A term describing a networked computer system which is able to dynamically dispatch information around the whole network of available workstations or subsystems, automatically, according to demand.

Distributed architectures oppose mere networked client-server architectures, where data is statically assigned to fixed subsystems, and generally has to be moved by explicit user intervention.

There are systems where this assignment can be centralized, which sometimes claim to be distributed, but this is mainly hype, and such a system may be considered merely a caricatures of a truly distributed system.

Sometimes an overall system may have certain software domains capable of distributed functionality. For example, a system may have a distributed DBMS, but a non-distributed file system.

A fully distributed system is able to make the network appear to be one unified computer system to normal users. A user may log in to any workstation without perceiving any significant difference. The environment the user sees, having logged in, will be the same at any workstation. The user's (application) programs will see the same environment (in particular, all data objects will be accessible in exactly the same way).

Some people reserve the term 'fully distributed' for an operating system that, in addition, is capable of process migration.

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