Technology is changing the world, and distributed applications are leading the charge.
Innovations in technology have created a world that is not only incredibly different from what it was before but also far more efficient and secure. How we approach security, scalability, and decentralization has changed and improved over recent years. One of the many notable advancements in technology is decentralized computing and distributed applications; both of which are only growing in popularity. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into distributed applications, and have a look at what they are, how they work, and the benefits they have to offer.
What are Distributed Applications?
Also known as DApps, distributed applications run on multiple computers or devices that communicate and work with each other for a single common goal. In a distributed network, each computer or device is referred to as a “node”. Every node helps process tasks and store data for the entire system. Consensus algorithms are used to validate the data and transactions sent through the network and ensure that data and transactions are accurate and consistent. A few of the more commonly used algorithms are Proof of Work, Proof of Stake, or Delegated Proof of Stake. Protocols and messaging systems are used to facilitate and streamline communication between nodes. Smart contracts can also be used to automate processes and handle transactions within each node.
Advantages of Distributed Applications
Distributed applications are an alternative to traditional centralized applications where computation, processing, and data storage are done in a single location. The distributed approach has several notable advantages, such as the following:
- Fault tolerance and redundancy: Distributed applications are inherently resilient. A distributed system can operate as usual even when a single node fails because there are other nodes to take its place. This is a very notable benefit over centralized systems where the entire system can fail from a single point of failure.
- Heightened security: In the same way that failures are isolated to a single node, data breaches are also isolated to a single node in distributed applications. This makes distributed applications significantly more secure than centralized systems.
- Scalable: Having the ability to distribute workloads over multiple nodes means that distributed applications can manage high traffic while avoiding performance bottlenecks. This is a big benefit in today’s day and age where applications are processing increasing amounts of data and experiencing growing traffic.
- Parallel processing: With multiple nodes available to handle incoming tasks, parallel processing can occur which results in faster response times and better user experience.
- Data integrity: The use of consensus algorithms improves data integrity while lowering the risk of data manipulation and loss.
Disadvantages of Distributed Applications
Distributed applications are undoubtedly causing a stir in the tech industry. These applications have amazing advantages like improved security, scalability, and dependability. However, we all know that no solution is perfect — even distributed applications have their own set of drawbacks. Here are a few that we need to be aware of:
- Complexity: Distributed applications tend to be tougher to develop, implement, and maintain because of the many components that are used in a decentralized network. Components such as consensus algorithms and blockchain technology add a level of complexity that centralized systems don’t have.
- Smaller talent pool: Building distributed applications requires a unique skill set and understanding of decentralized technologies, such as blockchain and P2P networks. Since it is a relatively new field, finding qualified developers can be challenging and costly.
- Energy consumption: Energy usage and its impact on the environment have always been a concern since blockchain technology entered the picture. This is because the consensus algorithms involved require significant computational power. Shifts towards sustainable energy are occurring, but this will continue to be a significant disadvantage to distributed applications until the bulk of energy utilized is supplied from renewable sources.
Use cases for Distributed Applications
After looking at their advantages and disadvantages, we now know more about what makes distributed applications both amazing and challenging. Now that we’re armed with a better understanding of distributed applications, we can better appreciate how they are changing the world of technology. Next up, let's dive into some examples of how distributed applications are already changing the world.
Decentralized finance (DeFi) has been the primary use for distributed applications in recent years. DeFi is making a difference in today’s world by establishing a financial ecosystem that is more inclusive, accessible, and transparent than its traditional counterparts. Decentralized applications play a major role in decentralized finance in many ways, three of the most notable being: the creation of stablecoins, decentralized exchanges, and asset management. Decentralized exchanges and asset management platforms are built on a distributed architecture with consensus algorithms under the hood to enhance the system’s security, integrity, and reliability. Stablecoins are created and managed using distributed application architecture and accompanying technologies, such as blockchain and smart contracts.
Gaming is another field in which distributed applications have had a huge impact. To provide an effective user experience, gaming demands high performance and real-time feedback. With the numerous performance benefits that a distributed infrastructure delivers, it's no surprise that this architectural approach has been widely adopted in the gaming industry. Gaming platforms that run on decentralized networks have been gaining a lot of users thanks to their speed, low latency, and resistance to censorship. The rise of blockchain technology and digital assets has made play-to-earn models and in-game asset trading more viable. This creates a highly engaging gaming ecosystem where players are incentivized and rewarded with real-world value.
Management of Sensitive Information
Due to the vast security measures it provides, a distributed architecture is a great option for systems that handle sensitive data and personally identifiable information. Government, healthcare, and insurance platforms are a few sectors that have started to implement a distributed strategy for their systems and applications. These industries typically have strict rules and regulations to follow, which technologies like consensus algorithms, data distribution, and cryptographic security can help to accommodate. Now that the world is becoming more concerned about cybersecurity issues and data protection, companies that use distributed infrastructure will have an advantage over those that do not.
Recently, distributed applications have been a massive hype in the tech industry. And for good reason: They give users a lot of advantages over centralized systems. We are bound to see more and more distributed applications enter the scene as companies and technical teams discover their many benefits. For example, HarperDB is an edge platform that is distributing applications and their data due to the associated performance and cost gains. Businesses that decide to jump on the trend of distributed applications will definitely gain a competitive edge over their competition. The future for distributed applications is looking very bright and we’re excited to see where it will take us in the future.