Big Data challenges: moving data for analysis

Data is often stored in one system, but the analytical systems are often somewhere else. In this tutorial, we will look at the challenges of moving data for analysis.

Moving data for analysis

Another issue with Big Data is indicated by (Alexander, Hoisie , & Szalay , 2011). The problem is that Data can’t be moved easily for analysis. With Big Data, we often have some Terabytes or more. Moving this via a network connection is not that easy or even impossible.
If real-time data is analyzed, it is literally impossible to move that amount of data to another cluster, since the data will be incorrect or not available at this time. Real-Time data analysis is also necessary in fraud protection. If this data now has to be moved to another cluster, it might already be too late.
In traditional databases, this wasn’t that hard since the data was often some Gigabyte in a single database. With Big Data, data is in various formats, at high volume and at high velocity. To comply with all these factors and moving data to another cluster, this might not be possible.

What are the challenges?

(Alexander, Hoisie , & Szalay , 2011) describes some factors that influence the challenges of moving data to another cluster: high-flux data, structured and unstructured data, real-time decisions and data organization.
High-flux data describes data that arrives in real time. If the data must be analyzed, this also has to be done in real-time. The data might be gone or modified at a later point. In Big Data applications, data will arrive structured as well as unstructured.
Decisions on Data must often be done in real time. If there is a data stream of financial transactions, an algorithm must decide in real time if the data needs more detailed analysis. If not all data is stored, an algorithm must decide if the data is stored or not. Data organization is another challenge when it comes to moving data.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of this tutorial about transformable and filterable data. This tutorial is part of the Big Data Tutorial. Make sure to read the entire tutorials.

Big Data challenges: data concurrency

With the consistency of data, another challenge arrives: data concurrency. What it means is described in this tutorial.

What are the challenges with data concurrency?

Data needs to be partitioned if it can’t be stored on a single system. With Big Data applications, we don’t talk about small storages but rather about distributed systems. Data might be partitioned over hundred or thousand of nodes and the database must scale out to that demand.

Data partitioning is a key concept for databases and it serves as well in Big Data applications. However, if data is distributed over some servers, it might take a while until all nodes are informed about the changes.

To avoid concurrency issues, the data must be locked. This might result in a poor database performance if the database should be kept consistent at all time. One solution is to forget about data consistency in favor of data partitioning. This approach is described in detail in section 1.6.2 when we will focus on the CAP-Theorem.

How does this play out?

Let’s imagine a Web shop. There are 2 users in our sample; both of them (let’s call them User A and User B) want to buy a Product P. There is exactly one item on stock. User A sees this and proceeds with the checkout, as well as User B. They complete the order at about the same time.

The Database in our sample is designed in a way that partitioning is preferred over consistency and both Users get the acknowledgement that their Order was processed. Now we would have -1 items in stock since no database trigger or any other command told us that we ran out of items. We either have to tell one User to “forget” the order or have to find a way to deliver the item to both users.

In any case, one user might get angry. Some web shops solved this issue in a non-technical way: they tell the user “sorry, we are unable to deliver in time” and give them the option to cancel the order or take a voucher. However, there is no simple technical solution to that.

How to solve data concurrency issues?

In most cases, it will cost money to the company. If the web shop would use a system built for consistency, it might run into database outages. Users might not buy products at their web site since the web site is simply “not available”. The web shop can either loose money by users that were unable to buy products because of delays in the database or by consistency issues.

In the case of web shop outage, users might not return and buy products since they are annoyed about the “bad performance of the website” and “inability to process the order”, whereas people would return and buy other products if they get a voucher because of issues that came with data partitioning and concurrency.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this tutorial about transformable and filterable data. This tutorial is part of the Big Data Tutorial. Make sure to read the entire tutorials.

Big Data challenges: different storage systems

Another challenge for Big Data is about different storage systems. This creates a lot of variety in data and thus increases complexity. In this tutorial, we will discuss this.

What are the problems of different storage systems?

A main factor to Big Data is the variety of data. Data may not only change over time (e.g. a web shop not only wants to sell books but also cars) but will also have different formats. Databases must provide this possibility.
Companies might not only store all their data in one single database but rather in different databases and different APIs consume different formats such as JSON, XML or any other type. Facebook, for instance, uses MySQL, Cassandra and HBase to store their data. They have three different storage systems (Harris, 2011) (Muthukkaruppan, 2010), each of them serving a different need.
(Helland, 2011) described the challenges for datastores with 4 key principles:

  • unlocked data
  • inconsistent schema
  • extract, transform and load
  • too much to be accurate

What are these aspects about?

By unlocked data, it is meant that data is usually locked but with Big Data, this might result in problems, as they don’t rely on locked data. On the other hand, unlocked data leads to semantically changes in a database. With inconsistent schema, (Helland, 2011) describes the challenge of data from different sources and formats. Schema needs to be somewhat flexible to deal with extensibility. As stated earlier, businesses change over time and so does the data schema.
Extract, transform and load is something very specific to Big Data Systems, since data comes from many different sources and it needs to be put into place in a specific system. Too much to be accurate outlines the “velocity” problem with Big Data applications. If data is calculated, the result might not be exact since the data the calculation was built upon might have already changed. (Helland, 2011) states that you might not be accurate at all and you can only guess results.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of this tutorial about transformable and filterable data. This tutorial is part of the Big Data Tutorial. Make sure to read the entire tutorials.