When you're creating a new way of storing and processing data for global business infrastructure, a little fun can go a long way toward relieving the pressure. No one knows that better than Doug Cutting, chief architect of Cloudera and one of the creators of the curiously named Hadoop.
When he was creating the open source software that supports the processing of large data sets, Cutting knew the project would need a good name. Fortunately, he had one up his sleeve—thanks to his son.
As much as 80 percent of data created each day is unstructured—and impossible to mine as a result. Hadoop brings structure to the chaos, helping to store the data sets across distributed clusters of servers, and at a much lower cost than with legacy servers. Hadoop has become an essential tool in the rise of big data that could unlock billions, if not trillions, of dollars in productivity. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that Hadoop's market could reach $14 billion annually--$9 billion for the Hadoop platform and $5 billion for the analytics tools built on Hadoop.
The name, on the other hand, is a homey story going back 10 years—into the realm of a toddler's experimentation with old-fashioned human language. Cutting's son, then 2, was just beginning to talk and called his beloved stuffed yellow elephant "Hadoop" (with the stress on the first syllable).
"Being a guy in the software business, we're always looking for names," Cutting said. "I'd been saving it for the right time."
Naming software is never easy. The name should lack specific connections but can't be ridiculous. It has to be easy to remember. Most important, it must be able to withstand changes in direction.
"The rules of names for software is they're meaningless because sometimes the use of a particular piece of software drifts, and if your name is too closely associated with that, it could end up being wrong over time," Cutting said.
The original Hadoop remained an active toy for Cutting's son for years, the entrepreneur was always mindful of the yellow elephant's potential as a brand name. As work began and Cutting considered finally using the name he had been guarding, he noticed the toy was being crammed inside a toilet paper roll and shot across the back yard.
That's when Hadoop was retired from his son's collection of playthings.