A distributed system is a computing environment in which various components are spread across multiple computers (or other computing devices) on a network. These devices split up the work, coordinating their efforts to complete the job more efficiently than if a single device had been responsible for the task.
Distributed systems are an important development for IT and computer science as an increasing number of related jobs are so massive and complex that it would be impossible for a single computer to handle them alone. But distributed computing also offers additional advantages over traditional computing environments. Distributed systems reduce the risks involved with having a single point of failure, bolstering reliability and fault tolerance. Modern distributed systems are generally designed to be scalable in near real-time; also, you can spin up additional computing resources on the fly, increasing performance and further reducing time to completion.
Historically, distributed computing was expensive, complex to configure and difficult to manage. But thanks to software as a service (SaaS) platforms that offer expanded functionality, distributed computing has become more streamlined and affordable for businesses large and small. As a result, all types of computing jobs — from database management to video games — use distributed computing. In fact, many types of software, such as cryptocurrency systems, scientific simulations, blockchain technologies and AI platforms, wouldn’t be possible at all without these platforms.
In this article, we’ll explore the operation of such systems, the challenges and risks of these platforms, and the myriad benefits of distributed computing.