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What Is a Clustered File System?

By Alex Newth
Updated: May 16, 2024

A clustered file system is similar to a regular file system in function, but it is stored on many servers instead of just one. One advantage to using a clustered file system is that much more memory is available to the file system. This system also is more scalable than most other single-server file systems. At the same time, this file system can get very complex, and more servers increase the complexity. This means some users may have difficulty managing this file system.

When it comes to functionality, a clustered file system is about the same as any other file system. It serves as a way for the computer to store and organize data, and programmers are able to customize the system for the network’s specific needs. The difference comes in how this file system is stored. Most file systems use only one server or just the computer’s local hardware, but a clustered system usually is network-based and is stored on two or more servers simultaneously.

The addition of extra servers used with a clustered file system dramatically increases the amount of memory available to the file system. If users add more servers to the network, then this can further increase storage capacity. Despite the file system being used on many different servers, the file system itself does not require much memory to use, so most of the memory is open for files and applications.

Along with increased memory, a clustered file system also boasts increased scalability and stability. With a regular file system, the system can only increase to the maximum capacity of the server. While users can add stronger hardware to the server, the server’s potential eventually will peak. Clustered systems are infinitely scalable, because users can just add a new server to increase the scale of the system. This means stability also is indirectly increased.

While increased memory and scalability generally are beneficial, there is a problem with using a clustered file system. As more servers are added and as the system increases in size, it also becomes more complex. This is because the file system must be programmed in a way so it can evenly work across all the servers, and the programming footprint increases with more servers. This should not be much of an issue in the hands of an experienced programmer, but it can be difficult for inexperienced users.

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