A network partition refers to network decomposition into relatively independent subnets for their separate optimization as well as network split due to the failure of network devices. In both cases the partition-tolerant behavior of subnets is expected. This means that even after the network is partitioned into multiple sub-systems, it still works correctly.
For example, in a network with multiple subnets where nodes A and B are located in one subnet and nodes C and D are in another, a partition occurs if the network switch device between the two subnets fails. In that case nodes A and B can no longer communicate with nodes C and D, but all nodes A-D work the same as before.
As a CAP trade-off
The CAP Theorem is based on three trade-offs: Consistency, Availability, and Partition tolerance. Partition tolerance, in this context, means the ability of a data processing system to continue processing data even if a network partition causes communication errors between subsystems.
- Stonebraker, Michael (April 5, 2010). "Errors in Database Systems, Eventual Consistency, and the CAP Theorem". Communications of the ACM.