Cluster Planning
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Early Deployments

When a team is just starting with Hadoop or HBase, it is usually good to begin small and gain experience by measuring actual workloads during a pilot project. We recommend starting with a relatively small pilot cluster, provisioned for a “ balanced ” workload.

For pilot deployments, you can start with 1U/machine and use the following recommendations:

Two quad core CPUs | 12 GB to 24 GB memory | Four to six disk drives of 2 terabyte (TB) capacity.

The minimum requirement for network is 1GigE all-to-all and can be easily achieved by connecting all of your nodes to a Gigabyte Ethernet switch. In order to use the spare socket for adding more CPUs in future, you can also consider using either a six or an eight core CPU.

For small to medium HBase clusters, provide each ZooKeeper server with around 1GB of RAM and, if possible, its own disk.

Jump-start - Hadoop Cluster

One way to quickly deploy Hadoop cluster, is to opt for “cloud trials” or use virtual infrastructure. Horton­works makes the distribution available through Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP). HDP can be easily installed in public and private clouds using Whirr, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services.

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However, note that cloud services and virtual infrastructures are not architected for Hadoop. Hadoop and HBase deployments in this case, might experience poor performance due to virtualization and suboptimal I/O architecture.

Tracking resource usage for pilot deployments

Hortonworks recommends that you monitor your pilot cluster using Ganglia, Nagios, or other performance monitoring frameworks that may be in use in your data center. Use the following guidelines to decide what to monitor in your Hadoop and HBase clusters:

  • Measure resource usage for CPU, RAM, Disk I/O operation per second (IOPS), and network packets sent and received. Run the actual kinds of query or analysis jobs that are of interest to your team.

  • Ensure that your data sub-set is scaled to the size of your pilot cluster.

  • Analyze the monitoring data for resource saturation. Based on this analysis, you can categorize your jobs as CPU bound, Disk I/O bound, or Network I/O bound.


    Most Java applications expand RAM usage to the maximum allowed. However, such jobs should not be analyzed as memory bound unless swapping happens or the JVM experiences full-memory garbage collection events. (Full-memory garbage collection events are typically occur when the node appears to cease all useful work for several minutes at a time.)

  • Optionally, customize your job parameters or hardware or network configurations to balance resource usage. If your jobs fall in the various workload patterns equally, you may also choose to manipulate only the job parameters and keep the hardware choices “balanced”.

  • For your HBase cluster, also analyze ZooKeeper, because network and memory problems for HBase are often detected first in ZooKeeper.

Challenges - Tuning job characteristics to resource usage

Relating job characteristics to resource requirements can be complex. How the job is coded or the job data is represented can have a large impact on resource balance.  For example, resource cost can be shifted between disk IOPS and CPU based on your choice of compression scheme or parsing format. Per-node CPU and disk activity can be traded for inter-node bandwidth depending on the implementation of the Map/Reduce strategy.

Furthermore, Amdahl’s Law shows how resource requirements can change in grossly non-linear ways with changing demands: a change that might be expected to reduce computation cost by 50% may instead cause a 10% change or a 90% change in net performance.

Reusing pilot machines

With a pilot cluster in place, you can start analyzing workloads patterns to identify CPU and I/O bottlenecks. Later these machines can be reused in production clusters, even if your base specs change. It is common to have heterogeneous Hadoop clusters, especially as they evolve in size.


To achieve a positive return on investment (ROI), ensure that the machines in your pilot clusters are less than 10% of your eventual production cluster.