"data science" entries

Real-time analytics within the transaction

Integrated data stream platforms are poised to supplant the lambda architecture.

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Data generation is growing exponentially, as is the demand for real-time analytics over fast input data. Traditional approaches to analyzing data in batch mode overcome the computational problems of data volume by scaling horizontally using a distributed system like Apache Hadoop. However, this solution is not feasible for analyzing large data streams in real time due to the scheduling I/O overhead it introduces.

Two main problems occur when batch processing is applied to stream or fast data. First, by the time the analysis is complete, it may already have been outdated by new incoming data. Second, the data may be arriving so fast that it is not feasible to store and batch-process them later, so the data must be processed or summarized when it is received. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope is a good public example of a system in which data must be preprocessed before storage. The SKA is a distributed radio observation project where each base station will receive 10-30 TB/sec and the Central Unit will process 4PB/sec. In this scenario, online summaries of the input data must be computed in real time and then processed — and significantly reduced in size — data is what’s stored.

In the business world, common examples of stream data are sensor networks, Twitter, Internet traffic, logs, financial tickers, click streams, and online bids. Algorithmic solutions enable the computation of summaries, frequency (heavy hitter) and event detection, and other statistical calculations on the stream as a whole or detection of outliers within it.

But what if you need to perform transaction-level analysis — scans across different dimensions of the data set, for example — as well as store the streamed data for fast lookup and retrospective analysis? Read more…

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Unpacking technical jargon in machine learning

A new report explores how to evaluate your machine learning models.

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Get notified when our free report “Evaluating Machine Learning Models: A beginner’s guide to key concepts and pitfalls” is available for download. Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of “Evaluating Machine Learning Models,” by Alice Zheng.


Alice Zheng will be part of the Data Science Summit and Dato Conference in July — a non-profit event jointly organized by Intel, Comcast, Pandora, Dato, Cloudera, and O’Reilly Media — in San Francisco. Visit the conference website for more information on the program. Use the discount code OREILLY20 and get 20% off either one or both days of the conference.

This report on evaluating machine learning models arose out of a sense of need. The content was first published as a series of six technical posts on the Dato Machine Learning Blog. I was the editor of the blog, and I needed something to publish for the next day. Dato builds machine learning tools that help users build intelligent data products. In our conversations with the community, we sometimes ran into a confusion in terminology. For example, people would ask for cross validation as a feature, when what they really meant was hyperparameter tuning, a feature we already had. So, I thought, “Aha! I’ll just quickly explain what these concepts mean and point folks to the relevant sections in the user guide.”

I sat down to write a blog post to explain cross validation, hold-out data sets, and hyperparameter tuning. After the first two paragraphs, however, I realized that it would take a lot more than a single blog post. The three terms sit at different depths in the concept hierarchy of machine learning model evaluation. Cross validation and hold-out validation are ways of chopping up a data set in order to measure the model’s performance on “unseen” data. Hyperparameter tuning, on the other hand, is a more “meta” process of model selection. But why does the model need “unseen” data, and what’s meta about hyperparameters? In order to explain all of that, I needed to start from the basics. First, I needed to explain the high-level concepts and how they fit together. Only then could I dive into each one in detail. Read more…

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The original big data industry

Oil and gas exploration have long been at the forefront of data collection and analysis.

Download our new free report, “Oil, Gas, and Data: High-Performance Data Tools in the Production of Industrial Power,” looking at the role of data, machine learning, and predictive analytics in oil and gas exploration.

Petroleum extraction is an industry marked by price volatility and high capital exposure in new ventures. Big data is reducing risk, not just to capital, but to workers and the environment as well, as Dan Cowles explores in the new free report Oil, Gas, and Data.

At the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, exhibiting alongside massive drill heads, chemical analysts, and the latest in valves and pipes are companies with a decidedly more virtual product: data. IBM’s Aspera, Abacus Datagraphics, Fujitsu, and Oracle’s Front Porch Digital are pitching data intake, analysis, and storage services to the oil industry, and industry stalwarts such as Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, and BP have been developing these capacities in-house.

The primary benefits of big data occur at the upstream end of petroleum production: exploration, discovery, and drilling. Better analysis of seismic and other geological data allows for drilling in more productive locations, and continual monitoring of equipment results in more uptime and better safety for both workers and environment. These marginal gains can be enough to keep an entire region competitive: the trio of cheap sensors, fast networks, and distributed computation that we’ve so often seen in other industries is the difference-maker keeping the North Sea oilfields productive in sub-$100/barrel market. Read more…

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Why data preparation frameworks rely on human-in-the-loop systems

The O'Reilly Data Show Podcast: Ihab Ilyas on building data wrangling and data enrichment tools in academia and industry.

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As I’ve written in previous posts, data preparation and data enrichment are exciting areas for entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers. Startups like Trifacta, Tamr, Paxata, Alteryx, and CrowdFlower continue to innovate and attract enterprise customers. I’ve also noticed that companies — that don’t specialize in these areas — are increasingly eager to highlight data preparation capabilities in their products and services.

