#32: (Cryptographic) hash function
Play • 4 min

Sometimes you need to split arbitrary objects into a fixed number of groups. For example, storing a record into one out of many database nodes. Or saving a cookie in a hash table. Or distributing jobs among multiple workers. In all of these cases you later want to know, bucket or worker was chosen. Also, data should be split evenly. You don’t want one node or worker to be overloaded. The above properties are implemented by a so-called hash function. It’s an algorithm that takes arbitrary input and produces fixed-length output. A number. For the same input, often called a message, it always produces the same output, known as a hash. Ideally, different messages should produce a different hash. Even better, two slightly different messages should produce wildly different hash. In practice, hash collisions must happen. After all, we are mapping arbitrarily large messages into a fixed-length hash. Often 32- or 64-bit.

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