What is Distributed Computing?

Distributed computing is when multiple regular computers connected over a network work together as one to solve large problems. Instead of a single central computer doing all the processing tasks, the work is divided up across many machines that coordinate.
This article explains the basic ideas behind distributed systems simply with examples.

Distributed Computing

Distributed Computing Architecture

There is no central computer. Distributed systems have groups of independent computers linked by a network that pass messages to each other to work cooperatively.

Each computer or node has its own processor, memory, and operating system. The nodes talk through a communication network like the Internet or a private network.

Together the nodes on the network function as a unified system by sharing data and tasks. Their combined computing power allows large problems to be solved that is not possible with a single machine.

Why Use a Distributed Design?

There are good reasons why distributed architecture is used to power many computing technologies we rely on today:

1. Resource sharing – Nodes can access data, files, software, and hardware capabilities from other nodes remotely. For example, your laptop can leverage powerful data center servers in the cloud over the internet.

2. Scalability – It is easy to add more nodes to distributed networks. There is no limit to the potential growth in scale by adding new member nodes with their resources. For example, permissionless blockchains can grow to have nodes across the globe.

3. Reliability – Even if some nodes crash or go offline, the network continues working through the remaining properly functioning nodes. There is no single point of failure. The overall system is resilient.

4. Enhanced Performance – By coordinating many nodes to handle parts of large tasks in parallel, distributed systems can deliver faster results.

The Power of Distributed Computing

Today, many complex global systems are powered by distributed computing, including:

  • Cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
  • Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin
  • File-sharing networks like BitTorrent
  • Website Infrastructure
  • Scientific research systems

Without distributed computing architecture, these systems either would not be feasible or as robust at massive scales.

Distributed principles open the door to amazing possibilities when you have groups of computers cooperatively working as one system to achieve more together than any single computer could do alone.

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