During a recent episode of the O’Reilly Data Show Podcast, I spoke with Ihab Ilyas, professor at the University of Waterloo and co-founder of Tamr. We discussed how he started working on data cleaning tools, academic database research, and training computer science students for positions in industry.

Academic database research in data preparation

Given the importance of data integrity, it’s no surprise that the database research community has long been interested in data preparation and data wrangling. Ilyas explained how his work in probabilistic databases led to research projects in data cleaning:

In the database theory community, these problems of handling, dealing with data inconsistency, and consistent query answering have been a celebrated area of research. However, it has been also difficult to communicate these results to industry. And database practitioners, if you like, they were more into the well-structured data and assuming a lot of good properties around this data, [and they were also] more interested in indexing this data, storing it, moving it from one place to another. And now, dealing with this large amount of diverse heterogeneous data with tons of errors, sidled across all business units in the same enterprise became a necessity. You cannot really avoid that anymore. And that triggered a new line of research for pragmatic ways of doing data cleaning and integration. … The acquisition layer in that stack has to deal with large sets of formats and sources. And you will hear about things like adapters and source adapters. And it became a market on its own, how to get access and tap into these sources, because these are kind of the long tail of data.

The way I came into this subject was also funny because we were talking about the subject called probabilistic databases and how to deal with data uncertainty. And that morphed into trying to find data sets that have uncertainty. And then we were shocked by how dirty the data is and how data cleaning is a task that’s worth looking at.

Read more…

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Graphs in the world: Modeling systems as networks

See, extract, and create value with networks.

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Get notified when our free report, “Mapping Big Data: A Data Driven Market Report” is available for download.

Networks of all kinds drive the modern world. You can build a network from nearly any kind of data set, which is probably why network structures characterize some aspects of most phenomenon. And yet, many people can’t see the networks underlying different systems. In this post, we’re going to survey a series of networks that model different systems in order to understand different ways networks help us understand the world around us.

We’ll explore how to see, extract, and create value with networks. We’ll look at four examples where I used networks to model different phenomenon, starting with startup ecosystems and ending in network-driven marketing.

Networks and markets

Commerce is one person or company selling to another, which is inherently a network phenomenon. Analyzing networks in markets can help us understand how market economies operate.

Strength of weak ties

Mark Granovetter famously researched job hunting and discovered the Strength of Weak Ties. Read more…

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The future of data at scale

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Turing Award winner Michael Stonebraker on the future of data science.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

In March 2015, database pioneer Michael Stonebraker was awarded the 2014 ACM Turing Award “for fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems.” In this week’s Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mike Hendrickson sits down with Stonebraker to talk about winning the award, the future of data science, and the importance — and difficulty — of data curation.

One size does not fit all

Stonebraker notes that since about 2000, everyone has realized they need a database system, across markets and across industries. “Now, it’s everybody who’s got a big data problem,” he says. “The business data processing solution simply doesn’t fit all of these other marketplaces.” Stonebraker talks about the future of data science — and data scientists — and the tools and skill sets that are going to be required:

It’s all going to move to data science as soon as enough data scientists get trained by our universities to do this stuff. It’s fairly clear to me that you’re probably not going to retread a business analyst to be a data scientist because you’ve got to know statistics, you’ve got to know machine learning. You’ve got to know what regression means, what Naïve Bayes means, what k-Nearest Neighbors means. It’s all statistics.

All of that stuff turns out to be defined on arrays. It’s not defined on tables. The tools of future data scientists are going to be array-based tools. Those may live on top of relational database systems. They may live on top of an array database system, or perhaps something else. It’s completely open.

Read more…

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Real-time, not batch-time, analytics with Hadoop

How big data, fast data, and real-time analytics work together in the real world.

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Attend the VoltDB webcast on June 24, 2015 with John Hugg to learn more on how to build a fast data front-end to Hadoop.

Today, we often hear the phrase “The 3 Vs” in relation to big data: Volume, Variety and Velocity. With the interest and popularity of big data frameworks such as Hadoop, the focus has mostly centered on volume and data at rest. Common requirements here would be data ingestion, batch processing, and distributed queries. These are well understood. Increasingly, however, there is a need to manage and process data as it arrives, in real time. There may be great value in the immediacy of that data and the ability to act upon it very quickly. This is velocity and data in motion, also known as “fast data.” Fast data has become increasingly important within the past few years due to the growth in endpoints that now stream data in real time.

Big data + fast data is a powerful combination. However, adding real-time analytics to this mix provides the business value. Let’s look at a real example, originally described by Scott Jarr of VoltDB.

Consider a company that builds systems to manage physical assets in precious metal mines. Inside a mine, there are sensors on miners as well as shovels and other assets. For a lost shovel, minutes or hours of reporting latency may be acceptable. However, a sensor on a miner indicating a stopped heart should require immediate attention. The system should, therefore, be able to receive very fast data. Read more…

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Building self-service tools to monitor high-volume time-series data

The O'Reilly Data Show Podcast: Phil Liu on the evolution of metric monitoring tools and cloud computing.

