From the Hadoop website, it “is a software platform that lets one easily write and run applications that process vast amounts of data”. Hadoop does this by providing a storage layer that holds vast amounts of data, and an execution layer that runs an application in parallel across the cluster, using coordinated subsets of the stored data.
The storage layer, called the Hadoop File System (HDFS), looks like a single storage volume that has been optimized for many concurrent serialized reads of large data files - where "large" might be measured in gigabytes or petabytes. However, it does have limitations. For example, random access to the data is not really possible in an efficient manner. And Hadoop only supports a single writer for output. But this limit helps make Hadoop very performant and reliable, in part because it allows for the data to be replicated across the cluster, reducing the chance of data loss.
The execution layer, called MapReduce, relies on a divide-and-conquer strategy to manage massive data sets and computing processes. Explaining MapReduce is beyond the scope of this document, but its complexity, and the difficulty of creating real-world applications against it, are the chief driving force behind the creation of Cascading.
Hadoop, according to its documentation, can be configured to run in three modes: standalone mode (i.e., on the local computer, useful for testing and debugging), pseudo-distributed mode (i.e., on an emulated "cluster" of one computer, useful for testing), and fully-distributed mode (on a full cluster, for production purposes). The pseudo-distributed mode does not add value for most purposes, and will not be discussed further. Cascading itself can run locally or on the Hadoop platform, where Hadoop itself may be in standalone or distributed mode. The primary difference between these two platforms is that, when Cascading is running locally, it makes no use of Hadoop API's and performs all of its work in memory, allowing it to be very fast - but consequently not as robust or scalable as when it is running on the Hadoop platform.
Apache Hadoop is an Open Source Apache project and is freely available. It can be downloaded from the Hadoop website: http://hadoop.apache.org/core/.
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