distributed systems architecture

what is it?

Distributing a system over several processing nodes means, in general, that (benefits):

  • things happen concurrently, so you can get more done
  • by replicating functionality, you can provide a more robust service
  • users and other actors in different locations can readily be served
  • not all the functional nodes need be up at once
  • diverse systems may be connected

and (obstacles to design):

  • things happen concurrently, admitting interference, deadlocks, etc.
  • different nodes may get out of sync
  • communication between the nodes may be unreliable, slow, and erratic
  • not all the nodes may be up at once
  • the execution environments running the distributed parts  may differ (different languages, operating systems, performance, resources available, …)

Distributed systems can be open or closed or in-between. Very open systems like the Internet have no-one in control: broad standards of communication are set, which are often extended for particular purposes by different groups of users. In a closed system, the designers have control over the whole lot, though they usually want it to be readily extensible: the different parts of an aircraft control system are an example.

Besides the Internet, various large systems (some of which are built atop the Internet) fall into the open category: for example, a system (described by XXXX at OOPSLA98) for retrieving medical records from the patient's home medico and various places he may have been treated, to a hospital anywhere in the world.

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what is distributed systems architecture? | how do you do it?
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