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The significant performance-to-cost ratio advantage of clusters, combined with recent advances in middleware (programming environment) and networking technologies, has made them the single most popular and fastest growing platform for high performance computing in recent years. While the message passing interface (MPI) still dominates as a means of parallel programming in clusters, it is nevertheless desirable for programmers to program in a single address space, not only across a cluster but also among multiple, likely heterogeneous, clusters so as to significantly extend the computing power of a single cluster. In this paper we propose a distributed shared object (DSO) model based on a distributed hierarchical consistency model (DHCM) protocol for heterogeneous clusters. DHCM, inspired by but significantly improved over the local consistency, is designed to help maintain coherence and consistency in a DSO programming environment and to adapt to different levels of consistency. The notion of adaptive consistency is proposed and partially implemented to improve the efficiency in consistency control, and scalability is addressed as well through the hierarchical structure of the protocol design. We implemented this model purely in Java for portability and heterogeneity. The performance of DHCM is evaluated by executing the LU application chosen from the SPLASH-2 benchmark suite on a 128-node Linux cluster. The experimental results show that the protocol with a hierarchical structure significantly outperforms the protocol with a single-tier in terms of execution time, indicating higher scalability.