Cluster 101: Building your first dumb cluster

I would like to introduce you tonight to a x-part series (I don’t know how many parts there are at the moment, we will see as time progresses) entitled “How to build a www cluster in x days“.

In this series, we will be looking at a wide variety of different techniques that can be used to create a cluster for hosting your next large project on.
When I talk about clusters, I like to categorise them into two particular sections: dumb and intellegent clusters. A dumb cluster is a group of machines that essentially know very little of their surroundings. They do not take into account how many machines are currently running, where the machines are located or how the data is to be devlivered to it’s location. Put simply: you set it up, and it works. No complex heartbeat configurations (except when necessary) and nothing fancy.
Intelligent clusters on the other hand know alot of information about where other machines on the network are. They know where the vistor to the website is coming from, and what the fastest way is to deliver content to that user.
Put simply: a “dumb cluster” is a group of machines that are set up to deliver content. If one machine goes down, the load balancer will detect this and bring that node out of the server pool until it is reported back up again. an “intelegent cluster” knows where the user is visiting. It can take into consideration what the shortest internet route is to it’s desired location, or what route should be taken to get the best availible speeds.
In this series, we will be looking more at the dumb clustering side of things. Dumb clusters are easy to set up, and well, if you really want an intellegent cluster, hire me :] So lets look at what we are going to discuss in this series.
  1. Setting up our first webserver
  2. Setting up our shared filesystem
  3. Setting up our http/https load balancer
  4. Setting up our mail server
  5. Setting up our backup system
  6. Setting up our mysql cluster
  7. Setting up our shell server
  8. Setting up our TCP/IP load balancer
For the purpose of writing this series, I will be using Xen installed on my machine, using CentOS 5.4 as the base opperating system. At any one time, I will have up to five domains running on Xen. I will be testing loads and response times using my laptop.
Stay tuned, the first part of the series comes on Tuesday.

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