Part II. Distributed Data

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Richard Feynman, Rogers Commission Report (1986)

In Part I of this book, we discussed aspects of data systems that apply when data is stored on a single machine. Now, in Part II, we move up a level and ask: what happens if multiple machines are involved in storage and retrieval of data?

There are various reasons why you might want to distribute a database across multiple machines:


If your data volume, read load, or write load grows bigger than a single machine can handle, you can potentially spread the load across multiple machines.

Fault tolerance/high availability

If your application needs to continue working even if one machine (or several machines, or the network, or an entire datacenter) goes down, you can use multiple machines to give you redundancy. When one fails, another one can take over.


If you have users around the world, you might want to have servers at various locations worldwide so that each user can be served from a datacenter that is geographically close to them. That avoids the users having to wait for network packets to travel halfway around the world.

Scaling to Higher Load

If all you need is to scale to higher load, the simplest approach is to buy a more powerful machine (sometimes called vertical scaling or scaling up). Many CPUs, many RAM chips, and many disks can be joined together ...

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