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ZooKeeper is an open source Apache™ project that provides a centralized infrastructure and services that enable synchronization across a cluster. ZooKeeper maintains common objects needed in large cluster environments. Examples of these objects include configuration information, hierarchical naming space, and so on. Applications can leverage these services to coordinate distributed processing across large clusters.

How does it work?

Imagine a Hadoop® cluster spanning 500 or more commodity servers. If you’ve ever managed a database cluster with just 10 servers, you know there’s a need for centralized management of the entire cluster in terms of name services, group services, synchronization services, configuration management, and more.

In addition, many other open source projects that leverage Hadoop clusters require these types of cross-cluster services, and having them available in ZooKeeper means that each of these projects can embed ZooKeeper without having to build synchronization services from scratch into each project.

Interaction with ZooKeeper occurs via Java or C interfaces time.

ZooKeeper provides an infrastructure for cross-node synchronization and can be used by applications to ensure that tasks across the cluster are serialized or synchronized.

It does this by maintaining status type information in memory on ZooKeeper servers. A ZooKeeper server is a machine that keeps a copy of the state of the entire system and persists this information in local log files. A very large Hadoop cluster can be supported by multiple ZooKeeper servers (in this case, a master server synchronizes the top-level servers). Each client machine communicates with one of the ZooKeeper servers to retrieve and update its synchronization information.

Within ZooKeeper, an application can create what is called a znode (a file that persists in memory on the ZooKeeper servers). The znode can be updated by any node in the cluster, and any node in the cluster can register to be informed of changes to that znode (in ZooKeeper parlance, a server can be set up to “watch” a specific znode).

Using this znode infrastructure (and there is much more to this such that we can’t even begin to do it justice in this section), applications can synchronize their tasks across the distributed cluster by updating their status in a ZooKeeper znode, which would then inform the rest of the cluster of a specific node’s status change.

This cluster-wide status centralization service is essential for management and serialization tasks across a large distributed set of servers.(Source-IBM)