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Narrator is for analyzing and aggregating streams of data. Stream processing is automatically parallelized wherever possible, and the provided operators are designed to be memory-efficient, allowing for high-throughput analysis of large historical data sets or unbounded realtime streams.


[narrator "0.1.2"]

Narrator transforms streams of data into periodically sampled values. This is most easily done using narrator.query/query-seq, which takes a query descriptor, an optional map of arguments, and an input sequence.

In the simplest case, the query descriptor can just be a function, which will be mapped over the input sequence:

> (use 'narrator.query)
> (query-seq
    [0 1 2])
(1 2 3)

Narrator also provides special operators in the narrator.operators namespace. Some of these operators are aggregators, which reduce a stream of values to a single representative value. One such operator is narrator.operators/sum.

> (require '[narrator.operators :as n])
> (query-seq
    (range 10))

sum and other operators can be called with a map of options, such as (sum {:clear-on-reset? false}), but as a convenience, if they are called with no parameters the parentheses can be omitted. sum and (sum) are interchangeable.

Operators and functions can be composed by placing them in a vector. Composition is left-to-right:

> (query-seq
    [:foo (n/sum)]
    (repeat 10 {:foo 1}))

The operators given to query-seq can be any combination of Clojure functions and Narrator operators. These can be used alone, or composed in any order:

> (query-seq inc (range 5))
(1 2 3 4 5)
> (query-seq n/rate (range 5))
> (query-seq [n/rate inc] (range 5))

Notice in the last example we're incrementing the output of rate, which is an aggregator. We can even compose multiple periodic operators together, though this may give us odd results:

> (query-seq [n/rate n/rate] (range 5))

Since there's only one value emitted by the first rate, this will always return 1, no matter what the input.

Since we haven't defined a period in any of our queries, query-seq consumes the entire sequence. However, we can also define a :period, and analyze each interval separately:

> (query-seq
    {:period 5, :timestamp :foo}
    (for [n (range 10)]
      {:foo n}))
({:timestamp 5, :value 5}
 {:timestamp 10, :value 5})

Here we've defined a :timestamp function that will give us the time at which each message occurred, and a :period at which we want to emit the result. In this case we're asking for the rate of message over that period, which is one message for each unit of time.

We can also do multiple simultaneous analyses:

> (query-seq
    {:sum [:foo n/sum] 
	 :rate n/rate}
    (map #(hash-map :foo %) (range 10)))
{:rate 10, :sum 45}

Maps are valid syntax anywhere within a descriptor, and can even be nested:

> (query-seq
    [:foo {:rate n/rate, :sum n/sum}]
    (map #(hash-map :foo %) (range 10)))
{:sum 45, :rate 10}

> (query-seq
    {:a {:b [inc n/sum], :c [dec n/sum]}}
    (range 10))
{:a {:c 35, :b 55}}

We can also split on arbitrary fields within the data:

> (query-seq
    (n/group-by even? n/rate)
    (range 1000))
{true 500, false 500}

> (query-seq
    (n/group-by #(rem % 4) [n/rate inc])
    (range 1000))
{3 251, 1 251, 2 251, 0 251}

Here we've used group-by to split the stream along a facet defined by the given function, and then applied the given operators to each subset of the data.

The structural query descriptors work great when we know the structure of the data ahead of time, but what about when the structure is nested, even arbitrarily so? In these cases, we can use recur and recur-to, which feeds the messages back into the same descriptor:

> (def x {:name "foo"
          :children [{:name "bar"
                      :children [{:name "quux"}]}
                     {:name "baz"}
                     {:name "baz"}]})
> (query-seq
      (n/group-by :name
        {:rate n/rate
         :children [:children n/concat n/recur]}))
{"foo" {:rate 1,
        :children {"bar" {:rate 1,
                          :children {"quux" {:rate 1,
                                             :children nil}}},
                   "baz" {:rate 2,
                          :children nil}}}}

In this operator, we group each task by their :name, first counting their frequency, but also taking the list of :children, concatenating it such that each element is propagated forward as an individual message, and then fed back into the query enclosed by recur-to.

partial and distributed analysis

It's easy to get the mean of a sequence of numbers:

> (query-seq n/mean [3 4 5])

But if we don't have all the numbers on hand (perhaps we have a giant compute cluster dedicated to the computation of mean values), this isn't what we want. In this case, we'd use the :partial mode of query-seq.

> (query-seq
    {:mode :partial}
    [3 4 5])
[12.0 3]

Here, instead of simply getting a number representing the mean, we get a 2-tuple containing the sum and count of the input sequence. This 2-tuple can be combined via addition with other such partially aggregated values, and only once we want the actual mean will we divide the sum by the count.

