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Two major computer related meanings:

  • A unit of storage on a computer disk
  • A group of computers connected together to combine their processing power

Computer Disk Storage

from http://www.macsounduk.com/pc_glossary.html#C:

A specified number of sectors grouped together by the FORMAT command. The number is determined by the size of the logical drive. A cluster is the smallest storage unit for storing files.

In dos / Windows a cluster is often 4096 bytes, but is sometimes larger (or smaller) depending on the total bytes in a partition and the maximum allowed number of clusters in a partition which was 65,536 (2**16) under FAT-16. In filesystems that cannot store parts of more than one file in a cluster (FAT, ext2, others), this leads to wasted space on the order of one half the cluster size per file. FAT-32 allows more clusters per partition which means clusters can be smaller resulting in less wasted space.

Computers Connected Together

A computer cluster is a group of computers connected together, usually by a fast interconnection (like Ethernet, in one of its many varieties) to act like one faster and more powerful computer. It takes software of some sort to make it work (I don't know much about it yet).

You can set up a cluster at home with as few as two computers, but well known scientific and business organizations have set up large clusters of small PCs to rival or beat the processing power and speed of the most powerful supercomputers.

A Beowulf cluster is probably the best known type of cluster, but there are others.

See ClusteringResources.

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Topic revision: r3 - 2002-09-28 - RandyKramer
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