Decentralized Computing

Dennis Faas's picture

Decentralized computing is a trend in modern day business environments. This is the opposite of centralized computing, which was prevalent during the early days of computers.

Decentralized computing is the allocation of resources, both hardware and software, to each individual workstation, or office location. In contrast, centralized computing exists when the majority of functions are carried out, or obtained from a remote centralized location.

Benefits of Decentralized Computing

A decentralized computer system has many benefits over a conventional centralized network.

For example, desktop computers have advanced so rapidly, that their potential performance far exceeds the requirements of most business applications. This results in most desktop computers remaining idle (in relation to their full potential). A decentralized system can utilize the potential of these systems to maximize efficiency. However, it is debatable whether these networks increase overall effectiveness.

A collection of decentralized computers systems are components of a larger computer network, held together by local stations of equal importance and capability. These systems are capable of running independently of each other.

Peer-To-Peer Decentralized Computing

Based on a grid model, a P2P (or "peer-to-peer") system is a collection of applications run on several local computers, which connect remotely to each other to complete a function or a task.

With P2P, there is no main operating system to which satellite systems are subordinate. This approach to software development (and distribution) affords developers great savings, as they don't have to create a central control point. An example application is LAN messaging which allows users to communicate without central server.

File Sharing Applications

One of the most interesting debates over decentralized computing involves Napster, a music file sharing application, which granted users access to an enormous database of files. Record companies brought legal action against Napster, blaming the system for lost record sales. Napster was found in violation of copyright laws by distributing pirated software, and was shut down.

After the fall of Napster, there was a demand for a file sharing system that would be less vulnerable to litigation. Gnutella, a decentralized system, was developed. This system allowed files to be queried and shared between users, without a central directory, and therefore shielded the network from law.

This document is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which means that you can copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license.

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