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Hadoop: The Definitive Guide by Tom White

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Martin Gardner, the mathematics and science writer, once said in an interview:

Beyond calculus, I am lost. That was the secret of my column’s success. It took me so long to understand what I was writing about that I knew how to write in a way most readers would understand.[1]

In many ways, this is how I feel about Hadoop. Its inner workings are complex, resting as they do on a mixture of distributed systems theory, practical engineering, and common sense. And to the uninitiated, Hadoop can appear alien.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. Stripped to its core, the tools that Hadoop provides for building distributed systems—for data storage, data analysis, and coordination—are simple. If there’s a common theme, it is about raising the level of abstraction—to create building blocks for programmers who just happen to have lots of data to store, or lots of data to analyze, or lots of machines to coordinate, and who don’t have the time, the skill, or the inclination to become distributed systems experts to build the infrastructure to handle it.

With such a simple and generally applicable feature set, it seemed obvious to me when I started using it that Hadoop deserved to be widely used. However, at the time (in early 2006), setting up, configuring, and writing programs to use Hadoop was an art. Things have certainly improved since then: there is more documentation, there are more examples, and there are thriving mailing lists to go to when you have questions. And yet the biggest hurdle for newcomers is understanding what this technology is capable of, where it excels, and how to use it. That is why I wrote this book.

The Apache Hadoop community has come a long way. Over the course of three years, the Hadoop project has blossomed and spun off half a dozen subprojects. In this time, the software has made great leaps in performance, reliability, scalability, and manageability. To gain even wider adoption, however, I believe we need to make Hadoop even easier to use. This will involve writing more tools; integrating with more systems; and writing new, improved APIs. I’m looking forward to being a part of this, and I hope this book will encourage and enable others to do so, too.

Administrative Notes

During discussion of a particular Java class in the text, I often omit its package name, to reduce clutter. If you need to know which package a class is in, you can easily look it up in Hadoop’s Java API documentation for the relevant subproject, linked to from the Apache Hadoop home page at http://hadoop.apache.org/. Or if you’re using an IDE, it can help using its auto-complete mechanism.

Similarly, although it deviates from usual style guidelines, program listings that import multiple classes from the same package may use the asterisk wildcard character to save space (for example: import org.apache.hadoop.io.*).

The sample programs in this book are available for download from the website that accompanies this book: http://www.hadoopbook.com/. You will also find instructions there for obtaining the datasets that are used in examples throughout the book, as well as further notes for running the programs in the book, and links to updates, additional resources, and my blog.

What’s in This Book?

The rest of this book is organized as follows. Chapter 2 provides an introduction to MapReduce. Chapter 3 looks at Hadoop filesystems, and in particular HDFS, in depth. Chapter 4 covers the fundamentals of I/O in Hadoop: data integrity, compression, serialization, and file-based data structures.

The next four chapters cover MapReduce in depth. Chapter 5 goes through the practical steps needed to develop a MapReduce application. Chapter 6 looks at how MapReduce is implemented in Hadoop, from the point of view of a user. Chapter 7 is about the MapReduce programming model, and the various data formats that MapReduce can work with. Chapter 8 is on advanced MapReduce topics, including sorting and joining data.

Chapters 9 and 10 are for Hadoop administrators, and describe how to set up and maintain a Hadoop cluster running HDFS and MapReduce.

Chapters 11, 12, and 13 present Pig, HBase, and ZooKeeper, respectively.

Finally, Chapter 14 is a collection of case studies contributed by members of the Apache Hadoop community.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This icon signifies a tip, suggestion, or general note.


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Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “Hadoop: The Definitive Guide, by Tom White. Copyright 2009 Tom White, 978-0-596-52197-4.”

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I have relied on many people, both directly and indirectly, in writing this book. I would like to thank the Hadoop community, from whom I have learned, and continue to learn, a great deal.

In particular, I would like to thank Michael Stack and Jonathan Gray for writing the chapter on HBase. Also thanks go to Adrian Woodhead, Marc de Palol, Joydeep Sen Sarma, Ashish Thusoo, Andrzej Białecki, Stu Hood, Chris K Wensel, and Owen O’Malley for contributing case studies for Chapter 14. Matt Massie and Todd Lipcon wrote Appendix B, for which I am very grateful.

I would like to thank the following reviewers who contributed many helpful suggestions and improvements to my drafts: Raghu Angadi, Matt Biddulph, Christophe Bisciglia, Ryan Cox, Devaraj Das, Alex Dorman, Chris Douglas, Alan Gates, Lars George, Patrick Hunt, Aaron Kimball, Peter Krey, Hairong Kuang, Simon Maxen, Olga Natkovich, Benjamin Reed, Konstantin Shvachko, Allen Wittenauer, Matei Zaharia, and Philip Zeyliger. Ajay Anand kept the review process flowing smoothly. Philip (“flip”) Kromer kindly helped me with the NCDC weather dataset featured in the examples in this book. Special thanks to Owen O’Malley and Arun C Murthy for explaining the intricacies of the MapReduce shuffle to me. Any errors that remain are, of course, to be laid at my door.

I am particularly grateful to Doug Cutting for his encouragement, support, and friendship, and for contributing the foreword.

Thanks also go to the many others with whom I have had conversations or email discussions over the course of writing the book.

Halfway through writing this book, I joined Cloudera, and I want to thank my colleagues for being incredibly supportive in allowing me the time to write, and to get it finished promptly.

I am grateful to my editor, Mike Loukides, and his colleagues at O’Reilly for their help in the preparation of this book. Mike has been there throughout to answer my questions, to read my first drafts, and to keep me on schedule.

Finally, the writing of this book has been a great deal of work, and I couldn’t have done it without the constant support of my family. My wife, Eliane, not only kept the home going, but also stepped in to help review, edit, and chase case studies. My daughters, Emilia and Lottie, have been very understanding, and I’m looking forward to spending lots more time with all of them.

[1] “The science of fun,” Alex Bellos, The Guardian, May 31, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/may/31/maths.science.

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