[tor-dev] [measurement team] analytics server proposal

thomas lörtsch tl at rat.io
Thu Oct 8 22:03:59 UTC 2015

analytics server proposal

measurement team is setting up a server for you to play with raw metrics data.
please check below if it meets your requirements and if you have any suggestions for the setup.

Motivation + Setup
An idea came up during the Berlin dev meeting: it would be good to have all measurement data on one server, loaded into a database, with a suite of analytics software readily set up, available to everybody who needs to do aggregation, analytics, research etc on the data. 

Right now everybody who wants to analyze Tor metrics data first has to downlod raw data from the metrics website, load it into a local database, massage it, setup a query environment etc. That can be cumbersome and use siginificant computing resources, making your notebook unusable for hours or eating up hundreds of gigabytes of disk space if you don’t optimize properly. That makes on the fly quick and dirty prototyping and analysis quite unfeasable and prohibitively tedious.

We plan to change this by setting up an analytics server free for everybody to use:
* containing as much raw metrics data as possible
* in a HBase database on Hadoop/HDFS 
* with analytic tools like Spark and Drill on top
* supporting diverse languages - SQL, R, Python, Java, Scala, Clojure -
* with gateways to desktop-ish tools like Tableau and MongoDB 

Please see the detailed description below, tell us if you have any suggestions concerning the setup and request a login (to be available soon)!

The data will be available as raw as possible, like it is served by CollecTor, preloaded into a database and maybe also in some pre-aggregated sets that concentrate on “popular” aspects of the data. The complete dataset is about 50 GB compressed, or 5 TB uncompressed. For a start we may need to concentrate on the last 2 or 3 years.

The amount of data practically rules out the usual RDBMS suspects (PostgreSQL etc). We also want to have easy access to the analytical tools that are available in the big data ecosystem.

Hadoop [0] is a popular candidate for Big Data processing, but has a reputation of being slightly outdated, not so well engineered [1] and is not available in Debian stable (which likely won’t change [2]). It seems like choosing Hadoop means risking to run into nasty little problems down the road. Most solutions outlined below are or can be based on Hadoop File System (HDFS) but that is available independently of the Hadoop MapReduce system.

Disco [3] is another MapReduce engine. Seems solid, heavyly uses Python, but relies on it’s own file system [4] which would make it harder or impossible to use with other tools like Spark, that require HDFS (or compatible). Would need more research/googling to be really sure but right now it doesn't seems worth the effort.

Spark [5] is faster than Hadoop MapReduce when working in memory and can work equally well from disk. Storage is based on Hadoop and "works with any Hadoop compatible data source including HDFS, HBase, Cassandra, etc.” [6]. It can work with Amazons Elastic MapReduce EMR instances (which in turn allows running Spark on EMR). EMR pricing is not prohibitive [7]. Ooni uses this setup [8].
Spark supports R, Scala, Java, Python and Clojure. It provides an interactive shell for Python and Scala and plugins for SQL-like queries, MLib (machine learning lib) and some graph processing. Its performance but also the SQL plugin and the wide range of supported programming languages make Spark quite attractive.

Hive [9] is another analytics engine on top of Hadoop that has similar features to Spark [10] (its feature set was lagging behind Spark for some time but has catched up recently). Since Ooni uses Spark and the two are not very different with respect to feature set we favor Spark (and hope for synergies). 

MongoDB [11], which is available in Debian stable and supports Map Reduce [12], may not be performant enough and is in some ways rather shoddy.

Redis [13] has a good reputation and while optimized for in-memory operations it can work from disk too. It is available as Debian stable [14]. Map reduce operations are available as add ons [15] but not in Debian stable. Like MongoDB there is not much interesting analytics software available besides MapReduce.

Drill [16] is a nice analytic tool: a 'schema-free SQL query engine for Big Data’ which accepts a variety of data sources including HDFS, MongoDB, Amazon S3, with impressive performance and a wide range of possible applications. 

Both Spark and Drill support Tableau, a nice Desktop data visualization tool that allows to work with data in a rather intuitive way.

In summary it seems like Spark and Drill are the aggregation and analytic softwares that we want to have. Together they support a nice array of languages (SQL, R, Java, Python, Scala, Clojure) and desktop-ish tools (MongoDB, Tableau) which should make them readily useable for a lot of people.

Amazons EMR is an option but for now we’ll install our own box. We could go with CSV files in the Hadoop Distributed File System HDFS to keep complexity down but given the amount of data a proper DBMS seems justified. Two databases are supported by both Spark and Drill: Apache Cassandra [17][18] and Apache HBase [19][20][21]. Both are column-oriented key-value-store. HBase follows the same design principles as Cassandra but comes out of the Hadoop community and is better integrated wiht other offerings. Also while Cassandra is more optimized for easy scaling and write performance HBase has the emphasis on fast read [22]. It also seems like getting Drill to work with Cassandra is not as easy as advertized [23]. So HBase seems like the best fit.

Hopefully Drill and Spark will work from the same data in HBase and not want to import it into their own store (thereby duplicating it) but we’re not sure about that right now. If they do import the data into their own stores anyway then HBase might be overkill and CSV files on HDFS sufficient. Or Parquet [24][25]? We plan to figure that out during the next days. Any help and remarks appreciated!

Redis and MongoDB, the 2 systems that are available as Debian stable packages, are not well enough supported by analytic softwares to be useful.

Measurement team will set up a hosted server with 32 GB RAM and 5 TB storage (partly as SSD), install Apache HBase as database and Apache Spark and Apache Drill as analytics softwares and import a lot of raw measurement data into HBase. We then give login to the machine on request and hope that you have fun with map reducing, data sciencing, visualizing...
This is a test: we plan to keep the server running for at least the next 3 months or so. If it doesn’t prove useful we will probably shut it down afterwards, but we hope otherwise.

[0] http://hadoop.apache.org/
[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4298284 - see the 4. comment thread for a nice rundown on the cons of Hadoop. 
[2] https://wiki.debian.org/Hadoop
[3] http://discoproject.org/
[4] http://disco.readthedocs.org/en/develop/howto/ddfs.html?highlight=hdfs
[5] http://spark.apache.org/
[6] http://www.infoq.com/articles/apache-spark-introduction
[7] https://aws.amazon.com/elasticmapreduce/pricing/
[8] https://github.com/TheTorProject/ooni-pipeline
[9] http://hive.apache.org/
[10] http://www.zdnet.com/article/sql-and-hadoop-its-complicated/
[11] https://www.mongodb.org/
[12] https://docs.mongodb.org/manual/core/map-reduce/
[13] https://redis.io 
[14] https://packages.debian.org/search?suite=jessie&arch=any&searchon=names&keywords=redis
[15] http://heynemann.github.io/r3/ - maybe also others although Google didn’t really help
[16] https://drill.apache.org/, https://drill.apache.org/faq/
[17] http://cassandra.apache.org/
[18] http://www.planetcassandra.org/getting-started-with-apache-spark-and-cassandra/
[19] http://hbase.apache.org/
[20] http://www.vidyasource.com/blog/Programming/Scala/Java/Data/Hadoop/Analytics/2014/01/25/lighting-a-spark-with-hbase
[21] http://www.slideshare.net/cloudera/5-h-base-schemahbasecon2012
[22] http://www.infoworld.com/article/2848722/nosql/mongodb-cassandra-hbase-three-nosql-databases-to-watch.html
[23] http://stackoverflow.com/questions/31017755
[24] https://parquet.apache.org/documentation/latest/
[25] http://arnon.me/2015/08/spark-parquet-s3/

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