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Key Concept - Distributed Systems

Distributed Computing Systems

What Are Distributed Computing Systems?

Distributed computing systems are computing environments in which multiple interconnected computers, often referred to as nodes or servers, work together to solve complex computational problems or perform tasks. These systems enable the processing of data and execution of applications across a network of machines rather than relying on a single, centralized computer. Distributed computing systems can be organized into clusters, grids, or cloud computing infrastructures.

Problems They Solve

Distributed computing systems address various challenges and problems in the world of computing and technology:

1. Scalability: Distributed systems can scale horizontally by adding more machines to the network. This allows applications to handle increasing workloads and data volumes efficiently.

2. High Availability: By distributing tasks and data across multiple nodes, distributed systems can provide high availability and fault tolerance. Even if some nodes fail, the system can continue to operate.

3. Performance: Distributing computations across multiple nodes can significantly improve the performance of applications, especially for parallelizable tasks.

4. Resource Utilization: Distributed computing systems enable the efficient utilization of computing resources across an organization, reducing idle time and infrastructure costs.

5. Data Processing: They excel at processing and analyzing large datasets, making them well-suited for big data analytics, scientific simulations, and data-intensive applications.

6. Geographical Distribution: Distributed systems can span multiple geographical locations, allowing for global data access, collaboration, and disaster recovery.

Problems They Don’t Solve

While distributed computing systems offer numerous advantages, they are not without limitations and do not address all computing challenges:

1. Network Latency: Distributed systems may introduce network communication overhead, resulting in latency and slower response times for certain operations.

2. Complexity: Building, configuring, and maintaining distributed systems can be complex and requires expertise in distributed computing concepts, synchronization, and fault tolerance mechanisms.

3. Consistency and Coordination: Ensuring data consistency in distributed systems, especially in the presence of failures, can be challenging and may require complex coordination protocols.

4. Security: Distributed systems must deal with security concerns such as data breaches, unauthorized access, and network attacks. Security measures become more critical in distributed environments.

5. Data Integrity: Maintaining data integrity and ensuring that data is not corrupted or lost during distributed operations can be a complex task.

6. Compatibility: Migrating existing applications to distributed environments may require significant modifications and may not always be feasible.

In summary, distributed computing systems play a vital role in addressing scalability, high availability, and performance challenges in modern computing. However, they introduce complexities related to network communication, data consistency, security, and coordination. Organizations must carefully assess their requirements and design distributed systems accordingly to maximize their benefits while mitigating potential drawbacks.

General Architecture of Distributed Data Processing Systems

Distributed data processing systems like MapReduce, Spark, and Dremio are designed to process large-scale data across clusters of interconnected computers. Their architectures involve the coordination of multiple nodes to efficiently execute data processing tasks. Here, we’ll delve into the general cluster structure and operational principles of these systems:

MapReduce Architecture

Cluster Structure:

  • Master Node: The master node coordinates the entire MapReduce job. It divides tasks into smaller units called “splits” and assigns them to worker nodes.
  • Worker Nodes: Worker nodes are responsible for executing the map and reduce tasks. They process data in parallel and communicate with the master node to report progress.

How It Operates:

  1. Input data is divided into splits, which are processed independently by worker nodes.
  2. Mapper functions run on the worker nodes to process splits and emit intermediate key-value pairs.
  3. The master node sorts and shuffles these intermediate data to group values by key.
  4. Reducer functions process the grouped data, producing the final output.

Apache Spark Architecture

Cluster Structure:

  • Cluster Manager: Spark clusters are typically managed by cluster managers like Apache Mesos, Hadoop YARN, or Spark’s standalone cluster manager.
  • Driver Node: The driver node runs the Spark application, coordinating tasks and managing the execution plan.
  • Executor Nodes: Executor nodes are worker nodes responsible for running tasks. They receive instructions from the driver and process data in parallel.

How It Operates:

  1. The driver node creates a directed acyclic graph (DAG) of tasks representing the computation.
  2. Tasks are scheduled on executor nodes, which process data in memory and can cache intermediate results.
  3. Spark’s Resilient Distributed Datasets (RDDs) allow fault-tolerant distributed data processing.

