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Resource provider is a new abstraction introduced in Mesos 1.5. Leveraging this, the resource-providing part of Mesos can be easily extended and customized. Before 1.5, this part of the logic is hard-coded in the agent. Resource providers are mainly responsible for updating Mesos about available resources and handling operations on those resources.
There are two types of resource providers: Local Resource Providers (LRP) and External Resource Providers (ERP). Local resource providers only provide resources that are tied to a particular agent node, while external resource providers provide resources that are not tied to any agent node (a.k.a. global resources). The resource provider API is designed in such a way that it works for both types of resource providers. In Mesos 1.5, only local resource providers are supported.
The resource provider API is an HTTP-based API, allowing resource providers to be running outside the Mesos master or agent. This is important for ERPs.
There is a component in the agent, called the Resource Provider Manager, that monitors and manages LRPs on that agent. The same component will be running in the master in the future to monitor ERPs.