Your Data’s Not That Big

Larry White throws a bit of cold water on the distributed computing movement:

Someone recently told me about a data analysis application written in Python. He managed five Java engineers who built the cluster management and pipeline infrastructure needed to make the analysis run in the 12 hours allotted. They used Python, he said, because it was “easy,” which it was, if you ignore all the work needed to make it go fast. It seemed pretty clear to me that it could have been written in Java to run on a single machine with a much smaller staff.

One definition of “big data” is “Data that is too big to fit on one machine.” By that definition what is “big data” for one language is plain-old “data” for another. Java, with it’s efficient memory management, high performance, and multi-threading can get a lot done on one machine. To do data science in Java, however, you need data science tools: Tablesaw is an open-source (Apache 2) Java data science platform that lets users work with data on a single machine. It’s a dataframe and visualization framework. Most data science currently done in clusters could be done on a single machine using Tablesaw paired with a Java machine learning library like Smile.

But you don’t have to take my word for that.

There are some interesting thoughts in this post, but there are limits to what a single machine can do.

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