MongoDB Sharding: 6 Easy Steps Tutorial

Manik Chhabra • Last Modified: August 28th, 2023

MongoDB Sharding | Hevo Data

Do you wish to understand what MongoDB Sharding is and how it works? Do you wish to understand how you can implement it for your MongoDB Server? If yes, then you’ve come to the right place.

The volume of data that businesses collect has grown exponentially over the past few years. This could be data related to things like how people are interacting with their product or service, what people think of their offerings, how well is the performance of their marketing efforts, etc. Businesses can then use this data to make data-driven decisions and plan their future strategies accordingly.

Earlier businesses used to rely on Relational Databases for their data storage needs. Although a lot of businesses still use Relational Databases, the volume of data being collected by large enterprises is too high to be stored in Relational Databases due to their inability to scale horizontally. Hence, these large enterprises have started relying more on NoSQL Databases for their data storage requirements.

One of the most well-known NoSQL Databases used by a large number of organizations is MongoDB. MongoDB is able to keep up with the demands of data growth through a process called Sharding. This article will help you understand what MongoDB Sharding is, how it works, its benefits and limitations and how you can implement it for your MongoDB Server.

Table of Contents

What is MongoDB?

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MongoDB is a leading Open-Source and Document-Oriented NoSQL Database. This means that it does not store data in the form of rows and columns in tables but instead in documents as Key-Value pairs. MongoDB allows you to work with high volumes of data and an efficient system to perform the required operations on your data.

MongoDB has become the database of choice for a large number of companies that collect a high volume of data such as Facebook, Google, eBay, etc.

This is primarily due to the fact that MongoDB can easily handle such volumes of data and because it supports direct integration with almost all well-known programming languages such as C, C++, C#, PHP, Python, Go, Java, Node.js, Motor, Ruby, Perl, Scala, Swift, Mongoid, etc.

Key Features of MongoDB

Some of the key features of MongoDB include:

  • Supports ad-hoc queries for optimized and real-time analytics.
  • Provides data replication support to ensure high data availability. MongoDB supports Master-Slave replication. The Master node accepts all write operations and applies them across multiple Slave nodes. This results in multiple copies of the data being formed that can ensure data availability even if one of the Slave nodes goes down.
  • Supports Sharding which is the process of dividing large datasets across multiple collections to ensure that queries can be executed efficiently.
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What is MongoDB Sharding?

The main purpose of using a NoSQL Database for most organizations is the ability to deal with the storage and computing demands of storing and querying high volumes of data. MongoDB Sharding can be seen as the way in which MongoDB deals with high volumes of data.

It can be seen as the process in which large datasets are split into smaller datasets that are stored across multiple MongoDB Instances. This is done because querying on large datasets could lead to high CPU utilization on the MongoDB Server.

The following image shows the structure of a MongoDB Database:

MongoDB Sharding: MongoDB Database | Hevo Data
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Each MongoDB Database consists of a large number of Collections. Each Collection is made up of a large number of Documents that store data as Key-Value pairs. MongoDB Sharding breaks up a large Collection into smaller Collections called Shards. Splitting up large Collections into Shards allows MongoDB to execute queries without putting much load on the Server.

MongoDB Sharding can be implemented by creating a Cluster of MongoDB Instances. The following image shows how MongoDB Sharding works in a Cluster.

MongoDB Sharding: MongoDB Sharded Cluster | Hevo Data
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The three main components of Sharded Cluster are as follows:

1) Shard

Shard is the most basic unit of a Shared Cluster that is used to store a subset of the large dataset that has to be divided. Shards are designed in such a way that they are capable of providing high data availability and consistency.

2) Config Servers

Config Servers are supposed to store the metadata of the MongoDB Sharded Cluster. This metadata consists of information about what subset of data is stored in which Shard. This information can be used to direct user queries accordingly. Each Sharded Cluster is supposed to have exactly 3 Config Servers.

3) Query Routers

Query Routers can be seen as Mongo Instances that form an interface to the client applications. The Query Routers are responsible for forwarding user queries to the right Shard.

What are the Benefits of MongoDB Sharding?

MongoDB Sharding is important because of the following reasons:

  • In a setup in which MongoDB Sharding has not been implemented, the Master nodes handle the potentially large number of write operations whereas the Slave Nodes are responsible for read operations and maintaining backups. Since MongoDB Sharding utilizes Replica Sets, queries are distributed equally among all nodes.
  • The storage capacity of the Sharded Cluster can be increased without performing any complex hardware restructuring by adding additional Shards to the Cluster.
  • If one or more Shards in the Cluster go down, other Shards will continue to operate which means that the data stored in those active Shards can be accessed without any issues.

What are the Steps to Set up MongoDB Sharding?

MongoDB Sharding can be set up by implementing the following steps:

Step 1: Creating a Directory for Config Server

The first step to be performed in order to set up MongoDB Sharding would be to create a separate directory for Config Server. This can be done using the following command:

mkdir /data/configdb

Step 2: Starting MongoDB Instance in Configuration Mode

One Server has to be set up as the Configuration Server. Suppose you have a Server named “ConfServer” which would be used as the Configuration Server, the following command can be executed to perform that operation:

mongod –configdb ConfServer: 27019

Step 3: Starting Mongos Instance

Once the Configuration Server has been set up, the Mongos Instance can be started by executing the following command along with the name of your Configuration Server:

mongos –configdb ConfServer: 27019

Step 4: Connecting to Mongos Instance

A connection can be formed to the Mongos Instance by running the following command from the Mongo Shell:

mongo –host ConfServer –port 27017

Step 5: Adding Servers to Clusters

All Servers that have to be included in the Cluster can be added by the following command:


“SA” here has to be replaced with the name of your Server that has to be added to the Cluster. This command can be executed for all Servers that have to be added to the Cluster.

Step 6: Enabling Sharding for Database

Once the Sharded Cluster has been set up, Sharding for the required database has to be enabled. This can be done by the following command:


In the above command, “db_test” has to be replaced with the name of the database that you wish to Shard.

What are the Limitations of MongoDB Sharding?

The limitations of MongoDB Sharding are as follows:

  • Setting up MongoDB Sharding is a complex operation and hence, careful planning and high maintenance are required.
  • There are certain MongoDB operations that cannot be executed in a Sharded Cluster. For example, geoSpace command.
  • Once a Collection in MongoDB has been sharded, there is no way to un-shard it and restore the Collection in the original format.


This article provided you with an in-depth understanding of what MongoDB Sharding is along with the various benefits and limitations of implementing it for your dataset. It also provided you with a guide on how you can set up MongoDB Sharding for your dataset.

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Share your experience of learning about MongoDB Sharding in the comments section below!

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