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Network partitions happens when multiple parts of a cluster become separated due to some type of network failure, whether permanent or temporary. Often temporary failures heal spontaneously, within a few seconds or at most minutes, but the damage that can occur during a network partition can lead to inconsistent data. Closely tied to Brewer's CAP theorem, distributed systems choose to deal with a network partition by either sacrificing availability (either by shutting down or going into read-only mode) or consistency by allowing concurrent and divergent updates to the same data.

Network partitions are also commonly known as a Split brain, after the biological condition of the same name.

For more detailed discussion, see this blog post.

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