Skip to main content

AOL Use-Case: How to Exploit the Power of Amazon EMR

Learn how AOL was able to reduce the time and cost of processing massive amounts of clickstream data by leveraging AWS big data technologies (Amazon EMR)

“Migration” was a word that came up over and over again at last week’s AWS re:invent 2015, where Amazon announced a series of new features and services to make cloud migrations easier and more cost-effective.

One of the better-known companies currently using AWS is AOL. Durga Nemani, AOL Systems Architect, devoted his presentation to explain how AOL was able to reduce the time and cost of processing massive amounts of clickstream data by leveraging AWS big data technologies. AOL moved to AWS in 2014, migrating from a large (and expensive) in-house Hadoop cluster to an Amazon EMR (Elastic Map reduce) and Amazon S3 deployment for storing raw and processed data.

The main problem AOL’s data scientists had faced running a single in-house cluster, was the lack of scalability and flexibility. As their workload and dataset structures regularly changed, a single huge cluster was impossible to optimize. The “one size fits all” model simply did not work in this case.

AOL infrastructure powered by Amazon EMR

AOL now uses a hybrid approach: they process and store data using AWS services and then load their processed data into an in-house AOL database that is accessed by the AOL Reporting tool.
Diagram displaying AOL Hybrid approach
AOL uses Amazon S3 for storing raw and processed data, and Amazon EMR (Elastic Map Reduce) for running analytics tasks on top of a Hadoop cluster. Thanks to Amazon Web Services, AOL was able to abandon the single big cluster model in favor of several dozen EMR clusters of multiple sizes – each used when workload conditions justified it.

The ability to create EMR clusters on-demand allowed AOL to separate compute and storage jobs. Analyzed data could be retrieved using an AWS S3 client, instead of querying the Hadoop cluster and paying for a cluster running 24/7. The AOL team did a great job designing an EMR cluster orchestrator capable of creating a variable number of transient EMR clusters for processing the data collected during the day. Adopting the “Divide et impera” approach (Latin for “Divide and conquer”), the AOL orchestrator launches chains of EMR clusters, each one responsible for specific kind of jobs (Processing, Extracting, Loading, and Monitoring).

AOL also launches EMR clusters in parallel, to process the smallest data chunks possible in parallel and to reduce dependencies.
Diagram showing AOL EMR clusters
A typical AOL workflow consists of launching several Apache Hive and/or Apache PIG-equipped EMR clusters that read data from one S3 bucket and write to another. Up to 22 datasets are generated and 150 EMR clusters are launched during an “EMR pipeline”. All EMR clusters are checked by the AOL orchestrator that will also (re)launch new EMR clusters in case of error.

TCO analysis: how much does the EMR infrastructure cost?

AOL System Architects tried several infrastructure models and combinations to better understand the significance of service costs. In order to lower their infrastructure TCO, the AOL cluster orchestrator creates clusters that are able to complete assigned jobs in exactly 59 minutes. Why 59? Because any EC2 instance that’s part of an EMR cluster is billed in hourly increments, so terminating an EC2 instance soon after the 60-minute mark will incur two full hours of compute costs.

AOL also uses spot-instances for spinning up their EMR clusters, and they do it using multiple regions and Availability Zones; not only for High Availability but also to benefit from the lowest available spot prices (without competing against themselves).Pie showing AOL EMR Costs

Amazon EMR suggestions and best practices

Monitoring and security are important. Therefore, don’t forget to:

  • Disable SSH access for EMR nodes.
  • Use logs for checking what caused job failures and use Application IDs to narrow down your searches.
  • Use the “Infrastructure as Code” pattern: Write configuration scripts for launching any EMR cluster and version it just like software source code.
  • Enable SNS notifications for service failures.
  • Use IAM Roles and Policies and enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Create multiple CLI profiles.

