A few hours after I posted about DataSift architecture, @choult, one of the about 25 ninjas who develop DataSift platform, tweet me.

The following SlideShare presentation by @stuherbert, another ninja, talks about the use of PHP in DataSift. Unlike what you may think, PHP is widely used in data processing.


System is decomposable in three major data pipelines:

  • Data Archiving (Adds new data to Historic Archive)
  • Filtering Pipeline (Filtering and delivery data in realtime)
  • Playback Pipeline (Filtering and delivery data from Historic Archive)

And PHP is used for many parts of these.


They use a custom build of PHP 5.3.latest with several optimizations and compiled-in extensions (ZeroMQ, APC, XHProof, Redis, XDebug). The also develop some internal components:

  • Frink, tweetrmeme’s framework
  • Stone: foundation of in-house test tools, Hornet and Storyteller (they probably open source a fork named Storyplayer).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find more details about these. Anyway, here is the presentation:


DataSift, as they said on their home page, “aggregate, process and deliver social data“. It is one of the oldest Twitter certified partners and offers data coming from almost every existing social network. I use it everyday to “listen” the net and find data I need for my analysis.

It’s impressive to watch how fast they collect data from external sources and deliver it to your chosen destination. When I tweet, a couple of minutes ago a JSON file land my S3 bucket.

To create an Internet scale filtering is not easy. Their infrastructure is really complex and optimized. This is a 2011 diagram of their workflow.


Twitter generates more than 500 million tweets per day and is only one of the available resources. The DataSift system performs 250+ million sentiment analysis with sub 100ms latency, and several TB of augmented (includes gender, sentiment, etc) data transits the platform daily. Data Filtering Nodes Can process up to 10,000 unique streams. Can do data-lookup’s on 10,000,000+ username lists in real-time. Links Augmentation Performs 27 million link resolves + lookups plus 15+ million full web page aggregations per day.

C++ is used for the performance-critical components, like the core filtering engine and PHP is for the site, external API server, most of the internal web services, and a custom-built, high performance job queue manager. Java/Scala for batch processing with HBase and MapReduce jobs. Kafka is used as queuing system and Ruby is used for deploys and provisioning. Thrift is widely used.

MySQL (Percona server) on SSD drives is used as primary storage, HBase cluster over more than 30 Hadoop nodes provides a place to store historical data and Memcached and Redis are used for caching.

Here is a schema of the processing unit which build the historical database.


Message queues are another critical component of the infrastructure. 0mq (custom build from latest alpha branch, with some stability fixes, to use publisher-side filtering), used in different configurations:

  • PUB-SUB for replication / message broadcasting;
  • PUSH-PULL for round-robin workload distribution;
  • REQ-REP for health checks of different components.

Kafka for high-performance persistent queues. In both cases they’re working with the developers and contributing bug reports / traces / fixes / client libraries.

All code is pulled from the repo from Jenkins every 5 mins, automatically tested and verified with several QA tools, packaged as an RPM and moved to the dev package repo. Chef is used to automate deployments and manage configuration. All services emit StatsD events, which are combined with other system-level checks, added to Zenoss and displayed with Graphite.

The biggest challenge IMHO is filtering. Filtering at this scale requires a different approach. They started with work they did at TweetMeme. The core filter engine is in C++ and is called the Pickle Matrix. Over three years they’ve developed a compiler and their own virtual machine. We don’t know what their technology is exactly, but it might be something like Distributed Complex Event Processing with Query Rewriting.


Almost all content of this post come from the wonderful article “DataSift Architecture: Realtime Datamining At 120,000 Tweets Per Second” posted on HighScalability. Some details also from “Historical Architecture – Data Mining Billions of Tweets” from DataSift blog.