Tools for the Data Scientists Working at Scale

Tools for the Data Scientists Working at Scale

Do data scientists need big data knowledge? Yes, they do! In this article, we’ll cover several big data tools that will help you when working at scale.

Today, we’ll venture into the vast cosmos of big data where the volume, velocity, and variety of Data (the three Vs of big data) exceed the grasp of mortal minds. Fear not, our young padawans, for in this infinite expanse, there exist mighty tools designed to navigate and harness the power of big data.

In the same way, they need data analysis tools, full-stack data analysts also need big data tools. They generally belong to one of the four big data families. (The tools, not data scientists.)

Big Data Tools Family

1. Big Data Processing

At the heart of our expedition stand two colossal pillars: Hadoop and Spark.

Hadoop, the venerable framework that pioneered the big data revolution, offers a reliable way to store and process petabytes of data across its HDFS – Hadoop Distributed File System. Data reliability and high throughput are ensured by replicating data blocks across different nodes in the cluster.

Big Data Processing
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Another Hadoop module, MapReduce, churns through data with the patience and determination of a celestial being. It does that by dividing the task into two stages: the map phase – when the data is filtered and stored – and the reduce phase, which is the operation summary.

Big Data Processing

Apache Spark, the younger sibling, dances through data with the speed of light, performing data analytics at astonishing speeds. Its in-memory processing capabilities make it a preferred tool for tasks requiring rapid data traversal and complex calculations. It lights up the dark data Universe with the brilliance of insights made possible by iterative algorithms and real-time analytics.

Example: A common example of using Hadoop and Spark is log analysis. The web server logs would be stored in HDFS, and MapReduce would be used to batch-process these logs and extract insights. In addition, Spark Streaming could be used to ingest the same logs for real-time analytics of user behavior and system performance.

2. Big Data Streaming

In the domain of streaming data, where information flows like the rivers of time, Apache Kafka and Apache Storm stand as master architects.

Big Data Streaming

Kafka, with its high throughput pipelines, acts as the central nervous system for real-time data flows, enabling the swift movement of vast data streams across distributed systems. It uses the publish-subscribe messaging model and can process large volumes of messages per second.

Storm, the real-time computation system, processes streaming data with the ferocity of a tempest, making sense of chaos in the blink of an eye. It processes data in micro-batches, which is very suitable for use cases that require low-latency processing.

Together, they orchestrate a symphony of streaming data, turning relentless torrents into harmonious insights.

This is how they do it.

Example: A typical use is real-time data analytics for a social media platform. In this scenario, Apache Kafka is used to collect and ingest a stream of user activity data – likes, shares, comments – from various sources. Then, Apache Storm comes in to process this data in real time and discover trends, generate alerts, update user engagement metrics instantly, and so on.

3. Big Data Storage

In the vast and complex world of big data, storage solutions are crucial for managing and analyzing the ever-growing volumes of data. Among the most prominent tools is the Hadoop Distributed File System – HDFS.

Big Data Storage

It is known for its robustness and scalability, which allows large data sets to be stored across multiple machines. It does that by breaking down files into blocks.

Additionally, Google BigTable offers high performance and scalability, which is particularly beneficial for applications that need to process billions of rows and columns efficiently. It’s particularly suitable for real-time analytics and time-series data.

Big Data Storage

Each of these tools plays a pivotal role in big data ecosystems, offering unique advantages tailored to specific data storage and retrieval needs.

Example: The raw clickstream of e-commerce data can be stored in HDFS. After data is processed by MapReduce, it is loaded into Google BigTable. This tool can then give you real-time insights into user behavior and activity logs.

But that's not all! Big data requires versatile storage. Here, the NoSQL databases like Cassandra and MongoDB emerge as the sages of storage.

Apache Cassandra stands out for its ability to handle large amounts of structured data with no single point of failure, making it ideal for businesses that require high availability. This and its excelling in write-heavy workloads make it suitable for applications requiring constant uptime.

Example: Cassandra is often used in IoT applications, e.g., a smart home system. Cassandra stores sensor data from many devices, ensuring data is always available for real-time monitoring and analysis.

Big Data Storage
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MongoDB’s document-oriented approach provides a flexible schema for evolving data structures. This schema-less approach makes it great for storing unstructured and semi-structured data, which is ideal for applications requiring frequent changes to data structures.

Example: MongoDB is typically used in content management systems because the data models can evolve over time. For example, an e-commerce application uses MongoDB to store product information, user profiles, and shopping cart data. As the business grows and the requirements change, the data schema can be easily modified in MongoDB.

4. Big Data Workflow Automation

In the quest to tame the big data beast, workflow orchestration tools like Airflow and Luigi act as the wizards of the process.

Airflow, with its intuitive UI and powerful scheduling capabilities, allows data scientists to author, schedule, and monitor workflows with ease. Workflows are represented by directed acyclic graphs (DAGs), with nodes equalling tasks and edges showing dependencies between tasks.

Example: Typically, Airflow is used to manage ETL processes. In e-commerce, this means automating the daily ingestion of data from different sources, processing it, generating reports, and storing data in a data warehouse.

Big Data Workflow Automation

Luigi is a Python module that helps manage batch workflows with a focus on reliability and scalability. It is designed to handle long-running processes and dependencies.

Example: Luigi is perfect for data science projects where multiple preprocessing steps are required. If a company wants to analyze user behavior, Luigi can be used to first clean data, then extract features from it, and then train ML models.


The universe of big data is vast and filled with challenges. But armed with these powerful tools, data scientists can confidently navigate its complexities.

From the foundational might of Hadoop and Spark to the real-time prowess of Kafka and Storm and the versatile storage solutions of NoSQL databases, the journey through big data is one of endless discovery and boundless potential.

Tools for the Data Scientists Working at Scale

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