Community Blog Applying Machine Learning to Big Data Processing

Applying Machine Learning to Big Data Processing

This blog discusses some applications of machine learning in big data including data processing, census data analyzing, and the pipelines machine learning.

This tutorial will discuss the preprocessing aspect of the machine learning pipeline, coving the ways in which data in handled, paying special attention to the techniques of standardization, normalization, feature selection and extraction, and data reduction. Last, this tutorial goes over how you can implement these techniques in a simple way.

This is part of a series of blog tutorials that discuss the basics of machine learning.

Data in the real world can be messy or incomplete, often riddled with errors. Finding insights or solving problems with such data can be extremely tedious and difficult. Therefore, it is important that data is converted into a format that is understandable before it can be processed. This is essentially what data preprocessing is. It is an important piece of the puzzle because it helps in removing various kinds of inconsistencies from the data.

Some ways that data can be handled during preprocessing includes:

  1. Data cleansing: Inconsistent, duplicate, or incorrect data is corrected or removed from the data source.
  2. Data editing: The data source is edited so to get rid of problems such as data that is redundant, wrong, or even missing.
  3. Data integration: Data from different sources are combined into one source. Sources can be a database, a data cube or a flat file.
  4. Data wrangling: Also known as data munching. The format of data is changed or mapped, so to develop it from a raw data format to a format that is more suitable for the data analysis to follow.


Generally speaking, standardization can be considered as the process of implementing or developing standards based on a consensus. These standard help to maximize compatibility, repeatability, and quality, among other things. When it comes to machine learning, standardization serves as a means of making a data metric the same throughout the data. This technique can be applied to various kinds of data like pixel values for images or more specifically for medical data. Many machine learning algorithms such as support-vector machine and k-nearest neighbor uses the standardization technique to rescale the data.


Normalization is the process of reducing unwanted variation either within or between arrays of data. Min-Max scaling is one very common type of normalization technique frequently used in data preprocessing. This approach bounds a data feature into a range, usually either between 0 and 1 or between -1 and 1. This helps to create a standardized range, which makes comparisons easier and more objective. Consider the following example, you need to compare temperatures from cities from around the world. One issue is that temperatures recorded in NYC are in Fahrenheit but those in Poland are listed in Celsius. At the most fundamental level, the normalization process takes the data from each city and converts the temperatures to use the same unit of measure. Compared to standardization, normalization has smaller standard deviations due to the bounded range restriction, which works to suppress the effect of outliers.

Feature Selection and Extraction

Feature selection and extraction is a technique where either important features are built from the existing features. It serves as a process of selection of relevant features from a pool of variables.

The techniques of extraction and selection are quite different from each other. Extraction creates new features from other features, whereas selection returns a subset of most relevant features from many features. The selection technique is generally used for scenarios where there are many features, whereas the extraction technique is used when either there are few features. A very important use of feature selection is in text analysis where there many features but very few samples (these samples are the records themselves), and an important use of feature extraction is in image processing.

These techniques are mostly used because they offer the following benefits:

  1. Help to simplify the model
  2. Require shorter training time
  3. Makes for easier analysis

Data Reduction

Developing a machine learning model on large amounts of data can be a computational heavy and tedious task, therefore the data reduction is a crucial step in data preprocessing. The process of data reduction can also help in making data analysis and the mining of huge amounts of data easier and simpler. Data reduction is an important process no matter the machine learning algorithm.

Despite being thought to have a negative impact on the final results of machine learning algorithms, this is simply not true. The process of data reduction does not remove data, but rather converts the data format from one type to another for better performance. The following are some ways in which data is reduced:

  1. Binning: Creates bins (or intervals) from a number of attributes by grouping them according to common criterion.
  2. Clustering: Groups values in clusters
  3. Aggregation or generalization: Searches, gathers, and presents data in a summarized format.
  4. Sampling: Selects representative subset of the data to identify patterns and trends in the larger data set.

Learn the following content,you can refer to How to Use Preprocessing Techniques.

