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Open-sourcers promise cloud elephant won't trample your code

Hadoop buffed for 2010 'completion'

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ApacheCon 09 Popular grid computing platform Hadoop could grow up next year, with network authentication and features to stop brand-new code breaking users' existing applications.

Also on the roadmap for the open-source architecture - used by Yahoo!, eHarmony, LinkedIn, and Fox Interactive Media among others - is support for dynamic languages and languages other than Java running natively on the client.

Doug Cutting, founder of the Apache Hadoop project, outlined these as goals for his hyper-scale elephant at ApacheCon in Oakland, California, for 2010.

The goals will be delivered in what he hoped will be version 1.0 of Hadoop.

Cutting, and co-presenter and Yahoo! software architect Owen O'Malley, framed the goals in a discussion of what's needed to help Hadoop cross the chasm - move from use by early adopters to uptake by a wider audience.

Hadoop has been in gestation since 2002 as Nutch. Cutting joined Yahoo! in 2006 with Hadoop spun out of Nutch shortly afterwards. The Java distributed computing framework is today in use at massive sites crunching huge amounts of data.

Despite it's strong initial success, issues remain that people have managed to work around or have ignored but that are now beginning to become a problem as users throw more data, processing, and computing power at the framework and as the Hadoop becomes a part of day-to-day computing life.

Some problems have been solved recently. These include the inclusion of a job schedule system so adopters can set and enforce service level agreements on their traffic.

Another source of pain was a fast rate of new release of Hadoop. O'Malley noted many users stuck with version 0.18 and skipped version 0.19. The answer was to slow down the number of release cycles - something that kicked in during Hadoop .2x, with releases now at every nine months.

Challenges remain, and solving them are what Cutting called these the "hallmarks" of Hadoop 1.0.

Security has become an issue Hadoop can no longer ignore as organizations and people put more of their personal data into the grids Hadoop's running. The goal, now, is Kerberos-based network authentication in Hadoop 1.0, used for traffic on unsecured, public neworks. O'Malley cautioned that this is a "big effort" and would take 24 person months indicating Kerberos might not be finished in version 1.0.

Another issue is solving breaking changes - that as new versions of Hadoop are delivered the changes break or don't work with users' existing APIs.

Cutting said one goal of 1.0 is better backwards compatibility that lasts for "a couple of years" and also for compatible remote procedure calls (RPCs). RPCs will let users update just a part of their cluster if they chose, instead of having to update the entire cluster.

Also, the goal is to use RPC so Hadoop can support dynamic languages on the client while, in general, allowing languages to execute natively without need to go through Java.

The answer to breaking changes, the RPC and dynamic language support question is the Avro - a system for data serialization from Cutting's new employer Cloudera.

Avro is expressive. It's small. And it's fast. Under Avro, schema is stored with data but is also factored out of instances. Arbitrary code types can be read and written without generating and loading the code.

Furthermore, Avro includes a file format, textural encoding for data that handles versioning. An Avro RPC framework, meanwhile, is being build that'll talk to native languages, so these languages no longer need to converse with Hadoop through Java.

One thing not likely to be solved in Hadoop 1.0 next year is the main node single point of failure.

O'Malley said it's rare for a node to actually fail - in 15 years, it's never happened once at Yahoo! However, O'Malley noted, it does take three hours for a main note to recover when it crashes, so the situation is not ideal.

O'Malley said it might take up to a year and a half before this problem is solved in Hadoop, but this would depend on how urgent it becomes for someone to actually submit a patch. ®

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