Map Reduce -- How Cool is That?

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Map Reduce -- How Cool is That?

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From time-to-time I hear a few mentions of MapReduce; up until recently, I avoided looking into it. This month's CACM, however, is chock-full of MapReduce goodness. After reading some of the articles, I decided to look a little more closely at that approach to handling large datasets.

Python Implementation

Map-Reduce is a pleasant functional approach to handling several closely-related problems.

  • Concurrency.
  • Filtering and Exclusion.
  • Transforming.
  • Summarizing.
The good part is that it works with no magic. The best part is that you can build map-reduce processors very easily with readily available tools.

Map-Reduce on the Cheap

The basics of map reduce can be done several ways in Python. We could use the built-in map and reduce functions. This can lead to problems if you provide a poorly designed function to reduce.

But Python also provides generator functions. See PEP 255 for background on these. A generator function makes it really easy to implement simple map-reduce style processing on a single host.

Here's a simple web log parser built in the map-reduce style with some generator functions.

Here's the top-level operation. This isn't too interesting because it just picks out a field and reports on it. The point is that it's delightfully simple and focused on the task at hand, free of clutter.

def dump_log( log_source ):
 for entry in log_source:
     print entry[3]

We can improve this, of course, to do yet more calculations, filtering and even reduction. Let's not clutter this example with too much, however.

Here's a map function that can fill the role of log_source. Given a source of rows, this will determine if they're parseable log entries and yield up the parse as a 9-tuple. This maps strings to 9-tuples, filtering away anything that can't be parsed.

log_row_pat= re.compile( r'(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+) (\S+?) (\S+?) (\[[^\]]+?]) ("[^"]*?") (\S+?) (\S+?) ("[^"]*?") ("[^"]*?")' )
def log_from_rows( row_source ):
 for row in row_source:
     m= log_row_pat.match( row )
     if m is not None:
         yield m.groups()

This log source has one bit of impure functional programming. The tidy, purely functional alternative to saving the match object, m, doesn't seem to be worth the extra lines of code.

Here's a map function that can participate as a row source. This will map a file name to an sequence of individual rows. This can be decomposed if we find the need to reuse either part separately.

def rows_from_name( name_source ):
 for aFileName in name_source:
     logger.info( aFileName )
      with open(aFileName,"r") as source:
           for row in source:
                yield row

Here's a mapping from directory root to a sequence of filenames within the directory structure.

def names_( root='/etc/httpd/logs' ):
for path, dirs, files in os.walk( root ):
   for f in files:
       logging.debug( f )
       if f.startswith('access_log'):
           yield os.path.join(path,f)

This applies a simple name filter. We could have used Python's fnmatch, which would give us a slightly more extensible structure.

Putting it Together

This is the best part of this style of functional programming. It just snaps together with simple composition rules.

logging.basicConfig( stream=sys.stderr, level=logging.INFO )
dump_log( log_from_rows( rows_from_name( names_from_dir() ) ) )

We can simply define a of map functions. Our goal, expressed in dump_log, is the head of the composition. It depends on the tail, which is parsing, reading a file, and locating all files in a directory.

Each step of the map pipeline is a pleasant head-tail composition.


This style of programming can easily be decomposed to work through Unix-style pipelines.

We can cut a map-reduce sequence anywhere. The head of the composition will get it's data from an unpickle operation instead of the original tail.

The original tail of the composition will be used by a new head that pickles the results. This new head can then be put into the source of a Unix-style pipeline.


There are two degrees of parallelism available in this kind of map-reduce. By default, in a single process, we don't get either one.

However, if we break the steps up into separate physical processes, we get huge performance advantages. We force the operating to do scheduling. And we have processes that have a lot of resources available to them.

[Folks like to hand-wring over "heavy-weight" processing vs. threads. Practically, it rarely matters. Create processes until you can prove it's ineffective.]

Additionally, we can -- potentially -- parallelize each map operation. This is more difficult, but that's where a framework helps to wring the last bit of parallel processing out of a really large task.

Until you need the framework, though, you can start doing map-reduce today.

A Link: http://hadoop.apache.org/mapreduce/

From http://slott-softwarearchitect.blogspot.com


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