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What Is a Distributed System?

What Is Distributed System

Distributed systems are becoming increasingly important in our world of growing connectivity and data. What are the defining characteristics of a distributed system, and how is it currently being utilized?

Join us in this article as we explore what distributed systems are, their advantages and disadvantages, examples of common distributed systems, and how distributed systems relate specifically to blockchain technology.

By the end, you'll have a strong understanding of this critical computing model and its role in powering many of the technologies and services we interact with daily.

Simply put, a distributed system refers to a software system where components located on networked computers communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages.

Breaking large computing problems into smaller, self-contained pieces enables the sharing of resources and work by solving them simultaneously. A distributed system delivers solutions by deploying on multiple devices at once rather than on just one computer.

What are the advantages of distributed systems?

Distributed systems provide several important advantages over centralized systems:


Adding more blockchain nodes allows distributed systems to scale horizontally to handle large volumes of workloads.

Fault tolerance

There is no single point of failure in a distributed system. If one type of blockchain node crashes or goes offline, the system can still function using the remaining nodes.

Increased speed

Dividing tasks across devices means computations can happen in parallel rather than serially. This speeds up processing dramatically for big data problems.

Location independence

Users can access files, services, and devices anywhere on the network, regardless of their physical location. For example, cloud services allow users worldwide access from any device.

What are the disadvantages of a distributed system?

Of course, distributed systems also introduce some drawbacks:


Designing, implementing, and maintaining distributed systems tends to be more difficult than centralized and decentralized systems due to the lack of a single point of control.

Communication overhead

Extra time and bandwidth are required for nodes to communicate, come to a consensus, and coordinate work. This slows responses compared to a single server.

A single point of failure

While no individual blockchain node is critical, the communication network connecting nodes could still fail and disrupt the entire system. An outage could bring down major distributed services.

Security risks

With multiple access points, distributed systems introduce more potential vulnerabilities to attack. Proper authentication and encryption are critical.

distributed system in crypto

What are examples of distributed systems?

Some common examples of distributed systems that people interact with every day include the following:

Cloud computing platforms

Global data centers deliver infrastructure and services.


A peer-to-peer network maintains a distributed digital ledger without any central authority.

Content delivery network

A content delivery network (CDN) is a system of distributed servers that deliver web content to users based on their geographic location, network conditions, and other factors. Geographically distributed web servers that cache and deliver high volumes of web content.

Social networks

Across databases worldwide, the synchronization of user-generated content and services takes place.

Peer-to-peer file sharing

Allow multiple users to download files simultaneously.

Online gaming systems

Online gaming systems provide a platform for users to play games over the internet. Coordinate actions and states across the devices of many concurrent players.

What are the three types of distributed systems?

There are three fundamental categories that describe distributed architectures:


Distributed systems have a clear division of responsibility between clients that initiate requests and servers that fulfill them. Examples include web apps and SQL databases.


Systems without centralized coordination where nodes can function as both clients and servers for others. File-sharing networks like BitTorrent exemplify this model.


Combinations of the above utilize the strengths of hierarchical client-server and decentralized peer-to-peer models. Content delivery networks are often hybrid systems.

Client-server tends to be more structured, peer-to-peer, more ad hoc, and hybrid blended architectures. Real-world distributed systems frequently incorporate elements of multiple types.

How are distributed systems related to the blockchain?

Blockchain technology offers an innovative distributed system design. A network of peer-to-peer nodes maintains the digital ledger and communicates via internet protocols.

Having no single point of authority, blockchains utilize the Byzantine fault tolerance algorithm to securely propagate transactions across the decentralized network.

Some key ways blockchains leverage aspects of distributed systems include:

  • Nodes coordinate to synchronize the state of the shared blockchain using consensus mechanisms like proof-of-work, proof-of-stake, or proof-of-authority.
  • Nodes redundantly replicate data for fault tolerance and censorship resistance, ensuring there is no single point of failure.
  • For scalability, the network of miners can distribute computational tasks by verifying transactions in parallel.
  • Nodes independently validate transactions before adding them to new blocks in a way analogous to clients and servers.

