Tightly-coupled cluster systems are common in the realm of enterprise-scale mission-critical data processing. The primary advantage of clusters is protection against hardware failure. Should the primary node fail or otherwise become unavailable, applications can continue to run by transferring their execution to standby nodes in the cluster. This ability to provide continuous availability of service by switching to redundant hardware is commonly termed failover.
Another major advantage of clustered systems is their ability to reduce contention for system resources caused by activities such as backup, decision support and report generation. Businesses can derive enhanced value from their investment in cluster systems by performing such operations on lightly loaded nodes in the cluster rather than on the heavily loaded nodes that answer requests for service. This ability to perform some operations on the lightly loaded nodes is commonly termed load balancing.