When computing with really large data sets, such as in the earth or life sciences, it is usually easier to pass the function rather than the data. Marlet is a work-flow language for distributed data analysis; it is based on the principles of functional programming and allows the user to operate while abstracting the underlying system. The user provides abstract functions that are converted to concrete functions at runtime when concrete data is available.
While similar in spirit to Google’s MapReduce, Martlet is more general in that it does not require a specific programming methodology. And despite the fact that the research into Martlet was originally geared towards grid computing, it is feasible that it could be applied to other interests in web services or possibly even large corporate data centers.
As a personal note, Martlet was created by Daniel Goodman, my old officemate at Oxford. He explains that the name for the project comes from the type of bird featured on the crest at Worcester College.