MapReduce is a programming model for processing large data sets with a parallel, distributed algorithm on a cluster.

A MapReduce program comprises a Map() procedure that performs filtering and sorting (such as sorting students by first name into queues, one queue for each name) and a Reduce() procedure that performs a summary operation (such as counting the number of students in each queue, yielding name frequencies). The "MapReduce System" (also called "infrastructure", "framework") orchestrates by marshalling the distributed servers, running the various tasks in parallel, managing all communications and data transfers between the various parts of the system, providing for redundancy and fault tolerance, and overall management of the whole process.

The model is inspired by the map and reduce functions commonly used in functional programming, although their purpose in the MapReduce framework is not the same as their original forms. Furthermore, the key contribution of the MapReduce framework are not the actual map and reduce functions, but the scalability and fault-tolerance achieved for a variety of applications by optimizing the execution engine once.

A MapReduce job usually splits the input data-set into independent chunks which are processed by the map tasks in a completely parallel manner. The framework sorts the outputs of the maps, which are then input to the reduce tasks. Typically both the input and the output of the job are stored in a file-system. The framework takes care of scheduling tasks, monitoring them and re-executes the failed tasks.

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