I've learned what a partitioned hard disk is, but how does partitioning work when referring to distributed systems and computer networks?
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It largely depends on the context of the partitioning.
One concept that comes to mind with networking is VLAN partitioning, which is a type of virtual partitioning for network packets. VLANs are commonly used to separate different environments such as development, staging and production.
Without VLANS, segregation would likely have to be a physical one, with each environment associated with the same hardware. VLANs allow the hardware to be in separate physical locations but to be part of the same virtual group.
Another added benefit of VLANs is that a single piece of hardware can be a member of multiple VLANs with just a single network drop, instead of needing a 1:1 ratio of drops to network associations.