Dremio Architecture

Cluster Structure:

  • Coordinator Node: The coordinator node manages query planning and optimization. It also routes queries to appropriate execution engines.
  • Executor Nodes: Executor nodes perform data processing tasks. Dremio can leverage multiple engines like Apache Arrow Flight, Apache Calcite, and Apache Parquet for optimized execution.
  • Metadata Store: Dremio includes a distributed metadata store for cataloging and organizing data sources.

How It Operates:

  1. Users submit SQL queries to the coordinator node.
  2. The coordinator optimizes the query and identifies the most suitable execution engine for each part.
  3. Query fragments are distributed to executor nodes, which retrieve and process data in parallel.
  4. Dremio’s data reflections technology accelerates query performance by creating optimized data structures.


In distributed data processing systems, the cluster structure and operational principles are critical for achieving scalability, fault tolerance, and high performance. Understanding the roles of master nodes, worker nodes, driver nodes, and their interactions is key to efficiently harnessing the power of these systems for big data processing and analytics.

Avoiding Performance-Draining Mistakes in Distributed Data Processing

Distributed data processing systems offer the potential for high-performance data analysis, but several common mistakes can significantly impact their efficiency and effectiveness. Here are some of the most critical mistakes to avoid:

1. Data Skew

Mistake: Uneven data distribution, where some partitions or shards contain much more data than others, can lead to performance bottlenecks. Processing nodes with skewed data may become overloaded while others remain underutilized.


  • Use data shuffling and partitioning techniques to evenly distribute data.
  • Consider using hash-based or range-based partitioning to balance data distribution.

2. Insufficient Hardware Resources

Mistake: Underestimating the hardware requirements can lead to poor performance. Inadequate CPU, memory, or network resources may result in slow processing and increased latency.


  • Regularly monitor resource utilization and scale the cluster as needed.
  • Choose cloud-based solutions that offer easy scalability based on demand.

3. Inefficient Data Serialization

Mistake: Serializing and deserializing data inefficiently can be a performance bottleneck. Using heavyweight serialization formats or not optimizing serialization can slow down data processing.


  • Choose efficient serialization formats like Apache Avro, Protocol Buffers, or Apache Parquet.
  • Optimize serialization/deserialization code to minimize overhead.

4. Lack of Data Compression

Mistake: Storing and transmitting uncompressed data can lead to increased storage costs and slower data transfer times, especially in distributed systems.


  • Implement data compression techniques to reduce data size.
  • Use columnar storage formats like Parquet, which inherently support compression.

5. Poor Data Locality

Mistake: Data processing jobs that don’t consider data locality can result in unnecessary data movement across the network, increasing latency.


  • Leverage data co-location strategies to ensure that processing nodes work on data stored locally.
  • Use data-aware scheduling mechanisms to minimize data transfer.

6. Inefficient Joins and Data Aggregations

Mistake: Performing joins and aggregations inefficiently, especially on large datasets, can lead to slow query execution times.


  • Optimize query plans and use appropriate data indexing techniques.
  • Consider using pre-aggregated tables or data reflections (Dremio Feature) for frequently executed queries.

7. Lack of Monitoring and Profiling

Mistake: Failing to monitor cluster performance and profile job executions can result in undetected bottlenecks and inefficiencies.


  • Implement comprehensive monitoring solutions to track resource usage, job execution times, and data flow.
  • Use profiling tools to identify performance bottlenecks and optimize code.

8. Neglecting Data Pruning and Cleanup

Mistake: Accumulating unnecessary data over time can lead to increased storage costs and longer backup and restore times.


  • Implement data pruning and cleanup policies to remove outdated or irrelevant data.
  • Automate data retention and archiving processes.


Avoiding these performance-draining mistakes is crucial for achieving efficient and scalable distributed data processing. Regular performance testing, optimization, and monitoring are essential practices to ensure that your distributed data processing system operates at its best, delivering timely and accurate results for your data-driven applications.