This combination and division can be done via narrator.query/combiner, which for a given operator returns a function that takes a sequence of partially aggregated values, and returns the final value:

> (def c (combiner n/mean))

> (c [[12.0 3] [36.0 9]])

Note that while the partial aggregation for mean can be represented as a simple data structure, other operators require a more opaque representation. In these cases, Narrator will encode these values in a serializable form which is compatible with JSON, EDN, and most other formats:

> (query-seq 
    {:mode :partial} 
    [1 2 3])

This mechanism can be used to do distributed stream analysis (via frameworks like Storm), OLAP cube-style aggregations, and in a variety of other applications.

streaming analysis

For realtime analysis, narrator.query/query-stream can be used in place of query-seq. This will accept seqs, core.async channels, Lamina channels, and Java BlockingQueues. It will return a Manifold source, which can be coerced back into a core.async channel et al.

available operators

rate, sum, group-by, concat, and recur are demonstrated above.

filter behaves much like the Clojure function:

> (query-seq (n/filter even?) (range 10))
(0 2 4 6 8)

sample can be used to periodically emit a representative sampling of the incoming stream:

> (query-seq (n/sample {:sample-size 10}) (range 1000))
(527 161 55 522 173 312 149 664 449 570)

If the values are numbers, quantiles can be used to give the statistical distribution of values:

> (query-seq n/quantiles (range 1000))
{0.999 999.0, 0.99 990.0, 0.95 950.0, 0.9 900.0, 0.5 500.0}

Note that these values are approximate, using the Q-Digest algorithm to extract a representative sample from the stream.

The mean value of the numbers can be determined using mean:

> (query-seq n/mean (range 1000))

The difference between successive values can be determined using delta. The first value will always be emitted as-is.

> (query-seq n/delta (range 5 10))
(5 1 1 1 1)

To filter out only values which have changed, use transitions.

> (query-seq n/transitions [1 1 2 2 2 3 3])
(1 2 3)

The most recent value within a period, or overall, can be determined using latest:

> (query-seq n/latest (range 10))

When trying to remove duplicate values from large datasets, the memory cost can be quite high. Using Bloom Filters, quasi-distinct-by allows approximate duplicate removal using much less memory, with tunable error rates. The facet used for duplicate checks must be a string or keyword:

> (query-seq (n/quasi-distinct-by identity) [:a :a :b :c])
[:a :b :c]

Measuring cardinality of a large dataset can also be very memory intensive. Using the HyperLogLog cardinality estimation algorithm, this can be greatly reduced. quasi-cardinality allows estimation of the unique number of elements within a stream, where those elements may be strings, keywords, bytes, or numbers.

> (query-seq n/quasi-cardinality (concat (range 10) (range 10)))

A moving-windowed variant of any operator may be defined via (moving interval operator). This requires that a :timestamp be specified, so that the window may be moved.

> (map :value
      (n/moving 3 n/rate)
      {:timestamp identity :period 1}
      (range 10)))
(1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3)

defining your own operators

Narrator allows for two kinds of operators: processors and aggregators. A processor will emit zero or more messages for each message it receives, while an aggregator will only emit one message per interval.

A processor can be defined as just a bare function, which will emit the result of the function for each message received. To define an arbitrary mapping between incoming and outgoing messages, a clojure.core.reducer function may be given to narrator.core/reducer-op.

Many aggregators may be defined as a monoid, which is simpler than it may seem. For instance, a sum aggregator may be defined using narrator.core/monoid-aggregator:

  :initial (fn [] 0)
  :combine +)

In this, we've defined an initial state, and a function that combines any two messages or states.Since both messages and our aggregate values are numbers, our combiner function can simply be +. However, if we wanted to aggregate a list of all messages, we will need to make each message look like a list. Do do this, we can define a pre-processor:

  :initial (constantly (list))
  :pre-processor list
  :combine concat)

Here, we make sure each message is now a list of one message, before combining them all together via concatenation.

However, sometimes it's too inefficient or simply not possible to define our aggregator as a monoid. In this case, we can use narrator.core/stream-aggregator-generator:

  :combine (fn [sums] (reduce + sums))
  :concurrent? true
  :create (fn []
            (let [cnt (atom 0)]
                :process (fn [msgs] (swap! cnt + (reduce + msgs)))
                :deref (fn [] (deref cnt))
                :reset (fn [] (reset! cnt 0))))))

This is equivalent to the sum example given above. Here, we've defined a generator that will create aggregators for our query. The generator says it is :concurrent?, so the stream of messages can be processed in parallel. It also defines a :combine function, which takes a sequence of values from the sub-aggregators and returns a single value.

The :create callback returns an instance of the aggregator via narrator.core/stream-aggregator. This aggregator closes over an atom containing the sum, and defines a :process callback that takes a sequence of messages and adds them to the count. It defines a :deref function that returns the current count, and an optional :reset function which is called at the beginning of each new query interval.

For each instance of the aggregator, the :process callback is guaranteed to only be called on one thread, so non-thread-safe operations and data structures can be used. Likewise, :deref and :reset are guaranteed not to be called while messages are being processed, so no mutual exclusion is necessary.

Given these invariants, very high throughput message processing is possible, with automatic parallelization wherever possible. The built-in operators in Narrator take full advantage of this.

Full documentation can be found here.


Copyright © 2013 Zachary Tellman

Distributed under the MIT License


expressive, composable stream analysis






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