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Distributed computing, clusters and high-availability solutions

A Unix-to-Linux expert describes educational resources about distributed computing, clusters and high-availability solutions for a user who is considering a move to Linux from Unix.

I'm considering a migration to Linux and am looking for information on distributed computing, clusters and highly-available, large scale replicated infrastructures. These infrastructures consist of many identical machines that are dynamically allocated services, based on availability and demand. Can you suggest some resources for information?

There are many different types of clusters when it comes to Linux. You'll need to determine whether or not you are looking for high-availability, optimum performance or load balancing. The solution will depend on your requirements. For example, the well-known Beowulf cluster is a group of computers running Linux, or other Unix-like operating systems, such as BSD. They are networked and contain shared libraries. Unlike a cluster of workstations,...

the Beowulf cluster behaves more like a single computer. All of its nodes are dedicated to the cluster and server and have no other purpose.

The Linux-HA project essentially offers an high- availability solution for Linux-based systems. The Linux-HA project's Heartbeat software is used to manage its high-availability, and can be used to build either large or small clusters. Regarding load balancing, look into Linux Virtual Server, which is a scalable server built atop a cluster of real servers with the load balancer running on Linux. Users run Linux Virtual Server as if it was on one high-performance virtual server. In some ways, it is like a Beowulf cluster, with a load balancer thrown in for good measure. I've written an article recently on clustering and grids that you might find helpful, too.

This was first published in May 2007

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