Related Blogs

Finding Public Data for Your Machine Learning Pipelines

This article discusses how and where you can find public data to use in machine learning pipelines that you can then use in a variety of applications.

The goal of the article is to help you find a dataset from public data that you can use for your machine learning pipeline, whether it be for a machine learning demo, proof-of-concept, or research project. It may not always be possible to collect your own data, but by using public data, you can create machine learning pipelines that can be useful for a large number of applications.

Machine Learning Requires Data

Machine learning requires data. Without data you cannot be sure a machine learning model works. However, the data you need may not always be readily available.

Data may not have been collected or labeled yet or may not be readily available for machine learning model development because of technological, budgetary, privacy, or security concerns. Especially in a business contexts, stakeholders want to see how a machine learning system will work before investing the time and money in collecting, labeling, and moving data into such a system. This makes finding substitute data necessary.

This article wants to provide some light into how to find and use public data for various machine learning applications such as machine learning demos, proofs-of-concept, or research projects. This article specifically looks into where you can find data for almost any use case, problems with synthetic data, and the potential issues with using public data. In this article, the term "public data" refers to any data posted openly on the Internet and available for use by anyone who complies with the licensing terms of the data./ This definition goes beyond what is the typical scope of "open data", which usually refers only to government-released data.

Be Careful When It Comes to Synthetic Data

One solution to these data needs is to generate synthetic data, or fake data to use layman's terms. Sometimes this is safe. But synthetic data is usually inappropriate for machine learning use cases because most datasets are too complex to fake correctly. More to the point, using synthetic data can also lead to misunderstandings during the development phase about how your machine learning model will perform with the intended data as you move onwards.

In a professional context using synthetic data is especially risky. If a model trained with synthetic data has worse performance than a model trained with the intended data, stakeholders may dismiss your work even though the model would have met their needs, in reality. If a model trained with synthetic data performs better than a model trained with the intended data, you create unrealistic expectations. Generally, you rarely know how the performance of your model will change when it is trained with a different dataset until you train it with that dataset.

Thus, using synthetic data creates a burden to communicate that any discussions of model performance are purely speculative. Model performance on substitute data is speculative as well, of course, but a model trained on a well-chosen substitute dataset will give closer performance to actual model trained on the intended data than a model trained on synthetic data.

If you feel you understand the intended data well enough to generate an essentially perfect synthetic dataset, then it is pointless to use machine learning since you already can predict the outlines. That is, the data you use for training should be random and used to see what the possible outcomes of this data, not to confirm what you already clearly know.

When to Use Synthetic Data

It is sometimes necessary to use synthetic data. It can be useful to use synthetic data in the following scenarios:

  1. You need to demonstrate something at terabyte scale (there is a shortage of terabyte-scale public datasets).
  2. You created a machine learning model or pipeline with internal data, are open sourcing the code, but cannot release the internal data.
  3. You are building a reinforcement learning model, and require a simulated environment to train the model.
  4. You are conducting fundamental machine learning research, and require data that is clearly understood.

Generating large scale datasets

Be cautious when algorithmically generating data to demonstrate model training on large datasets. Many machine learning algorithms made for training models on large datasets are considerably optimized. These algorithms may detect simplistic (or overly noisy) data and train much faster than on real data.

Methodologies for generating synthetic data at large scale are beyond the scope of this guide. Google has released code to generate large-scale datasets. This code is well-suited for use cases like benchmarking the performance of schema-specific queries or data processing jobs. If the process you are testing is agnostic to the actual data values, it is usually safe to test with synthetic data.

Learning Machine Learning, Part 3: Application

This post features a basic introduction to machine learning (ML). You don’t need any prior knowledge about ML to get the best out of this article.

This post features a basic introduction to machine learning (ML). You don’t need any prior knowledge about ML to get the best out of this article. Before getting started, let’s address this question: "Is ML so important that I really need to read this post?"

