Airbnb offers a query tool for unlocking massive data sets

Airbnb is known for its home rental services, but check out its tool for opening data warehouses

AirBnB's Airpal makes data analysis easier with a intuitive graphical user interface

AirBnB's Airpal makes data analysis easier with a intuitive graphical user interface

Airbnb has open-sourced a tool that allows its non-technical employees to work like data scientists, and it hopes others will use the software to more effectively mine their own data

Airbnb's Airpal application, when linked with the PrestoDB open source query engine developed by Facebook, could provide a lower cost alternative to a data warehouse, or a more friendly interface for accessing large swaths of data stored in a Hadoop cluster.

"We think of Airpal as being a supercharger on top of PrestoDB, which takes Presto from being a command line only for computer scientists to a first class tool for all the employees in a company," said James Mayfield[cq], Airbnb product manager.

Airbnb has been using Airpal for about a year. About a third of its employees have used the tool to query internal data, a far greater proportion than it anticipated, Mayfield said.

The software offers a GUI for exploring the company's operational data, about a half petabyte's worth. The data is managed by the Apache Hive data warehouse software and resides on a Hadoop file system. PrestoDB provides the ability to search this Hive data using the SQL (Structured Query Language).

While well-known by database administrators and programmers, SQL can confound most non-computer science-types. Airpal provides a more intuitive way of searching the data, according to Mayfield.

Data is a big part of the company's business. Airbnb was founded in 2008 to provide a way for people to rent their dwellings or individual rooms to travelers. Using the Web and a set of mobile apps, the company has facilitated 25 million bookings in 34,000 cities.

Airpal has helped Airbnb "democratize its data," Mayfield said, referring to how any Airnb employee, not just dedicated business analysts, can explore the company's data.

"It is always great to be able to build a product informed by metrics, rather than just one based on introspection or guesses," Mayfield said.

The software can answer questions an employee may have about the company's operations. How many bookings did Airbnb get on a given day? How many people are staying at an Airbnb location tonight? How many listings are there in any given market, city or neighborhood? How many of the users speak German, or Spanish?

Users can submit their queries using a Web browser. Results are returned as a CSV file, so they can be easily digested by a spreadsheet or an internal application. They can search for database tables and access a database's metadata, schemas and sample rows. Searches can be saved to be run again, and new tables can be created from queries.

For Airbnb administrators, the Airpal/PrestoDB stack eliminated a considerable amount of middleware that would be needed to execute these complex queries.

Prior to using the Airpal/PrestoDB combo, Airbnb used Amazon Web Service's Redshift service.

Redshift requires a set of ETL (Extract, transform and load) tools to prepare the data. It had a limit on how many queries can be run at once, which could limit wider use of the data. Also, Airbnb developers found the Redshift error messages to be obtuse, making it difficult to debug issues, said Andy Kramolisch, AirBnB software engineer.

Airbnb will explain AirPal in greater detail March 19 at a Presto meetup on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, California.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Development toolsapplication developmentAirbnbsoftware

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?