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(n.) A design. The term architecture can refer to either hardware or software, or to a combination of hardware and software. The architecture of a system always defines its broad outlines, and may define precise mechanisms as well.

An open architecture allows the system to be connected easily to devices and programs made by other manufacturers. Open architectures use off-the-shelf components and conform to approved standards. A system with a closed architecture, on the other hand, is one whose design is proprietary, making it difficult to connect the system to other systems.

Also see a diagram of n-tier application architecture in the quick reference section of Webopedia.

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