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Definition: distributed operating system


An operating system designed to work in a network. More complex than a centralized or decentralized architecture, each computer in a distributed system operates and scales independently but is part of the whole. An interprocess communication (IPC) is designed to share data and resources as efficiently as possible.

In Practice
This architecture was first theorized in the 1970s and 1980s; however, today, most modern operating systems are network aware to a great extent. Distributed operating systems, defined as such, have not become as widely used by any stretch in comparison to Linux, Unix and Windows, which thrive in millions of networks. See Plan 9 and Inferno.