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Paulet Wairagu
Paulet Wairagu

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CAP Theorem

CAP Theorem:

The CAP theorem, also known as Brewer's theorem, states that in a distributed computer system, it is impossible to simultaneously achieve all three of the following guarantees:

  1. Consistency (C): All nodes in the system have the same data at the same time. In other words, any read operation will return the most recent write operation's value or an error.

  2. Availability (A): Every request made to a non-failing node in the system receives a response, without guaranteeing that it contains the most recent data.

  3. Partition tolerance (P): The system continues to operate despite arbitrary message loss or failure of part of the system.

According to the CAP theorem, a distributed system can only guarantee two out of these three properties simultaneously. This theorem has profound implications for the design and implementation of distributed databases and systems.

Using CAP Theorem:

Let's illustrate the CAP theorem using an example of a distributed database system:

  • Suppose you have a distributed database system that needs to handle user requests across multiple nodes.
  • In the event of a network partition (P), where communication between certain nodes is temporarily lost, the system has to decide whether to prioritize consistency (C) or availability (A).
  • If the system prioritizes consistency (C), it ensures that all nodes have the same data at the expense of availability (A). During a partition, the system may choose to halt operations or return an error to maintain consistency.
  • On the other hand, if the system prioritizes availability (A), it ensures that all non-failing nodes can respond to user requests, even if they may have inconsistent data. This sacrifices consistency for the sake of availability during network partitions.
  • To handle partitions (P) gracefully while maintaining consistency (C) and availability (A), the system can use techniques such as eventual consistency, where data consistency is guaranteed over time as updates propagate through the system.

In summary, the CAP theorem guides designers and developers in making trade-offs between consistency, availability, and partition tolerance when building distributed systems, emphasizing the need to carefully consider system requirements and user expectations.

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