MapReduce is a programming model and an associated implementation for processing and generating big data sets with a parallel, distributed algorithm on a cluster.

A MapReduce program is composed of a map procedure, which performs filtering and sorting (such as sorting students by first name into queues, one queue for each name), and a reduce method, which performs a summary operation (such as counting the number of students in each queue, yielding name frequencies). The “MapReduce System” (also called “infrastructure” or “framework”) orchestrates the processing by marshalling the distributed servers, running the various tasks in parallel, managing all communications and data transfers between the various parts of the system, and providing for redundancy and fault tolerance. The use of this model is beneficial only when the optimized distributed shuffle operation (which reduces network communication cost) and fault tolerance features of the MapReduce framework come into play. Optimizing the communication cost is essential to a good MapReduce algorithm.

MapReduce libraries have been written in many programming languages, with different levels of optimization. A popular open-source implementation that has support for distributed shuffles is part of Apache Hadoop. The name MapReduce originally referred to the proprietary Google technology, but has since been genericized.