example of scaling
out, adding new hardware to improve a system by making it larger.
The text warns that clustering does not fit well with the design of
a relational DBMS, which is based on having a central control over
all the data being processed.
On pages 652 and 653, the text describes two kinds of data processing
that affect the velocity aspect of data.
Stream processing analyzes data as it comes in, discarding
data that is not needed based on functions that have been preset for
the type of data. This reduces the amount of data that will actually
be saved and searched later.
Feedback loop processing analyzes data that is already stored,
asking the user if a particular sort of data is useful, then using
the response to choose what to present to the user next. This is similar
to what happens when YouTube shows you a list of videos you might
want to see next, then modifies the list based on the choice that
On page 654, the text introduces other factors that add to the V-problems
listed above. Note that they apply to all data processing, not just
Variability - This is different from variety. It means the
degree to which the meaning of data varies, depending on who is looking
at it and why. This is true of all data in general. An accountant
sees an account receivable as an asset, but the manager restocking
a warehouse sees it as money that can't be used by the business. The
text offers an example of a phrase that could be meant literally by
a speaker/customer, or could be meant ironically. A machine can't
tell, but a human may get the point.
Veracity - This is the degree to which we trust data. Can
we trust customer satisfaction scores that are older than (fill in
the blank)? We should realize that some data represent facts, and
other data represent opinions which can change.
Value, Viability - Is the data actually useful to
the organization? Survey results are particularly prone to error if
the survey is not tested on a focus group. If we are collecting data
that is of no use to us, we probably should not be collecting it,
much less analyzing it. Beware of the old warning about data: garbage
in, garbage out.
Visualization - Can the data be presented in a way that leads
to good information? A good chart, graph, or model may help us recognize
a truth that a mere column of numbers may not.
second section of the chapter opens with a discussion of Hadoop. Lets
get past the silly name: it is named
after a toy elephant belonging to the son of one of the technology
developers, Doug Cutting. Hadoop is a Java-based technology for handling
large amounts of data with clusters of computers. It is an open source
tool of belonging to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). It
has two major components. Both are based on papers written by Google
employees in 2003 and 2004. (See the article behind the link provided
in this paragraph.)
Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) - A file system
that is made to handle terabytes of information that is replicated
across multiple computers. It can support larger volumes of
data as well. Hadoop uses very large data block, reads entire
files as streams, and, according to our text, writes files
that cannot be updated, but may have additional data appended.
There seems to have been an update to Hadoop to allow file
in this online Q/A. Otherwise, changing a file means
rewriting the whole file, not part of it.
Hadoop systems have three kinds of nodes: client nodes,
data nodes, and a name node that manages connection
between client and data nodes. Each file that is added must have data
about its location, and its replicas locations, stored in the name
node. Each data node sends a block report every six hours to
the name node, updating what data blocks are stored on that
data node. Not often enough? Each data node also sends a heartbeat
signal to the name node every three seconds, to let the name node
know the data node is still functioning. A missing heartbeat will
cause the name node to tell remaining data nodes to redistribute data
as needed to maintain multiple data copies.
MapReduce - A model for writing programs to handle distributed
processing of data. In its current form, we can think of MapReduce
as an API that provides support for distributed data processing.
The text goes into a lot of detail that will be interesting to some
of you. We can leave it alone for now.
After the long section about Hadoop and its add-ons with silly names
(Pig, Hive, Impala, Sqoop, Flume), the author remarks that NoSQL is
an unfortunate name. It refers to technologies used to access data that
is not stored in relational databases. Such systems can, in fact, support
SQL in their own way, although none seem to support the ANSI standard.
Most of the NoSQL products fit into one of four types. The table on
page 663 lists some examples of each type. Don't be surprised if you
have never heard of any of them. These are the types:
Key-value databases - This type of database assigns a series
of keys to particular "values". Value is a poor word
choice. In these databases, the values can be entire documents, files,
or other data types. The pairs are not kept in tables, they are kept
in buckets. There are no relationships from one bucket to another.
Operations specify the name of a bucket and the name
of a key. Three operations are used: get (or fetch),
store, and delete. The text shows an example of a bucket
with three keys, and three key values. It warns us that this is being
displayed in a table, but the actual bucket is not a table.
Document databases - It is not clear why this is a separate
type. This type uses key-value pairs, but the values are always
documents. More features are available than in key-value databases.
Documents have tagged sections, which may correspond to particular
parts of the document, or to particular information. Key-values for
particular kinds of documents are put into collections, which
are like buckets. (This may sound familiar if you have used a recent
copy of SharePoint.) Operations require a collection name and
a key name to retrieve a document. Tags can also be
used in retrieval operations, using them like attribute names in SQL.
Column-oriented databases - Confusing as it may be, the text
tells us that this term is applied to two different database technologies.
The text explains that relational tables are usually
stored in data blocks, each block containing some number
of rows of a table. A column-oriented database will
store a each column of data in one or a few data blocks, which
is more efficient if you are conducting the kind of data processing
that requires you to read entire columns at a time. In a row-oriented
database, that would require you to read the entire file.
The second type of column-oriented database is called a column
family database. Some examples are the Google's BigTable and
Facebook's Cassandra. The example on page 667 shows a less than
clear association of some column name and data stored in separate
rows. There are rows? Sort of. There are rows, but rows do not
all hold the same data. If this is giving you the headache it
gives me, take a look at this
blog site about databases. Its author explains that in
Cassandra, rows are the only things that are the same. Follow
the link for more, if you like:
columns (same in every row)
columns (can be the same, but can be different in every
row, which means there really are no columns, just labels
for cells that can change from row to row)
In this sort of database, columns can be grouped in column families
as super columns. A super column is a group of columns
that are related, like all the columns that hold the part of an
address, or all the columns that hold parts of a customer's name.
The text mentions that you can have super columns or regular columns
in a column family, but not both.
Graph databases - This one is a little hard to understand
from the material in the text. A better short explanation is found
Amazon Web Services page, explaining that you have several
nodes/vertices that seem to be instances of entities.
They are linked by directional edges (lines with arrowheads)
that show relationships such as "likes" or "has", as well as
other properties. Take a look at the example from Amazon, then
look at this
one from Wikipedia.
In the example above, you see three nodes that are about two
people and one group. The edges describe the people knowing
each other and being members of the same group. This example is
meant to show the potential for using this kind of database in a
social network environment. In the Amazon example, there is only
one edge between each pair of nodes, but in this one there is an
edge going in each direction between each pair. Now imagine lots
of people and lots of groups in a similarly constructed graph.
This is a pretty good talk about graph databases which is available
The last topic in the chapter is a connection back to chapter 13. As
it has already been discussed, we can leave it alone.
Assignments for Module 12:
Read chapter 14.
Complete any unfinished assignments. Turn them in.
Complete outstanding project phases and turn them in as well.