In order to better track your costs:

  • Tag all AWS resources, so you’re able to understand the relevance of any expense item.
  • Enable CloudTrail.
  • Use EC2 spot instances.
  • Create CloudWatch Billing Alarms.

If you’re interested to read on about Amazon EMR, I suggest taking a look at this article Amazon EMR: five ways to improve the way you use Hadoop.

Avatar

Written by

Antonio Angelino

Antonio is an IT Manager and a software and infrastructure Engineer with more than 10 years of experience designing, implementing and deploying complex webapps using the best available technologies.

Related Posts

Avatar
Stuart Scott
— June 20, 2019

Working with AWS Networking & Amazon VPC

Being able to architect your own isolated segment of AWS is a simple process using VPCs; understanding how to architect its related networking components and connectivity architecture is key to making it a powerful service.Many services within Amazon Web Services (AWS) require you t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • VPC
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— June 19, 2019

AWS Compute Fundamentals Update

AWS is renowned for the rate at which it reinvents, revolutionizes, and meets customer demands and expectations through its continuous cycle of feature and service updates. With hundreds of updates a month, it can be difficult to stay on top of all the changes made available.  Here ...

Read more
  • AWS
Jeff Hyatt
Jeff Hyatt
— June 18, 2019

10 Steps for an Effective Reserved Instances Strategy

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers three different ways to pay for EC2 Instances: On-Demand, Reserved Instances, and Spot Instances. This article will focus on effective strategies for purchasing Reserved Instances. While most of the major cloud platforms offer pre-pay and reservation dis...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 18, 2019

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 11 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Avatar
John Chell
— June 13, 2019

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some clear benefits: Increases marketability to employers Provides solid credentials in a growing industry (with projected growth of as much as 70 percent in five years) Market anal...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
— June 11, 2019

Moving Data to S3 with Apache NiFi

Moving data to the cloud is one of the cornerstones of any cloud migration. Apache NiFi is an open source tool that enables you to easily move and process data using a graphical user interface (GUI).  In this blog post, we will examine a simple way to move data to the cloud using NiFi c...

Read more
  • AWS
  • S3
Avatar
Chandan Patra
— June 11, 2019

Amazon DynamoDB: 10 Things You Should Know

Amazon DynamoDB is a managed NoSQL service with strong consistency and predictable performance that shields users from the complexities of manual setup.Whether or not you've actually used a NoSQL data store yourself, it's probably a good idea to make sure you fully understand the key ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • DynamoDB
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— June 6, 2019

The 11 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in cloud computing.As the market leader and most ma...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Sam Ghardashem
Sam Ghardashem
— May 15, 2019

Aviatrix Integration of a NextGen Firewall in AWS Transit Gateway

Learn how Aviatrix’s intelligent orchestration and control eliminates unwanted tradeoffs encountered when deploying Palo Alto Networks VM-Series Firewalls with AWS Transit Gateway.Deploying any next generation firewall in a public cloud environment is challenging, not because of the f...

Read more
  • AWS
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— May 3, 2019

AWS Config Best Practices for Compliance

Use AWS Config the Right Way for Successful ComplianceIt’s well-known that AWS Config is a powerful service for monitoring all changes across your resources. As AWS Config has constantly evolved and improved over the years, it has transformed into a true powerhouse for monitoring your...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Compliance
Avatar
Francesca Vigliani
— April 30, 2019

Cloud Academy is Coming to the AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago

Cloud Academy is a proud sponsor of the 2019 AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago. We hope you plan to attend these free events that bring the cloud computing community together to connect, collaborate, and learn about AWS. These events are all about learning. You can learn how t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Summits
Paul Hortop
Paul Hortop
— April 2, 2019

How to Monitor Your AWS Infrastructure

The AWS cloud platform has made it easier than ever to be flexible, efficient, and cost-effective. However, monitoring your AWS infrastructure is the key to getting all of these benefits. Realizing these benefits requires that you follow AWS best practices which constantly change as AWS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Monitoring