Machine Learning Applications

After introducing Machine Learning and discussing the various techniques used to deliver its capabilities, let’s move on to its applications in related fields: big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep thinking.

Big Data

Before 2010, Machine Learning applications played a significant role in specific fields, such as license plate recognition, cyber-attack prevention, and handwritten character recognition. After 2010, a significant number of Machine Learning applications were coupled with big data which then provided the optimal environment for Machine Learning applications.

The magic of big data mainly revolves around how big data can make highly accurate predictions. For example, Google used big data to predict the outbreak of H1N1 in specific U.S. cities. For the 2014 World Cup, Baidu accurately predicted match results, from the elimination round to the final game.This is amazing, but what gives big data such power?

Machine Learning technology.

At the heart of big data is its ability to extract value from data, and Machine Learning is a key technology that makes it possible. For Machine Learning, more data enables more accurate models. At the same time, the computing time needed by complex algorithms requires distributed computing, in-memory computing, and other technology. Therefore, the rise of Machine Learning is inextricably intertwined with lbig data.

However, big data is not the same as Machine Learning. Big data includes distributed computing, memory database, multi-dimensional analysis, and other

It involves the following four analysis methods:

  1. Big data, retain analysis: OLAP analysis thinking in the data warehousing field (multi-dimensional analysis ideas)
  2. Big data, big analysis: Data mining and Machine Learning analysis methods
  3. Stream analysis: Event-driven architecture
  4. Query analysis: NoSQL databases

Analyzing Census Data Using Alibaba Cloud's Machine Learning Platform

A census is an official survey of a population that records the details of individuals in various aspects. Through census data, we can measure the correlation of certain characteristics of the population, such as the impact of education on income level. This assessment can be made based on other attributes such as age, geographical location, and gender. In this article, we will show you how to set up the Alibaba Cloud Machine Learning Platform for AI product to perform a similar experiment using census data.

Dataset Introduction

Data source: UCI open source dataset Adult is a census result for a certain region in the United States, with a total of 32,561 instances. The detailed fields are as follows:
detailed fields

Data Source Preparation

Upload the data to MaxCompute via machine learning IDE or Command line tool Tunnel. Read the data through the Read Table component (Data source - Demographics in the figure). Then right click on the component to view the data, as shown below.
Data source - Demographics in the figure

Data Statistics

Through the full table statistics and numerical distribution statistics (data view and histogram component in the experiment), it can be determined whether a piece of data conforms to the Poisson distribution or the Gaussian distribution, and whether it is continuous or discrete.

Each component of Alibaba Cloud Machine Learning provides result visualization. The figure below is the output of the histogram component of the numerical statistics, in which the distribution of each input record can be clearly seen.

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Use RAPIDS to accelerate machine learning tasks on a GPU instance

This topic describes how to use the NGC-based Real-time Acceleration Platform for Integrated Data Science (RAPIDS) libraries that are installed on a GPU instance to accelerate tasks for data science and machine learning as well as improve the efficiency of computing resources.


RAPIDS is an open-source suite of data processing and machine learning libraries developed by NVIDIA that enables GPU-acceleration for data science workflows and machine learning. For more information about RAPIDS, visit the RAPIDS website.

NVIDIA GPU Cloud (NGC) is a deep learning ecosystem developed by NVIDIA to provide developers with free access to deep learning and machine learning software stacks to build corresponding development environments. The NGC website provides RAPIDS Docker images, which come pre-installed with development environments.

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Data preprocessing

Weighted sampling

Sampling data is generated in the weighted mode. The weight column must be of Double or Int type. Sampling is performed based on the value of the weight column. For example, data with a col value of 1.2 has a higher probability to be sampled than data with a col value of 1.0.

Parameter settings

  1. You can manually enter the number of samples (or the sampling ratio).
  2. You can choose whether to enable sampling with replacement, which is disabled by default. To enable it, select the checkbox.
  3. Select the weighted column from the drop-down list. The weighted column supports the double and bigint types.
  4. The random seed can be configured. By default, it is automatically assigned.

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