Hadoop is not enough for Big Data, says Facebook analytics chief

Don't discount the value of relational database technology, Ken Rudin told a Big Data conference

The Hadoop programming framework may be synonymous with the Big Data movement but it's not the only tool companies need to derive insights from massive stores of unstructured information, according to Facebook analytics chief, Ken Rudin.

"There are a lot of commonly held beliefs about big data that need to be challenged," with the first being that you simply adopt Hadoop and are good to go, Rudin said during a keynote at the Strata + Hadoop World conference in New York. "The problem is that Hadoop is a technology, and big data isn't about technology. Big Data is about business needs."

"In reality, Big Data should include Hadoop and relational [databases] and any other technology that is suitable for the task at hand," he added.

Facebook's business model depends on the way it crunches the streams of profile and activity data generated by the social media site's more than 1 billion users in order to deliver targeted advertisements. But "Hadoop isn't always the best tool for what we need to do," Rudin said.

For example, it makes sense to do broad exploratory analysis of a data set in Hadoop, but a relational store is better for conducting an operational analysis of what was uncovered, he said.

Hadoop is also good for looking at the lowest level of detail in a data set, but relational databases make more sense for storing transformed and aggregated data, Rudin added.

"The bottom line is, use the right technology for whatever it is you need," he said.

There's also the presumption that the mere act of analyzing big data provides valuable insights, Rudin said. "The problem is coming up with more brilliant answers to questions nobody cares about," he said. "It is still an art to figure out what the right questions are."

Facebook has focused on hiring the right staffers to run its analytics operations, people who not only have doctorates in statistics but are also business-savvy, he said.

"When you interview [candidates], don't focus just on, 'how do we calculate this metric,'" Rudin said. Instead, give them a business case study and ask them what would be the most important metrics to look at, he added.

Companies should also attempt to train "everyone on analytics", according to Rudin.

Facebook runs an internal "data camp," a two-week program that teaches employees about analytics. Product managers, designers, engineers and even finance department workers attend, Rudin said. "The value of having everybody go through it is, you give everybody a common language of data they can discuss problems and issues with," he said.

Facebook has also shaken up the way it organizes statisticians and business teams. If statisticians are kept separate, they tend to "sit there and wait for requests to come in from areas of the business and respond to them," instead of being proactive, he said.

But if statisticians are placed into business units, ""you'll find multiple groups trying to solve problems redundantly," he said.

Facebook has settled on an "embedded" model, wherein analysts are placed with business teams but report up to a higher-level group of analysts, which helps avoid duplicate efforts.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

To DMP or not to DMP?

There are plenty of brands that can benefit from plugging into a data management platform. But should you engage an agency to run one or bring it in-house?

Ben Willee and Richard Taylor

Spinach Advertising

Innovations in retail will bring creative and technology closer than ever

While approaching a customer in a shop and asking what you can help them with is Retail 101, how many of us actually enjoy being approached? Generally, you have to give the forced, fake smile and say, “Just browsing, thanks,” while screaming on the inside, “just leave me alone!” Maybe it’s just me?

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

There’s a brand in my digital soup

Not a day passes by in the life of business executives where digital innovation or the prospect of disruption is not front of mind. This in turn, drives an unrelenting flow of questioning, discussion and strategy papers.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

It is really inspiring to see that medial psychology & machines are going hand in hand to innovate new things and even are improving ...

CBT Professionals

How psychology is shaping better machine learning

Read more

Anything is achievable when you talk the talk .. good luck

Mo Al Hooti

Data Creative crowns Matt Bates as new CMO

Read more

Great hire and good luck Andrew. I am sure you'll do a fabulous jobRob

Rob

Amaysim marketing and commercial chief joins property tech investment startup

Read more

I need to be reborn before i can grow up & become a contestent.

Kaye Peterkin

Channel Nine's content now streamed digitally on 9Now

Read more

I hope The Block, will continue for many many more seasons.When i die, & grow up, I want yo come back as a contestent.

Kaye Peterkin

Channel Nine's content now streamed digitally on 9Now

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in