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Beautiful Data by Toby Segaran, Jeff Hammerbacher

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The Cheetah and the Elephant

On the first day of logging the Facebook clickstream, more than 400 gigabytes of data was collected. The load, index, and aggregation processes for this data set really taxed the Oracle data warehouse. Even after significant tuning, we were unable to aggregate a day of clickstream data in less than 24 hours. It was clear we'd need to aggregate our logfiles outside of the database and store only the summary information for later querying.

Luckily, a top engineer from a large web property had recently joined our team and had experience processing clickstream data at web scale. In just a few weeks, he built a parallelized log processing system called Cheetah that was able to process a day of clickstream data in two hours. There was much rejoicing.

Despite our success, Cheetah had some drawbacks: first, after processing the clickstream data, the raw data was stored in archival storage and could not be queried again. In addition, Cheetah pulled the clickstream data from a shared NetApp filer with limited read bandwidth. The "schema" for each logfile was embedded in the processing scripts rather than stored in a format that could be queried. We did not collect progress information and we scheduled Cheetah jobs using a basic Unix utility called cron, so no sophisticated load-sharing logic could be applied. Most importantly, however, Cheetah was not open source. We had a small team and could not afford the resources required to develop, maintain, and train new ...

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