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MapReduce workflows

The range of problems you can solve with a single MapReduce job is limited. Referring back to the log analysis example, a single MapReduce job could determine the number of page views per URL, but not the most popular URLs, since that requires a second round of sorting.

Thus, it is very common for MapReduce jobs to be chained together into workflows, such that the output of one job becomes the input to the next job. The Hadoop MapReduce framework does not have any particular support for workflows, so this chaining is done implicitly by directory name: the first job must be configured to write its output to a designated directory in HDFS, and the second job must be configured to read that same directory name as its input. From the MapReduce framework’s point of view, they are two independent jobs.

Chained MapReduce jobs are therefore less like pipelines of Unix commands (which pass the output of one process as input to another process directly, using only a small in-memory buffer) and more like a sequence of commands where each command’s output is written to a temporary file, and the next command reads from the temporary file. This design has advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss in “Materialization of Intermediate State” on page 419.

A batch job’s output is only considered valid when the job has completed successfully (MapReduce discards the partial output of a failed job). Therefore, one job in a workflow can only start when the prior jobs—that is, the jobs that produce its input direc- tories—have completed successfully. To handle these dependencies between job executions, various workflow schedulers for Hadoop have been developed, including Oozie, Azkaban, Luigi, Airflow, and Pinball [28].

These schedulers also have management features that are useful when maintaining a large collection of batch jobs. Workflows consisting of 50 to 100 MapReduce jobs are common when building recommendation systems [29], and in a large organization, many different teams may be running different jobs that read each other’s output. Tool support is important for managing such complex dataflows.

Various higher-level tools for Hadoop, such as Pig [30], Hive [31], Cascading [32], Crunch [33], and FlumeJava [34], also set up workflows of multiple MapReduce stages that are automatically wired together appropriately.

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