Distributed Systems: A Quick and Simple Definition


The technology landscape has evolved into an always-on environment of mobile, social, and cloud applications where programs can be accessed and used across a multitude of devices.

These always-on and always-available expectations are handled by distributed systems, which manage the inevitable fluctuations and failures of complex computing behind the scenes.

“The increasing criticality of these systems means that it is necessary for these online systems to be built for redundancy, fault tolerance, and high availability,” writes Brendan Burns, distinguished engineer at Microsoft, in Designing Distributed Systems. “The confluence of these requirements has led to an order of magnitude increase in the number of distributed systems that need to be built.”

In Distributed Systems in One Lesson, developer relations leader and teacher Tim Berglund says a simple way to think about distributed systems is that they are a collection of independent computers that appears to its user as a single computer.

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