The usability of computers increase every year as technology constantly evolves to something better. The computer that was presented almost a decade ago cannot even do a fraction of what a computer does today. From simple document creation and editing to complicated movie editing, a computer could virtually do it all today. No one really knows what a computer could do after five years but it will surely make everyone’s lives a little better as technology provides better assistance to a consumer’s way of life.
But our needs cannot be easily met by a single computer. As applications continue to evolve, it will require more powerful computers and unfortunately, there are times that the latest hardware configuration could not keep up with the demands of the application.
To answer the hardware problem, clustering is born. Although the exact date of the first implementation of clustering cannot be easily determined, it can be said that clustering was born out of a need. The available hardware cannot easily keep up with the developed applications.
In gist, clustering is a technique of connecting different computers together so that a more powerful computing device could be achieved. Individually, a computer may not be able to fully harness the application or provide an efficient service but when computers are clustered, they become a more powerful computing device.
Types of Clustering
There are four forms of clustering wherein each form caters to a specific need. They are; Load Balancing, High Availability, Grid Computing and Compute Clusters.
• Load Balancing – This type of clustering connects the computers (usually referred to as nodes) wherein each computer provide unified workload. Each node will have a specific workload so that each computer could work efficiently as it will not work on additional function. The advantage of load balancing is the fact that it is always optimized to work while its disadvantage is the higher need of maintenance. If one node will not work, clustering will not be possible.
• High Availability – High availability focuses on the nodes ability to be fully available under any circumstances. The functions could be implemented by each node wherein each node becomes a back-up to another node in case something wrong happens. High availability is also referred to as failover clusters or clusters with high redundancy level. The advantage is, of course, on its promise of stability. However, this type of clustering might not use the full potential of nodes as some could be used only as a back-up.
• Grid Computing – This type of cluster refers to the behavior of nodes. In grid computing, nodes rarely communicate with each other as they only provide an output.
• Clusters for Computations – The nodes in this form of cluster communicate extensively as they are often used for extensive computations. Since a single node does not have the hardware capability of providing the needed data on time, a number of nodes will be connected together in order to provide results that are expected and on time.
A highly efficient cluster will usually have nodes that are physically together. The nodes should be placed in one area so that the highest output could be achieved. However, there are times that there are never enough nodes in one area. For that reason, virtual clusters are created. Different nodes are connected even though they are geographically separated. Although it is not as efficient compared to clusters wherein the nodes are found in one place, virtual clusters have been proven to provide efficiency especially when the clusters are only considered for storage purposes.
Software and Support
Clustering is not just an active connection between nodes. Specific software should be implemented to ensure clustering. Software giants such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have released software for cluster implementations. On the other hand, open source technologies to support clustering also exist especially in load balancing and high availability clustering. There are also softwares that support clustering based on specific functions or use of nodes.
Clustering is a very efficient way of harnessing the latest technology so that data and functions could be efficiently provided to the users. Depending on the need, there are specific clustering forms to be utilized. With the help of proper software, clustering could be harnessed to the fullest extent for the advantage of users.