An Introduction to Distributed Computing: The Basics and Benefits

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

Distributed Computing

Distributed systems are gaining ground as a result of the world’s ever-expanding technical development. They are a broad and intricate area of computer science research. Distributed computing is a popular method of computing that is rapidly growing in popularity, particularly with the rise of cloud computing, high-performance computing, and the internet of things (IoT).

This article seeks to give you a basic introduction to distributed computing, giving you a sneak peek at its fundamental ideas and the advantages it provides.

What is Distributed Computing?

Distributed computing refers to the use of multiple computing resources to work on a common task or problem. These resources can include servers, workstations, personal computers, mobile devices, and other devices that can connect to a network. A distributed computing system is typically made up of multiple nodes that communicate with each other to complete a task.

Centralized computing, on the other hand, is where all computing resources are located in one location, usually a single server. In this model, the server acts as a bottleneck, which can lead to performance issues and reduced scalability. With distributed computing, resources are distributed across multiple nodes, which can increase scalability and performance.

Distributed computing systems can take many forms, such as peer-to-peer networks, client-server architectures, and multiple-tier architectures. In a peer-to-peer network, each node is equal and can communicate with other nodes directly. In a client-server architecture, there is a central server that manages and distributes tasks to the clients. Multiple-tier architecture is a type of distributed computing that uses multiple client-server architectures resources to solve complex problems.

Types of Distributed Computing Architecture

You create applications for distributed computing that can operate on multiple computers as opposed to just one. You accomplish this by creating the software so that various computers carry out various tasks and collaborate to create the end result. The four major varieties of distributed architecture are as follows.

1. Client-server architecture

The most popular way of organizing software on a distributed system is client-server. Clients and servers are the two groups into which the tasks are divided.


Clients’ capacity for digesting information is constrained. They send queries to the servers instead, which are in charge of the majority of the data and other resources. The client accepts queries from you and interacts with the server on your behalf.


Server systems coordinate and control resource access. They provide statistics or status updates in response to client requests. Usually, one server can respond to queries coming from multiple machines.

Benefits and limitations

The advantages of client-server architecture include security and ongoing administration simplicity. You only need to concentrate on protecting the server machines. Similar to this, any modifications to database systems call for only server-side adjustments.

The drawback of client-server architecture is the potential for communication bottlenecks caused by servers, particularly when multiple machines are making queries at once.

2. Three-tier architecture

Client machines continue to be the first tier you reach in three-tier distributed systems. On the other side, there are two additional categories for server machines:

Application servers

Application servers function as the communication’s middle tier. They include the program logic or fundamental operations for which the distributed system was created.

Database servers

The third layer for managing and storing the data is comprised of database servers. They are in charge of data integrity and data retrieval.

Three-tier distributed systems decrease communication bottlenecks and enhance the efficiency of distributed computing by dividing server responsibility.

3. N-tier architecture

N-tier models use multiple client-server systems collaborating with one another to address the same issue. The majority of contemporary distributed systems employ an n-tier architecture, with various enterprise apps collaborating as one system in the background.

4. Peer-to-peer architecture

All networked computers are given the same duties by peer-to-peer distributed systems. There is no distinction between client and server computers, and every computer is capable of handling every task. For file streaming, blockchain networks, and content exchange, peer-to-peer architecture has gained popularity.

How Does Distributed Computing Work?

Distributed computing works by breaking a problem or task into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be distributed across multiple computing resources. These pieces are then worked on simultaneously, with each node performing a specific portion of the task. Once all the pieces are complete, they are sent back to a central server or node, which combines them to form the final result.

To facilitate communication between nodes, distributed computing systems use communication protocols such as Message Passing interfaces (MPI) and Remote Procedure Calls (RPC). These protocols allow nodes to exchange data and synchronize their work on the task. Other components of the system include middleware, which manages the communication between nodes, and load balancers, which distribute the workload evenly across nodes.

One of the main challenges of distributed computing is managing the coordination and synchronization of multiple nodes. This requires careful planning and management to ensure that each node is working on the correct portion of the task at the right time. Additionally, managing the security of distributed computing systems is critical, as data and tasks may be vulnerable to attack or unauthorized access.

Benefits of Distributed Computing

Scalability and Flexibility

Distributed computing offers a high degree of scalability, as resources can be added or removed as needed. This makes it ideal for applications that require varying amounts of computing power, such as data processing, scientific computing, and web hosting. In addition, it is highly flexible, as nodes can be added or removed from the network without disrupting the system.


Distributed computing can be more cost-effective than centralized computing, as it allows for the use of inexpensive hardware that may not be suitable for centralized computing. For example, a distributed computing system can be created by using a collection of low-cost personal computers instead of expensive servers. Additionally, it can reduce the need for dedicated computing resources, as nodes can be used for other purposes when they are not working on the distributed task.

Fault Tolerance and Reliability

Distributed computing systems are highly fault-tolerant, as they can continue to function even if one or more nodes fail. This is because tasks are distributed across multiple nodes, so the failure of one node does not affect the entire system. This makes it ideal for applications that require high levels of reliability, such as scientific computing, financial modeling, and mission-critical systems.

Improved Performance and Faster Processing

Distributed computing can significantly improve performance and processing speeds, as tasks can be completed simultaneously across multiple nodes. This means that a distributed computing system can complete tasks much faster than a single computer, even if that computer has more processing power. Additionally, these systems can perform tasks in parallel, which can further speed up the processing time.

Related: The Challenges and Opportunities of Real-time Data Processing

Real-World Applications of Distributed Computing

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a type of distributed computing that provides on-demand access to computing resources, such as servers, storage, and software applications, over the internet. Cloud computing is highly scalable and flexible, making it ideal for applications that require varying amounts of computing power. Some examples of cloud computing services include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

Related: IaaS vs SaaS vs PaaS: Introduction to Cloud Computing Models

High-Performance Computing

High-performance computing (HPC) is a type of distributed computing that uses multiple nodes to solve complex problems that require large amounts of processing power. HPC is used in a wide range of applications, including scientific computing, weather forecasting, and financial modeling. Some examples of HPC systems include the National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and the European Union’s Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE).

Big Data Processing

Big data processing involves the analysis of large and complex data sets to extract insights and valuable information. Distributed computing is essential for big data processing, as it allows for the processing of large data sets in parallel across multiple nodes. Some examples of big data processing systems include Apache Hadoop and Spark.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The internet of things (IoT) is a network of interconnected devices, sensors, and systems that communicate with each other to achieve a common goal. Distributed computing is essential for IoT, as it allows for the processing of data from multiple sensors and devices in real-time. Some examples of IoT applications that use it include smart cities, healthcare systems, and transportation networks.

Related: The Impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on Our Lives and Work


Distributed computing is an important and growing area of computing that offers many benefits, including scalability, cost-effectiveness, fault tolerance, and improved performance. With the rise of cloud computing, high-performance computing, and the internet of things, it is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of applications. As the demand for computing resources continues to grow, distributed computing will continue to play an important role in the future of computing.

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