Distributed processing is a phrase used to refer to a variety of computer systems that use more than one computer (or processor) to run an application. This includes parallel processing in which a single computer uses more than one CPU to execute programs.
More often, however, distributed processing refers to local-area networks (LANs) designed so that a single program can run simultaneously at various sites. Most distributed processing systems contain sophisticated software that detects idle CPUs on the network and parcels out programs to utilize them.
Another form of distributed processing involves distributed databases. This is databases in which the data is stored across two or more computer systems. The database system keeps track of where the data is so that the distributed nature of the database is not apparent to users.
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