Michael Stonebraker chaired a panel on the future of science data at ICDE 2012 last week. Other participants were Jeremy Kepner from MIT Lincoln Labs, Anastasia Ailamaki from EPFL, and Alex Szalay from Johns Hopkins University.
This is the thrust of what was said, noted from memory. My comments follow after the synopsis.
We have a lot of arrays and a custom database for them. But the arrays are sparse so this is in fact a triple store. Our users like to work in MATLAB, and any data management must run together with that.
Of course, MapReduce is not a real scheduler, and Hadoop is not a real file system. For deployment, we must integrate real schedulers and make HDFS look like a file system to applications. The abstraction of a file system is something people like. Being able to skip a time-consuming data-ingestion process with a database is an advantage with file-based paradigms like Hadoop. If this is enhanced with the right scheduling features, this can be a good component in the HPC toolbox.
Michael Stonebraker: Users of the data use math packages like R, MATLAB, SAS, SPSS, or similar. If business intelligence is about AVG, MIN, MAX, COUNT, and GROUP BY, science applications are much more diverse in their analytics. All science algorithms have an inner loop that resembles linear algebra operations like matrix multiplication. Data is more often than not a large array. There are some graphs in biology and chemistry, but the world is primarily rectangular. Relational databases can emulate sparse arrays but are 20x slower than a custom-made array database for dense arrays. And I will not finish without picking on MapReduce: I know of 2000-node MapReduce clusters. The work they do is maybe that of a 100-node parallel database. So if 2000 nodes is what you want to operate, be my guest.
Science database is a zero billion dollar business. We do not expect to make money from the science market with SciDB, which by now works and has commercial services supplied by Paradigm 4, while the code itself is open source, which is a must for the science community. The real business opportunity is in the analytics needed by insurance and financial services in general, which are next to identical with the science use cases SciDB tackles. This makes the vendors pay attention.
Alex Szalay: The way astronomy is done today is through surveys: a telescope scans through the sky and produces data. We have now for 10 years operated the Sloane Sky Survey and kept the data online. We have all the data, and complete query logs, available for anyone interested. When we set out to do this with Jim Gray, everybody found this a crazy idea, but it has worked out.
Anastasia Ailamaki: We do not use SciDB. We find a lot of spatial use cases. Researchers need access to simulation results which are usually over a spatial model, like in earthquake simulations and the brain. Off-the-shelf techniques like R trees do not work -- the objects overlap too much -- so we have made our own spatial indexing. We make custom software when it is necessary, and are not tied to vendors. In geospatial applications, we can create meshes of different shapes -- like tetrahedral or cubes for earthquakes, and cylinders for the brain -- and index these in a geospatial index. But since an R tree is inefficient when objects overlap too much, as these do, we just find one; and then because there is reachability from an object to neighboring ones, we use this to get all the objects in the area of interest.
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This is obviously a diverse field. Probably the message that we can synthesize out of this is that flexibility and parallel programming models are what we need to pay attention to. There is a need to go beyond what one can do in SQL while continuing to stay close to the data. Also, allowing for plug-in data types and index structures may be useful; we sometimes get requests for such anyway.
The continuing argument around MapReduce and Hadoop is a lasting feature of the landscape. A parallel DB will beat MapReduce any day at joining across partitions; the problem is to overcome the mindset that sees Hadoop as the always-first answer to anything parallel. People will likely have to fail with this before they do anything else. For us, the matter is about having database-resident logic for extract-transform-load (ETL) that can do data-integration type-transformations and maybe iterative graph algorithms that constantly join across partitions, better than a MapReduce job, while still allowing application logic to be written in Java. Teaching sem-web-heads to write SQL procedures and to know about join order, join type, and partition locality, has proven to be difficult. People do not understand latency, whether in client-server or cluster settings. This is why they do not see the point of stored procedures or of shipping functions to data. This sounds like a terrible indictment, like saying that people do not understand why rivers flow downhill. Yet, it is true. This is also why MapReduce is maybe the only parallel programming paradigm that can be successfully deployed in the absence of this understanding, since it is actually quite latency-tolerant, not having any synchronous cross-partition operations except for the succession of the map and reduce steps themselves.
Maybe it is so that the database guys see MapReduce as an insult to their intelligence and the rest of the world sees it as the only understandable way of running grep and sed (Unix commands for string search/replace) in parallel, with the super bonus of letting you reshuffle the outputs so that you can compare everything to everything else, which grep alone never let you do.
Making a database that does not need data loading seems a nice idea, and CWI has actually done something in this direction in "Here are my Data Files. Here are my Queries. Where are my Results?"] However, there is another product called Algebra Data that claims to take in data without loading and to optimize storage based on access. We do not have immediate plans in this direction. Bulk load is already quite fast (take 100G TPC-H in 70 minutes or so), but faster is always possible.
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Author: Orri Erling
Published: 04/17/2012 15:36 GMT
04/19/2012 16:44 GMT
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