Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Shelly Palmer, William Schmarzo, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

The Economics of Big Data: Why Faster Software is Cheaper

Faster means better and cheaper - lower latency and lower cost!

In big data computing, and more generally in all commercial highly parallel software systems, speed matters more than just about anything else. The reason is straightforward, and has been known for decades.

Put very simply, when it comes to massively parallel software of the kind need to handle big data, fast is both better AND cheaper. Faster means lower latency AND lower cost.

At first this may seem counterintuitive. A high-end sports car will be much faster than a standard family sedan, but the family sedan may be much cheaper. Cheaper to buy, and cheaper to run. But massively parallel software running on commodity hardware is a quite different type of product from a car. In general, the faster it goes, the cheaper it is to run.

Time Is Money
As has been noted many times in the history of computing, if you are a factor of 50x slower, then you will need 50x more nodes to run at the same speed (even assuming perfect parallelization), or your computation will need 50x more time. In either case, it will also be much more likely that you will experience at least one of your nodes crashing during a computation. This is not to argue that automatic fault tolerance and recovery should be ignored in the pursuit of speed, but rather that these two factors need to be carefully balanced. Good design in massively parallel systems is about achieving maximum speed along with the ability to recover from a given expected level of hardware failure, via checkpointing.

The key phrase here is "a given expected level of hardware failure". In certain types of peer-to-peer services which take advantage of idle PC capacity, it is necessary to assume that all machines are extremely unreliable and may go offline at any time. However, in a commercial big data cluster it may be reasonably asssumed that almost all machines will be available almost all of the time. This means that a much more optimistic point in the design space can be chosen, one which is designed much more for speed than for pathological failure scenarios.

The MapReduce model is an example of a model where speed has been sacrificed in a major way in order to achieve scalability on very unreliable hardware. As we have noted, while this is acceptable in certain types of free peer-to-peer services, it is much less acceptable in commercial big data systems deployed at scale.

Google, the inventors of the model, were the first to recognize the throughput and latency problems with the MapReduce model. To get the realtime performance they required, they recently replaced MapReduce in their Google Instant search engine.

The MapReduce model of Apache Hadoop is slow. In fact, it's very slow compared to, for example, the kinds of MPI or BSP clusters that have been routinely used in supercomputing for more than 15 years. On exactly the same hardware, MapReduce can be several orders of magnitude slower than MPI or BSP. By using MPI rather than MapReduce, HadoopBI gives customers the best possible big data solution, not only in terms of performance - massive throughput and extremely low latency - but also in terms of economics. HadoopBI is not just the fastest Big Data BI solution, it is also the cheapest at scale.

It's Free, But Is It Fast Enough?
Another frequently misunderstood element of big data economics concerns so-called "free" software. It has been argued by some that, since big data software needs to be run on many nodes, it is really important to have software that is free. Again this is an extreme oversimplification that ignores the dominant cost issues in big data economics. At large scale, software costs will in general be much smaller than hardware or cloud costs. And commercial software vendors should ensure that they are, if they want to stay in business.

Consider the following small-scale example. A company needs to process big data continuously in order to maximize competitive advantage. For simplicity, we will assume that the cost of running a single server (in-house or cloud) for one hour is $1, and that the company has a choice between two big data software systems - system A costs $1,000 per server and system B is free, but system A is 8x faster. Choosing system A, the company requires 5 servers, working continuously, to achieve the throughput required. However, if the company chooses system B, it will require 40 servers running continuously.

Simple arithmetic shows that within just six days, the initial cost of system A has been recovered, and from then on system A gives the company massive cost savings. Even if system A is only 2x or 3x faster and more efficient than system B, the initial cost will still be recovered in a matter of a few weeks.

The economic advantages of speed at scale are magnified even more in large-scale big data systems where, with volume licensing discounts, the payback time for super-fast software is even shorter.

The lesson of the above example is simple and very important. In parallel systems, speed at scale is king, as speed equates to efficiency, and efficiency equates to massive cost savings at scale. So, to be relevant for large scale production deployments, free parallel software has to be at least as fast and efficient as the best commercial software, otherwise the economics will be solidly against it. Some examples of free software, such as the Linux operating system, have achieved this goal. It remains to be seen whether this will also be the case with highly parallel big data software. In the meantime, it's important to remember that "free software is cheap, but fast software can be even cheaper".

More Stories By Bill McColl

Bill McColl left Oxford University to found Cloudscale. At Oxford he was Professor of Computer Science, Head of the Parallel Computing Research Center, and Chairman of the Computer Science Faculty. Along with Les Valiant of Harvard, he developed the BSP approach to parallel programming. He has led research, product, and business teams, in a number of areas: massively parallel algorithms and architectures, parallel programming languages and tools, datacenter virtualization, realtime stream processing, big data analytics, and cloud computing. He lives in Palo Alto, CA.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...