Data-intensive applications are increasingly designed to execute on large computing clusters. Grouped aggregation is a core primitive of many distributed programming models, and it is often the most efficient available mechanism for computations such as matrix multiplication and graph traversal. Such algorithms typically require non-standard aggregations that are more sophisticated than traditional built-in database functions such as Sum and Max. As a result, the ease of programming user-defined aggregations, and the efficiency of their implementation, is of great current interest.

This paper evaluates the interfaces and implementations for user-defined aggregation in several state of the art distributed computing systems: Hadoop, databases such as Oracle Parallel Server, and DryadLINQ. We show that: the degree of language integration between user-defined functions and the high-level query language has an impact on code legibility and simplicity; the choice of programming interface has a material effect on the performance of computations; some execution plans perform better than others on average; and that in order to get good performance on a variety of workloads a system must be able to select between execution plans depending on the computation. The interface and execution plan described in the MapReduce paper, and implemented by Hadoop, are found to be among the worst-performing choices.