Consistent Hashing

To scale incrementally, Distributed Databases need a mechanism to dynamically partition over a set of nodes. Consistent Hashing is one of them: it allows to distribute load across several nodes.

"Regular" hashing

  • need assign $M$ data keys to $N$ servers
  • assign each key to server number $k \text{ mod } N$

What happens if we increase a number of serves from $N$ to $2N$? Every existent key will have to be remapped.

Consistent Hashing approach

  • In consistent hashing a hash function is viewed as a ring: largest hash values wrap around to smallest
  • The ring is divided onto $N$ regions ($N$ - number of servers)
  • Each server has its own key region (its "position" on the ring)
  • $\Rightarrow$ adding or removing a node affects only direct neighbors


for example

  • the key region for 2nd server is the area between 1 and 2
  • and only 2 is responsible for keys in that region

Suppose we want to add a new server

  • we just pick some area
  • and divide it on 2 parts
  • and then assign the new server one of these two
  • the keys that happen to be in that region are moved to the new server


So routing is simple in this schema:

  • each server knows the key range which it manages
  • so we can route the request to the server that is closes to the key we're looking for

Virtual Nodes

There are some challenges with this basic approach

  • random position assignment may lead to non-uniform data/load distribution
  • heterogeneity is performance is assumed (that is, we assume that all the servers have same performance)

A variant of Consistent Hashing algorithm addresses this issue:

  • instead of mapping a single node to the ring,
  • each node gets multiple points there
  • so each node has several virtual nodes

A virtual node looks like a single node, but it refers to the real node.


  • if a node becomes unavailable, the load is distributes across the remained nodes uniformly (not just the closest neighbor gets all the load)
  • and when a new node is added, it gets roughly equivalent amount of load from each node
  • number of virtual nodes is chosen based on the capabilities of a node


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