Cascading is a data processing API and processing query planner used for defining, sharing, and executing data processing workflows. On a distributed computing cluster using the Apache Hadoop platform, Cascading adds an abstraction layer over the Hadoop API, greatly simplifying Hadoop application development, job creation, and job scheduling.

Cascading was developed to allow organizations to rapidly develop complex data processing applications with Hadoop. The need for Cascading is typically driven by one of two cases:

  • Increasing data size exceeds the processing capacity of a single computing system. In response, developers may adopt Apache Hadoop as the base computing infrastructure, but discover that developing useful applications on Hadoop is not trivial. Cascading eases the burden on these developers and allows them to rapidly create, refactor, test, and execute complex applications that scale linearly across a cluster of computers.
  • Increasing process complexity in data centers results in one-off data processing applications sprawling haphazardly onto any available disk space or CPU. In this scenario, Cascading eases the learning curve for developers as they convert their existing applications for execution on a Hadoop cluster for its reliability and scalability. In addition, Cascading lets developers create reusable libraries and applications for use by analysts, who use them to extract data from the Hadoop file system.

Since Cascading's creation, a number of Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) have emerged as query languages that wrap the Cascading APIs, allowing developers and analysts to create ad-hoc queries for data mining and exploration. These DSLs coupled with Cascading local-mode allow users to rapidly query and analyze reasonably large datasets on their local systems before executing them at scale in a production environment.