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Open source Hadoop engineers may spin off from Yahoo!

Hooligans could birth stuffed elephant startup

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Yahoo! may spin off its Hadoop engineering division, creating a startup offering support and services around the open-source distributed number-crunching platform, according to a report citing people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo! is "weighing" a Hadoop spin-off and that Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital has discussed the possibility with the company. Such a startup – in which Yahoo! would retain a stake – would compete with the likes of Cloudera, the Northern California startup founded by an all-star lineup of former Yahoo!, Google, Oracle, and Facebook employees.

Asked to comment on the report, a company spokeswoman told us: "Hadoop has been and will continue to be an important area of investment for Yahoo!. We are currently exploring options to increase investment to further benefit the Hadoop community. We will share more details as appropriate."

Based on research papers describing two of Google's proprietary back-end software platforms – GFS, its distributed file system, and MapReduce, the number-crunching piece – Hadoop was founded by Doug Cutting, a developer once known for the Lucene open-source retrieval library. He is now known for Hadoop. And his son is known for lending the name of his yellow stuffed elephant to the project.

Cutting started the project for use with Nutch, his open-source web crawler, but he was soon hired by Yahoo!, and the project – open-sourced at Apache – has grown into a much larger stuffed elephant.

It's now used behind the scenes not only at Yahoo!, but also at such names as Facebook, eBay, and Twitter. Yahoo! is still the project's largest contributor – at least according to Yahoo! – but in 2009, Cutting left for Cloudera, which has helped bring the platform to the enterprise. Cloudera now provides support, services, and software for about 90 customers running the platform. The startup offers its own open-source Hadoop distro as well as a for-pay enterprise incarnation of the platform.

Yahoo! once offered its own distro – based on the version of the platform it uses on its own servers – but recently, in an effort to simplify the Hadoop landscape, it discontinued this Yahooligan offering. ®

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