Will Computers Be Centralized or Distributed?

Mike Allen
May 29, 2018

One question tech experts are asking themselves constantly is, “How is the computer/computation/server industry going to move forward?” Technology experts are trying to figure out what direction the computer industry is going to move in, and one key indicator of how the industry will move forward is by looking at history.

What Is Centralized Computing?

Originally, computers were all centralized due to the fact that there weren’t separate terminals for each computer – meaning they took up large chunks of space and were expensive to make. Everything was built in. 

More individuals wanted to use a computer to solve complex problems and simplify their daily routine through the use of new technology, and it was clear that things needed to change moving forward. It was this realization that gave birth to centralized computing through the use of individual terminals. 

Centralized computing was created to allow more individuals to gain access to a computer and focuses on scaling the technology for more people to use it. Essentially, a computer is a standalone device. You give the computer an input, it processes that input, and it will deliver some output.

Essentially, centralized computing is in every device we use throughout our normal routine – our personal computer, cellphone, or tablet work device. 

In this way, every person has access to a computer, but the computational power is limited on the hardware technology within the product, and is built with economic scale in mind. The more affordable the product is, the greater number of individuals who can purchase that product. The more people who have access to a computer, the more complex problems can be solved over time. 

As prices decrease, computational power decreases as well, due to the fact that innovative technology is expensive. This means that if you need to use complex calculations for large scale problems, and need to find a solution – centralized computing has its significant limitations on producing efficient results. 

While it might be possible for a centralized computer to develop a solution to the proposed problem, it will take an immense amount of time. 

For instance, if you are doing a research project and you need to have a computer solve an extremely complex algorithm, your single PC might not have enough processing power to come up with a solution in a reasonable timeframe, or come up with a solution at all. 

Think about centralized computing like this: You have 1 problem, and you only have one computer to solve the issue. 

It was this exact limitation that led to the development of Distributed Computing.

What Is Distributed Computing?

While a single personal computer might not have enough processing power to solve complex problems, distributed computers can assist with ease. Distributed Computing is essentially taking a large complex task, and splitting it up into pieces that can be solved on their own by other computers. 

For instance, if you have a complex video that requires high-end graphics settings, or needs to model a 3D element, it would be more efficient and faster to split up chunks of that project to different computers and render the element in half the time. You are effectively distributing the workload across multiple platforms.

Think about distributed computing like this: You have 1 problem, and you can solve the problem through the use of five separate computers. Essentially, each computer only has to solve 1/5th of the problem, as they are all working in conjunction with one another, and can provide a solution in 1/5th the amount of time required.

Why Is Centralized Or Distributed Computing Important?

Now that you understand what each of the two different types of computing is, it’s important to understand why knowing the difference between each one is important. While it’s true that we have more computing power in our mobile phones than the computing power it took to land on the moon, that doesn’t mean that we should be satisfied. 

Even though we have more computing power in our mobile phones to solve complex algorithms or equations, it doesn’t mean that the level of difficulty with problems or complex tasks remained the same. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.

We need to continually invest in new computing technology to meet the demands of the future. As we develop new software and technology, we need quicker computers with more processing power to solve more problems, at a faster rate. 

This means that moving forward, technology experts need to come up with new and innovative solutions to solve the complex problems of the future – and we need to evaluate whether or not those complex algorithms and problems will be solved through centralized computers, or distributed computers.

How Is Distributed Computing Being Used?

One unique thing about distributed computing is that complex computations can be solved through a server network, or through various network connections. If an organization or business has several computers all linked to the same network or server settings, then they can theoretically access all the data on a central network. 

This means that complex problems and tasks can all be solved at once towards completion of one solution, without additional hassle. 

In addition, there has been a recent push for crowdsourced distributed computing solutions. For instance, one company like Golem is enabling users to share a piece of their computing power to a central network while earning cryptocurrency. From there, other users can use that processing power network for their own computational needs. 

Essentially, this new technology allows companies or individuals to lease additional computing power off the backs of other contributors to the central server network. 

Participating in these new endeavors are much more cost-effective than building additional computers, servers, or networks on their own – as you can lease existing technology from other providers of the same network. 

Will Computers Be Centralized or Distributed Moving Forward?

The key question to answer is how computers will solve complex problems in the future. Will computers solve problems through centralized methods, or will they be distributed moving forward? There are plenty of concerns associated with each method of computations. 

With centralized computing, there is a substantial amount of concern associated with escalating costs for more processing power, and efficiency of existing measures. 

While it is entirely possible for problems to be solved through a centralized computer, prices for additional computer processing power will continually rise and limit the amount of exposure to the technology for those individuals and businesses who can’t afford the steep prices. 

Distributed computing also has its various limitations as well. If you have one complex problem that has one large step, there are limitations as to how you could split up the computations to various computers. 

This means that while you can split up problems to be solved by other computers within the distributed computer network, there will still be a substantial bottleneck until the largest piece is completed. 

In other words, while it might sound more efficient overall to split a task into multiple parts – there are limitations that need to be evaluated for each complex problem. Even though new technologies are being developed to allow individuals to access or lease others’ computing power, the entire premise of those technologies are based on a willingness from the network members. 

This means that if those networks don’t have enough members, or members aren’t willing to participate – the technology isn’t useful or efficient.

To truly answer the question of whether or not computers will be centralized or distributed moving forward, each problem has to be evaluated in terms of efficiency.

Which Computing Method Is More Efficient?

Solving complex problems through the use of centralized computing methods or distributed computing methods comes down to overall efficiency for each problem that needs to be solved. Centralized computers can solve complex solutions, but are expensive when implementing new technology, and slower due to the fact that all solutions must be solved through one device. 

Distributed computers don’t need to have the most advanced technology, can solve problems in different parts, are more cost-effective, but do have their unique drawbacks. Distributed computers can only process and solve problems based upon the individual computer’s processing power. 

This creates limitations of efficiency for each unique computer – which can lead to potential bottlenecks in various parts of the entire solution. In addition, in the event that one of the decentralized computers fails to solve a solution, or is no longer in operation – the rest of the network must pick up the slack.

What Do You Think Computers Will Look Like In The Future?

What do you believe computers will look like in the future? Do you think everyone will adopt a standard of sharing their PC’s computing power to solve more complex problems through a distributed computing network, or will more advancement be made to allow more computing power in a centralized platform?




Mike Allen

One question tech experts are asking themselves constantly is, “How is the computer/computation/server industry going to move forward?” Technology experts are trying to figure out what direction the computer industry is going to move in, and one key indicator of how the industry will move forward is by looking at history.