Consistent hashing is a scheme that provides hash table functionality in a way that the addition or removal of one slot does not significantly change the mapping of keys to slots. In contrast, in most traditional hash tables, a change in the number of array slots causes nearly all keys to be remapped. By using consistent hashing, only K/n keys need to be remapped on average, where K is the number of keys, and n is the number of slots.
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Consistent hashing was introduced in 1997 as a way of distributing requests among a changing population of web servers. Each slot is then represented by a node in a distributed system. The addition (joins) and removal (leaves/failures) of nodes only requires K/n items to be reshuffled when the number of slots/nodes change. More recently it has been used to reduce the impact of partial system failures in large web applications as to allow for robust caches without incurring the system wide fallout of a failure ^{[1]} ^{[2]}.
More recently, consistent hashing has been applied in the design of distributed hash tables (DHTs). DHTs use consistent hashing to partition a keyspace among a distributed set of nodes, and additionally provide an overlay network which connects nodes such that the node responsible for any key can be efficiently located.
Consistent hashing is based on mapping items to a real angle (or equivalently a point on the edge of a circle). Slots correspond to angle ranges. Slots can be added or removed by either slightly readjusting all the angle ranges or just a subset of them (with the condition that every angle is assigned to one slot).
