What Are the Types of Distributed Network Architecture Used on the Internet?

by Michael Ryan

When the Internet was first conceived, there were many different types of computer networks that needed to be able to communicate, and forcing each network to conform to a single type of architecture was unfeasible. To solve this problem, the Internet uses an open network architecture; it does not make any assumptions or requirements about the networks connecting to it. This openness has allowed the creation of distributed networks that exist seamlessly on the Internet.


Now that mobile phones can connect to the Internet and computers can place phone calls, the division between computing and telecommunications has disappeared. For example, Motorola's WiMAX is a distributed network architecture system that uses IP routers, allowing a company to put all of their computers and mobile devices onto the same network. This network architecture guarantees that resources, whether on the network or online, are readily available. This type of distributed network is sometimes called a convergent network, because it connects devices that are functionally very different.

Grid Computing

Grid computing uses latent processing power for difficult tasks. SETI@home is the largest distributed-computing project in the world, claiming over three million volunteers. Users download a program that analyzes data in the background, when the user's computer isn't busy doing something else. SETI is looking for evidence that extraterrestrials are trying to communicate with Earth. The Open Science Grid works on a similar principle, but it is open to any project that needs intensive computing power. Private industry is also starting to embrace grid computing. the PEGrid is a collaborative project between petroleum companies and academic researchers. This new grid project gives researchers access to cutting-edge computing power and gives the petroleum industry access to the latest techniques in scientific computing.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing uses a distributed network architecture to provide computing power and memory storage as a utility. Users subscribe to a computing service and then pay according to usage, much as mobile phone users now choose service contracts that best suit their needs. As long as the user has a steady Internet connection with plenty of bandwidth, there is no limit to the amount of processing power available. Cloud computing, sometimes called virtualization, works by running a virtual machine on a network of servers. The virtual machine's processing power and available memory can be adjusted up or down at any time. The company running the cloud computing platform benefits from economies of scale, providing computing resources more cheaply than users could buy it themselves.

About the Author

Michael Ryan started writing in 2009. He wrote and edited for "Egypt Today" magazine. Before this, Ryan has been a development worker in southern Africa and a physics researcher in California. He has a master's degree in physics from UC San Diego.

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