As the World Wide Web grew in the late 1900s and early 2000s, search engines and indexes were created to help locate relevant information amid the text-based content. In the early years, search results were returned by humans. But as the web grew from dozens to millions of pages, automation was needed. Web crawlers were created, many as university-led research projects, and search engine start-ups took off (Yahoo, AltaVista, etc.).
One such project was an open-source web search engine called Nutch – the brainchild of Doug Cutting and Mike Cafarella. They wanted to return web search results faster by distributing data and calculations across different computers so multiple tasks could be accomplished simultaneously. During this time, another search engine project called Google was in progress. It was based on the same concept – storing and processing data in a distributed, automated way so that relevant web search results could be returned faster.
In 2006, Cutting joined Yahoo and took with him the Nutch project as well as ideas based on Google’s early work with automating distributed data storage and processing. The Nutch project was divided – the web crawler portion remained as Nutch and the distributed computing and processing portion became Hadoop (named after Cutting’s son’s toy elephant). In 2008, Yahoo released Hadoop as an open-source project. Today, Hadoop’s framework and ecosystem of technologies are managed and maintained by the non-profit Apache Software Foundation (ASF), a global community of software developers and contributors.
What are the challenges of using Hadoop?
MapReduce programming is not a good match for all problems. It’s good for simple information requests and problems that can be divided into independent units, but it's not efficient for iterative and interactive analytic tasks. MapReduce is file-intensive. Because the nodes don’t intercommunicate except through sorts and shuffles, iterative algorithms require multiple map-shuffle/sort-reduce phases to complete. This creates multiple files between MapReduce phases and is inefficient for advanced analytic computing.
There’s a widely acknowledged talent gap. It can be difficult to find entry-level programmers who have sufficient Java skills to be productive with MapReduce. That's one reason distribution providers are racing to put relational (SQL) technology on top of Hadoop. It is much easier to find programmers with SQL skills than MapReduce skills. And, Hadoop administration seems part art and part science, requiring low-level knowledge of operating systems, hardware and Hadoop kernel settings.
Data security. Another challenge centers around the fragmented data security issues, though new tools and technologies are surfacing. The Kerberos authentication protocol is a great step toward making Hadoop environments secure.
Full-fledged data management and governance. Hadoop does not have easy-to-use, full-feature tools for data management, data cleansing, governance and metadata. Especially lacking are tools for data quality and standardization.
Fun Fact: "Hadoop” was the name of a yellow toy elephant owned by the son of one of its inventors.