Tutorial on Linux Clustering (High Availability)

Concept of Clustering :

The concept of a cluster is that the cluster itself appears on the outside as a single system. A cluster consists of two or more Real Computers referred to as nodes or members of a cluster. The components of a cluster are commonly, but not always, connected to  each other through fast Local Area Networks.

Clusters are usually deployed to  improve performance and/or availability  over that provided by a single computer, while typically being much more cost-effective than single computers of comparable speed or availability. Clustering is all about the back-end  operations being performed by the  nodes or members which appear to the  outside world as a single computational entity.

Types of Clusters
  • High Performance Clusters
  • High Availability Clusters
  • Load Balancing Clusters
  • Storage Clusters
High Performance Clusters (HPC) :

Multiple nodes in cluster perform concurrent calculations. There are two key benefits of High Performance (or grid) computing :

  • Resilience : As long as even a single member of a cluster is running, services continue to be provided by the cluster.
  • Increased Capacity : The more nodes added to the cluster, the more computing horsepower is available and therefore very powerful computers can be built using commodity hardware.
High Availability Clusters (HA) :

High-availability clusters  provide  continuous availability of services by  eliminating single points of failure and by failing over services from one cluster node  to another in case a node becomes  inoperative. High-availability clusters are sometimes referred to as failover clusters. Red Hat Cluster Suite provides high-availability clustering through its High-availability Service Management component.

Load Balancing Clusters :

Load Balancing Clusters operate by having  all workload come through one or more  load balancing front-ends, which then distribute it to a collection of back end servers. If a node in a load-balancing cluster  becomes inoperative, the load balancing software detects the failure and redirects  requests to other cluster nodes. Red Hat Cluster Suite provides load- balancing through LVS (Linux Virtual Server).

Storage Clusters :

Storage clusters provide a consistent file system image across servers in a cluster, allowing the servers to simultaneously read and write to a single shared file system. With a cluster-wide file system, a storage cluster eliminates the need for redundant copies of application data and simplifies  backup and disaster recovery. Red Hat Cluster Suite provides storage clustering through Red Hat GFS(Global File System).

Why We Need HA Clusters ?

24×7 Mission Critical Services have the following requirements:

  •  Scalability: When workload increases, the system must scale up to meet the requirements.
  •  Availability: The service must always be on and available, despite hardware and software failures.
  • Cost-effective: The whole system must be economical to build and expand.
  • Manageability: Although the whole  system may be big in physical size, it should be easy to manage.
Understanding HA Clustering

HA Clustering often uses the following  terms :

  • Active/Active Clustering
  • Active/Passive Clustering
  • Failover Clustering
  • Failsafe Clustering

The terms Active/Active & Active/Passive Clustering mean different things to different people. It is better to use Failover and  Failsafe terms to describe an HA Cluster.

Failover Clusters : Multiple members (nodes) can be a part of the cluster  One or more services is (are) active on a  given member at any given time Upon failure, the services and associated resources fail over to other member(s) in  the cluster During this  failover, depending on the application and service structure, end users might experience a session break

Failsafe Clusters : Multiple members (nodes) can be a part of the cluster  Services are active on all members Upon failure, the cluster infrastructure simply stops sending requests to the failed node and directs these to the active node.

Active Passive Terminology

Active/Passive Terminology generally refers to failover clusters running  only one service

Active/Active Terminology can be used to refer to : Failover clusters with multiple servers  such that all cluster members are  hosting at least one service

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