Although the computer industry is still young compared to other industries (e.g., automobiles and air transportation), computers have made spectacular progress in a short time. During the first two decades of their existence, computer systems were highly centralized, usually within a single large room. Not infrequently, this room had glass walls, through which visitors could gawk at the great electronic wonder inside. A medium-sized company or university might have had one or two computers, while large institutions had at most a few dozen. The idea that within twenty years equally powerful computers smaller than postage stamps would be mass produced by the millions was pure science fiction.
The merging of computers and communications has had a profound influence on the way computer systems are organized. The concept of the ''computer center'' as a room with a large computer to which users bring their work for processing is now totally obsolete. The old model of a single computer serving all of the organization's computational needs has been replaced by one in which a large number of separate but interconnected computers do the job. These systems are called computer networks. The design and organization of these networks are the subjects of this book.
Throughout the book we will use the term ''computer network'' to mean a collection of autonomous computers interconnected by a single technology. Two computers are said to be interconnected if they are able to exchange information. The connection need not be via a copper wire; fiber optics, microwaves, infrared, and communication satellites can also be used. Networks come in many sizes, shapes and forms, as we will see later. Although it may sound strange to some people, neither the Internet nor the World Wide Web is a computer network. By the end of this book, it should be clear why. The quick answer is: the Internet is not a single network but a network of networks and the Web is a distributed system that runs on top of the Internet.
There is considerable confusion in the literature between a computer network and a distributed system. The key distinction is that in a distributed system, a collection of independent computers appears to its users as a single coherent system. Usually, it has a single model or paradigm that it presents to the users. Often a layer of software on top of the operating system, called middleware, is responsible for implementing this model. A well-known example of a distributed system is the World Wide Web, in which everything looks like a document (Web page).
In a computer network, this coherence, model, and software are absent. Users are exposed to the actual machines, without any attempt by the system to make the machines look and act in a coherent way. If the machines have different hardware and different operating systems, that is fully visible to the users. If a user wants to run a program on a remote machine, he
has to log onto that machine and run it there.
] ''He'' should be read as ''he or she'' throughout this book.
In effect, a distributed system is a software system built on top of a network. The software gives it a high degree of cohesiveness and transparency. Thus, the distinction between a network and a distributed system lies with the software (especially the operating system), rather than with the hardware.
Nevertheless, there is considerable overlap between the two subjects. For example, both distributed systems and computer networks need to move files around. The difference lies in who invokes the movement, the system or the user. Although this book primarily focuses on networks, many of the topics are also important in distributed systems. For more information about distributed systems, see (Tanenbaum and Van Steen, 2002).
Tanenbaum and Van Steen, 2002
posted on 2006-03-28 18:46 我的翻译博客
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