A few months ago, database titans David J. DeWitt and Michael Stonebraker wrote a polemic entitled “MapReduce: A major step backwards” that received a lot of attention, including responses like “Relational Database Experts Jump The MapReduce Shark“. Those unfamiliar with MapReduce might want to take a look at the Wikipedia entry.
Well, they’re at it again. As Eric Lai reports in Computerworld, DeWitt and Stonebreaker has written a paper with Daniel J. Abadi, Samuel Madden, Erik Paulson, Andrew Pavlo, and Alexander Rasin entitled “A Comparison of Approaches to Large-Scale Data Analysis: MapReduce vs. DBMS Benchmarks“. The authors are a who’s who of database researchers, and the paper will appear in SIGMOD Record.
But this is no time for post-partisanship. Not when the database guys are clearly looking for a fight. As Lai suggests, this paper may be a response to Google’s announcement last November that it used MapReduce to sort a petabyte terabyte of data in just 68 seconds. Unfortunately, it seems likely that people will eventually reach the obvious conclusion that different approaches are better suited to different tasks. But hopefully we’ll see some nice sparks fly in the mean time.