Consistent hashing is a scheme that provides hash table functionality in a way that the addition or removal of one slot does not significantly change the mapping of keys to slots. In contrast, in most traditional hash tables, a change in the number of array slots causes nearly all keys to be remapped. By using consistent hashing, only K / n keys need to be remapped on average, where K is the number of keys, and n is the number of slots.
Consistent hashing was introduced in 1997 as a way of distributing requests among a changing population of Web servers. Each slot is then represented by a node in a distributed system. The addition (joins) and removal (leaves/failures) of nodes only requires K / n items to be re-shuffled when the number of slots/nodes change. More recently it has been used to reduce the impact of partial system failures in large Web applications as to allow for robust caches without incurring the system wide fallout of a failure  .
More recently, consistent hashing has been applied in the design of distributed hash tables (DHTs). DHTs use consistent hashing to partition a keyspace among a distributed set of nodes, and additionally provide an overlay network that connects nodes such that the node responsible for any key can be efficiently located.
Consistent hashing is based on mapping items to a real angle (or equivalently a point on the edge of a circle). Each of the available machines (or other storage buckets) is also pseudo-randomly mapped on to a series of angles around the circle. The bucket where each item should be stored is then chosen by selecting the next highest angle to which an available bucket maps to. The result is that each bucket contains the resources mapping to an angle between it and the next smallest angle.
If a bucket becomes unavailable (for example because the computer it resides on is not reachable), then the angles it maps to will be removed. Requests for resources that would have mapped to each of those points now map to the next highest point. Since each bucket is associated with many pseudo-randomly distributed points, the resources that were held by that bucket will now map to many different buckets. The items that mapped to the lost bucket must be redistributed among the remaining ones, but values mapping to other buckets will still do so and do not need to be moved.
A similar process occurs when a bucket is added. By adding an angle, we make any resources between that and the next smallest angle map to the new bucket. These resources will no longer be associated with the previous bucket, and any value previously stored there will not be found by the selection method described above.
The portion of the keys associated with each bucket can be altered by altering the number of angles that bucket maps to.
 Monotonic Keys
If it is known that key values will always increase monotonically, an alternative approach to consistent hashing is possible.
- ^ Karger, D.; Lehman, E.; Leighton, T.; Panigrahy, R.; Levine, M.; Lewin, D. (1997). "Consistent Hashing and Random Trees: Distributed Caching Protocols for Relieving Hot Spots on the World Wide Web". Proceedings of the Twenty-ninth Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing. ACM Press New York, NY, USA. pp. 654–663. doi:10.1145/258533.258660. http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=258660. Retrieved 2008-06-17.
- ^ Karger, D.; Sherman, A.; Berkheimer, A.; Bogstad, B.; Dhanidina, R.; Iwamoto, K.; Kim, B.; Matkins, L.; Yerushalmi, Y. (1999). "Web Caching with Consistent Hashing". Computer Networks 31 (11): 1203–1213. doi:10.1016/S1389-1286(99)00055-9. http://www8.org/w8-papers/2a-webserver/caching/paper2.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17.