What is Computer Network? Distinguish Computer Network and Distributed System



What is computer network?

The term "computer network" is to mean an interconnected collection of autonomous computers. 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, and communication satellites can also be used. By requiring the computers to be autonomous, we wish to exclude from our definition systems in which there is a clear master/slave relation. If one computer can forcibly start, stop, or control another one, the computers are not autonomous. A system with one control unit and many slaves is not a network; nor is a large computer with remote printers and terminals.

How Computer Network is different from Distributed Systems?

There is considerable confusion in the literature between a computer network and a distributed system. The key distinction is that in a distributed system, the existence of multiple autonomous computers is transparent (i.e., not visible) to the user. He or she can type a command to run a program, and it runs. It is up to the operating system to select the best processor, find and transport all the input files to that processor, and put the results in the appropriate place.
In other words, the user of a distributed system is not aware that there are multiple processors; it looks like a virtual uniprocessor. Allocation of jobs to processors and files to disks, movement of files between where they are stored and where they are needed, and all other system functions must be automatic.
With a network, users must explicitly log onto one machine, explicitly submit jobs remotely, explicitly move files around and generally handle all the network management personally. With a distributed system, nothing has to be done explicitly; it is all automatically done by the system without the users' knowledge.
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.
Reference:  Shen Jinlong. Computer Network and IP Technology. Nanjing University of Posts & Telecommunications. 2009