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Sharded Cluster Requirements

While sharding is a powerful and compelling feature, sharded clusters have significant infrastructure requirements and increases the overall complexity of a deployment. As a result, only deploy sharded clusters when indicated by application and operational requirements

Sharding is the only solution for some classes of deployments. Use sharded clusters if:

  • your data set approaches or exceeds the storage capacity of a single MongoDB instance.
  • the size of your system’s active working set will soon exceed the capacity of your system’s maximum RAM.
  • a single MongoDB instance cannot meet the demands of your write operations, and all other approaches have not reduced contention.

If these attributes are not present in your system, sharding will only add complexity to your system without adding much benefit.


It takes time and resources to deploy sharding. If your system has already reached or exceeded its capacity, it will be difficult to deploy sharding without impacting your application.

As a result, if you think you will need to partition your database in the future, do not wait until your system is over capacity to enable sharding.

When designing your data model, take into consideration your sharding needs.

Data Quantity Requirements

Your cluster should manage a large quantity of data if sharding is to have an effect. The default chunk size is 64 megabytes. And the balancer will not begin moving data across shards until the imbalance of chunks among the shards exceeds the migration threshold. In practical terms, unless your cluster has many hundreds of megabytes of data, your data will remain on a single shard.

In some situations, you may need to shard a small collection of data. But most of the time, sharding a small collection is not worth the added complexity and overhead unless you need additional write capacity. If you have a small data set, a properly configured single MongoDB instance or a replica set will usually be enough for your persistence layer needs.

Chunk size is user configurable. For most deployments, the default value is of 64 megabytes is ideal. See Chunk Size for more information.