client/server architecture

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The Internet architecture that lets an exchange of resources take place is called a client/server architecture.

Anything that can be represented with a load of ones and zeros stored in a computer memory has been turned into a resource and made available on the Internet. These resources are found and exchanged using services. An exchange of resources is carried out between a supplier and a consumer. The supplier offers a service that consumers use. Services are supplied to Internet consumers using host computers.

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The term client/server was first used in the 1980s in reference to personal computers (PCs) on a network. The actual client/server model started gaining acceptance in the late 1980s. The client/server software architecture is a versatile, message-based and modular infrastructure that is intended to improve usability, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability as compared to centralized, mainframe, time sharing computing.

A client is defined as a requester of services and a server is defined as the provider of services. A single machine can be both a client and a server depending on the software configuration. For details on client/server software architectures see Schussel and Edelstein [Schussel 96, Edelstein 94].

This technology description provides a summary of some common client/server architectures and, for completeness, also summarizes mainframe and file sharing architectures. Detailed descriptions for many of the individual architectures are provided elsewhere in the document.


Computer technology that separates computers and their users into two categories: clients or servers. When you want information from a computer on the Internet, you are a client. The computer that delivers the information is the server. A server both stores information and makes it available to any authorized client who requests the information. You may hear this one frequently, especially if someone says, "You can't contact us today because our Web server is down."

A network architecture in which each computer or process on the network is either a client or a server. Servers are powerful computers or processes dedicated to managing disk drives (file servers), printers (print servers), or network traffic (network servers ). Clients are PCs or workstations on which users run applications. Clients rely on servers for resources, such as files, devices, and even processing power.

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