If we start a single node, with no data and no indices, our cluster looks like Figure 1, “A cluster with one empty node”.
A node is a running instance of Elasticsearch, while a cluster consists of
one or more nodes with the same
cluster.name that are working together to
share their data and workload. As nodes are added to or removed from the
cluster, the cluster reorganizes itself to spread the data evenly.
One node in the cluster is elected to be the master node, which is in charge of managing cluster-wide changes like creating or deleting an index, or adding or removing a node from the cluster. The master node does not need to be involved in document-level changes or searches, which means that having just one master node will not become a bottleneck as traffic grows. Any node can become the master. Our example cluster has only one node, so it performs the master role.
As users, we can talk to any node in the cluster, including the master node. Every node knows where each document lives and can forward our request directly to the nodes that hold the data we are interested in. Whichever node we talk to manages the process of gathering the response from the node or nodes holding the data and returning the final response to the client. It is all managed transparently by Elasticsearch.