One of the main sources of real-time data processing tools is IT operations. In fact, a previous post I wrote on the re-emergence of real-time, was to a large extent prompted by my discussions with engineers and entrepreneurs building monitoring tools for IT operations. In many ways, data centers are perfect laboratories in that they are controlled environments managed by teams willing to instrument devices and software, and monitor fine-grain metrics.

During a recent episode of the O’Reilly Data Show Podcast, I caught up with Phil Liu, co-founder and CTO of SignalFx, a SF Bay Area startup focused on building self-service monitoring tools for time series. We discussed hiring and building teams in the age of cloud computing, building tools for monitoring large numbers of time series, and lessons he’s learned from managing teams at leading technology companies.

Evolution of monitoring tools

Having worked at LoudCloud, Opsware, and Facebook, Liu has seen first hand the evolution of real-time monitoring tools and platforms. Liu described how he has watched the number of metrics grow, to volumes that require large compute clusters:

One of the first services I worked on at LoudCloud was a service called MyLoudCloud. Essentially that was a monitoring portal for all LoudCloud customers. At the time, [the way] we thought about monitoring was still in a per-instance-oriented monitoring system. [Later], I was one of the first engineers on the operational side of Facebook and eventually became part of the infrastructure team at Facebook. When I joined, Facebook basically was using a collection of open source software for monitoring and configuration, so these are things that everybody knows — Nagios, Ganglia. It started out basically using just per-instance instant monitoring techniques, basically the same techniques that we used back at LoudCloud, but interestingly and very quickly as Facebook grew, this per-instance-oriented monitoring no longer worked because we went from tens or thousands of servers to hundreds of thousands of servers, from tens of services to hundreds and thousands of services internally.

Read more…

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The business value of unifying data

Practical applications of human-in-the-loop machine learning.

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With hundreds, thousands, or even just tens of suppliers — each with different business units, payment terms, and locations — businesses are faced with a monumental task: unifying all of their supplier-related data, and fast so that it can be useful. In order to ask deep questions about their data, companies are increasingly looking for a single, unified view of their supply chain.

And yet, business data is often stored in different sources, systems, and formats, resulting in silos of information. These data silos take the form of enterprise resource planning systems, CSV files, spreadsheets, and relational databases. To pull together all of the data from these disparate sources, a business faces three interrelated challenges:

  1. Speed. Traditionally, businesses have attempted to catalog and organize supply chain data manually — profiling and integrating data themselves, which leads directly to the next challenge: cost.
  2. Cost. Manual work is expensive work. Usually more than one employee will need to work on the same data set in order to move quickly enough for the results to have any value for the business. Even with several employees working on the same data sets, this work will still not achieve what could be done on a machine scale.
  3. Efficiency. Relying completely on humans to organize and unify data is a situation ripe for error. Plus, there’s often no audit trail, and the work results in inherently incomplete views of information.

In a recent live demo by Dr. Clare Bernard, a field engineer at Tamr, I got a glimpse into how Tamr is using a combination of machine learning algorithms and input from subject matter experts to help businesses unify their data for analysis. A practice that uses short-term human intervention to actively improve machine models, human-in-the-loop machine learning is taking off across all types of industries, including fashion, automotive, and cloud services such as Google Maps. Read more…

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Dimensionality reduction at the command line

Introducing Tapkee, an efficient command-line tool and C++ library for linear and nonlinear dimensionality reduction.

Get 50% off the “Data Science at the Command Line” ebook with code DATA50.

Editor’s Note: This post is a slightly adapted excerpt from Jeroen Janssens’ recent book, “Data Science at the Command Line.” To follow along with the code, and learn more about the various tools, you can install the Data Science Toolbox, a free virtual machine that runs on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and has all the command-line tools pre-installed.

The goal of dimensionality reduction is to map high-dimensional data points onto a lower dimensional space. The challenge is to keep similar data points close together on the lower-dimensional mapping. As we’ll see in the next section, our data set contains 13 features. We’ll stick with two dimensions because that’s straightforward to visualize.

Dimensionality reduction is often regarded as being part of the exploring step. It’s useful for when there are too many features for plotting. You could do a scatter plot matrix, but that only shows you two features at a time. It’s also useful as a preprocessing step for other machine-learning algorithms. Most dimensionality reduction algorithms are unsupervised, which means that they don’t employ the labels of the data points in order to construct the lower-dimensional mapping.

In this post, we’ll use Tapkee, a new command-line tool to perform dimensionality reduction. More specifically, we’ll demonstrate two techniques: PCA, which stands for Principal Components Analysis (Pearson, 1901) and t-SNE, which stands for t-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (van der Maaten & Hinton, 2008). Coincidentally, t-SNE was discussed in detail in a recent O’Reilly blog post. But first, let’s obtain, scrub, and explore the data set we’ll be using. Read more…

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