more than the default 4 parallel processes using distributed compiling with distcc

Distributed compilation could greatly speed the build process of Gentoo packages (and not only Gentoo, of course). If you tend to use Gentoo on a laptop or a relatively old CPU you may want to build packages distributively across multiple hosts.
Different (Linux) distributions use different configurations and environment scheme and sometimes it is difficult to sift the configuration, which could be applied to your setup. This is not a tutorial on how to enable parallel processing in Gentoo but it is just our client-site setup.

By default, there is a limit of 4 parallel processes, which is utterly insufficient, because nowadays most servers have more than 8 cores/logical compute units (not to mention that probably most would have 16 and above cores compute units).

The environment variable DISTCC_HOSTS controls, which hosts will receive files for the compilation of what they support and what is the limit of parallel processes.

In Gentoo we set this variable in the /etc/portage/make.conf. Here what you may include in make.conf to have 16 parallel remote processes and up to maximum 4 local (if the remote fails):

MAKEOPTS="-j16 -l4"

We use the environment DISTCC_HOSTS (here in Gentoo put in the make.conf, but in another Linux distribution an environment variable with this name should be set) because it is easy to set up and control globally for the Gentoo emerge system.
According to the documents:

In order, distcc looks in the $DISTCC_HOSTS environment variable, the user’s $DISTCC_DIR/hosts file, and the system-wide host file.

So when using emerge to build the packages, the emerge will rely on $DISTCC_HOSTS in make.conf (/etc/portage/make.conf or /etc/make.conf if you still use the old path), “/var/tmp/portage/.distcc/” (the build process uses “portage” user and group, not root!) and “/etc/distcc/hosts”. The first option used in the order above will be set the hosts and the limitation for the distributed processing. So if you use $DISTCC_HOSTS in make.conf (or environment) you wouldn’t need to set the “hosts” file.
Separate the different hosts with white space if you have more than one and always use the notation “/LIMIT” for each host. The default value is only 4 parallel processes (i.e it is implicitly added /4 to each hosts in the configuration!)
Keep on reading!