Blockchain is a pioneering type of distributed application and infrastructure that drives innovation by combining aspects of client-server and peer-to-peer networked coordination. Its resilience stems directly from the core distributed architecture.

What is the role of distributed systems in blockchain?

Blockchains achieve their decentralized features by functioning as peer-to-peer distributed systems at their core architectural level.

Here are the roles of distributed systems in blockchain:

Data distribution

Numerous decentralized systems and nodes maintain identical copies of the blockchain ledger.

Consensus building

Algorithms like PoW, PoS, and PoA enable different systems to securely agree on a valid transaction order.

Decentralized control

No central entity controls the blockchain system. The participating systems distribute authority in the blockchain system.

Fault tolerance

As long as the majority of systems remain online, transactions continue to validate despite system failures.


Blockchain platforms can scale transaction throughput by increasing the number of systems processing transactions.

Trust minimization

Relying on distributed systems rather than centralized blockchain trust enables novel applications like cryptocurrencies.

Distributed architectures are what give blockchains their trustless, censorship-resistant, and secure properties by eliminating single points of control or failure. Blockchain leverages distributed systems principles to establish decentralized databases maintained by networks of nodes.

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By integrating Cryptobunq solutions into their projects, businesses can easily add the benefits of blockchain and distributed systems to their platforms. Cryptobunq simplifies building on blockchain networks through secure products and crypto services.

Therefore, CBQ plays an important role in both distributed systems and blockchains by powering innovations through integrations, audits, and crypto custody solutions.

centralization distributed decentralization

What's the type of distributed system that blockchain uses?

Blockchain infrastructure displays characteristics of both peer-to-peer and client-server systems. On one hand, as in peer-to-peer networks, blockchain nodes operate on equal footing with no asymmetrical client or server roles.

However, nodes also engage in hierarchical relationships when validating transactions based on computational power, as in proof-of-work. Additionally, some blockchain networks incorporate elements of both models.

Ethereum nodes initially communicate in a decentralized network to validate transactions, but then request and push updates to full archive nodes acting as centralized servers.

They exhibit peer-to-peer coordination among equal entities along with hierarchical client-server relationships during transaction validation procedures.

Blockchain networks maximize the benefits of distributed networks by categorizing them as a hybrid type of distributed system, while sharing attributes with both models. The hybrid approach maximizes the benefits of distributed networks.

What is the difference between blockchain and distributed systems?

Blockchain is a specific type of distributed system, but there are key distinctions:


Blockchain technology aims to serve as an open financial settlement layer with cryptocurrencies, while distributed systems encompass a wider range of decentralized applications beyond just currencies.


Blockchains uniquely rely on algorithms like proof-of-work or proof-of-stake to achieve distributed agreement on state, unlike traditional distributed databases, which don't require consensus.

Data Structure

Blockchain organizes data into linked blocks with cryptographic hashes, unlike flat files or relational tables stored on distributed systems. Make sure to check out “crypto hash rate” and “Bitcoin’s hash rate” for more details.


Once added, users cannot alter data in a blockchain; it provides an append-only transaction ledger since the earliest block. Distributed databases typically allow users to edit records.

The core innovation of blockchain networks lies in integrating a distributed consensus layer, an append-only immutable data structure, and native crypto assets, which are not found in traditional distributed computing models.

The bottom line

Distributed systems refer to software architectures that spread workloads across interconnected computers to improve scalability, availability, and resource usage. Examples include peer-to-peer networks, content delivery services, and cloud databases.

Blockchains are a type of distributed system that achieves transparency, security, and decentralization through replicated ledgers maintained using consensus mechanism protocols run by independent peers.

Distributed systems are the technological underpinnings enabling blockchain’s operation through replication, consensus, and failure handling. Distributed systems and blockchain technologies are globally transforming the design of data and coordination.

Crypto service providers like Cryptobunq aid in development by streamlining integrations, securing transactions, and providing types of custody in crypto for projects built leveraging the power of distributed ledgers and architectures.

You can easily invest in blockchain and integrate crypto services into your business with CBQ to benefit your business projects. Explore our case studies and contact us for prospective business growth with our expert crypto solutions!

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