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Hadoop cuts big data down to size

Linux desktop software certainly has its hard-core fans, but the open-source program has always faced an uphill battle against a proprietary Microsoft Windows product that could pretty much do all the same things (and mostly better), though it cost a few bucks instead of being free. The same scenario goes for many other open-source tools.

But that’s not the story for Apache Hadoop, an open-source program that is gaining converts at government agencies who are trying to draw new insights from all the “big data” they are generating.

“Hadoop is totally unique in many ways,” said Bob Gourley, editor of and former chief technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Hadoop, and a handful of open-source tools that complement it, has no equal when it comes to making gigantic and diverse datasets easily available for quick analysis using clusters of inexpensive computers, Gourley said. The oddly named software is already considered mission-critical at Web giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and many others for marketing chores, personalizing Web pages and detecting junk mail.

Nevertheless, agency IT officials still need to weigh their options carefully because Hadoop, like most open-source tools, can require a significantly bigger commitment of skills and involvement from its users than most commercial products demand.

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