Apache Hadoop 2.4.1 consists of significant improvements over the previous stable release (hadoop-1.x).
Here is a short overview of the improvments to both HDFS and MapReduce.
In order to scale the name service horizontally, federation uses multiple independent Namenodes/Namespaces. The Namenodes are federated, that is, the Namenodes are independent and don't require coordination with each other. The datanodes are used as common storage for blocks by all the Namenodes. Each datanode registers with all the Namenodes in the cluster. Datanodes send periodic heartbeats and block reports and handles commands from the Namenodes.
More details are available in the HDFS Federation document.
The new architecture introduced in hadoop-0.23, divides the two major functions of the JobTracker: resource management and job life-cycle management into separate components.
The new ResourceManager manages the global assignment of compute resources to applications and the per-application ApplicationMaster manages the application‚ scheduling and coordination.
An application is either a single job in the sense of classic MapReduce jobs or a DAG of such jobs.
The ResourceManager and per-machine NodeManager daemon, which manages the user processes on that machine, form the computation fabric.
The per-application ApplicationMaster is, in effect, a framework specific library and is tasked with negotiating resources from the ResourceManager and working with the NodeManager(s) to execute and monitor the tasks.
More details are available in the YARN document.