Client-server computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or work loads between service providers (servers) and service requesters, called clients. Often clients and servers operate over a computer network on separate hardware. A server machine is a high-performance host that is running one or more server programs which share its resources with clients. A client does not share any of its resources, but requests a server's content or service function. Clients therefore initiate communication sessions with servers which await (listen to) incoming requests.
Client-server describes the relationship between two computer programs in which one program, the client program, makes a service request to another, the server program. Standard networked functions such as email exchange, web access and database access, are based on the client-server model. For example, a web browser is a client program at the user computer that may access information at any web server in the world. To check your bank account from your computer, a web browser client program in your computer forwards your request to a web server program at the bank. That program may in turn forward the request to its own database client program that sends a request to a database server at another bank computer to retrieve your account balance. The balance is returned to the bank database client, which in turn serves it back to the web browser client in your personal computer, which displays the information for you.
The client-server model has become one of the central ideas of network computing. Many business applications being written today use the client-server model. So do the Internet's main application protocols, such as HTTP, SMTP, Telnet, DNS. In marketing, the term has been used to distinguish distributed computing by smaller dispersed computers from the "monolithic" centralized computing of mainframe computers. But this distinction has largely disappeared as mainframes and their applications have also turned to the client-server model and become part of network computing.
Each instance of the client software can send data requests to one or more connected servers. In turn, the servers can accept these requests, process them, and return the requested information to the client. Although this concept can be applied for a variety of reasons to many different kinds of applications, the architecture remains fundamentally the same.
The most basic type of client-server architecture employs only two types of hosts: clients and servers. This type of architecture is sometimes referred to as two-tier. It allows devices to share files and resources. The two tier architecture means that the client acts as one tier and application in combination with server acts as another tier.
The interaction between client and server is often described using sequence diagrams. Sequence diagrams are standardized in the Unified Modeling Language.
Specific types of clients include web browsers, email clients, and online chat clients.
Specific types of servers include web servers, ftp servers, application servers, database servers, name servers, mail servers, file servers, print servers, and terminal servers. Most web services are also types of servers.
Comparison to peer-to-peer architecture :
In peer-to-peer[disambiguation needed] architectures, each host or instance of the program can simultaneously act as both a client and a server, and each has equivalent responsibilities and status.
Both client-server and peer-to-peer architectures are in wide usage today. Details may be found in Comparison of Centralized (Client-Server) and Decentralized (Peer-to-Peer) Networking.
Comparison to client-queue-client architecture :
While classic client-server architecture requires one of the communication endpoints to act as a server, which is much harder to implement, Client-Queue-Client allows all endpoints to be simple clients, while the server consists of some external software, which also acts as passive queue (one software instance passes its query to another instance to queue, e.g. database, and then this other instance pulls it from database, makes a response, passes it to database etc.). This architecture allows greatly simplified software implementation. Peer-to-peer architecture was originally based on the Client-Queue-Client concept.
* In most cases, a client-server architecture enables the roles and responsibilities of a computing system to be distributed among several independent computers that are known to each other only through a network. This creates an additional advantage to this architecture: greater ease of maintenance. For example, it is possible to replace, repair, upgrade, or even relocate a server while its clients remain both unaware and unaffected by that change.
* All the data is stored on the servers, which generally have far greater security controls than most clients. Servers can better control access and resources, to guarantee that only those clients with the appropriate permissions may access and change data.
* Since data storage is centralized, updates to that data are far easier to administer than what would be possible under a P2P paradigm. Under a P2P architecture, data updates may need to be distributed and applied to each peer in the network, which is both time-consuming and error-prone, as there can be thousands or even millions of peers.
* Many mature client-server technologies are already available which were designed to ensure security, friendliness of the user interface, and ease of use.
* It functions with multiple different clients of different capabilities.
* Traffic congestion on the network has been an issue since the inception of the client-server paradigm. As the number of simultaneous client requests to a given server increases, the server can become overloaded. Contrast that to a P2P network, where its aggregated bandwidth actually increases as nodes are added, since the P2P network's overall bandwidth can be roughly computed as the sum of the bandwidths of every node in that network.
* The client-server paradigm lacks the robustness of a good P2P network. Under client-server, should a critical server fail, clients’ requests cannot be fulfilled. In P2P networks, resources are usually distributed among many nodes. Even if one or more nodes depart and abandon a downloading file, for example, the remaining nodes should still have the data needed to complete the download.