Internet and computer networks are on the rise. Several models exist that aim to fulfill the needs of many businesses. And client-server architecture is one of the models. Client-server architecture is a famous design pattern that has received massive praise and usage in software engineering. It provides efficient communication and the split of issues between various system components. The architecture approaches the system intending to distribute functions between two core sections: the client and server.
Take a situation where you head to a restaurant and order your food, which the waiter receives. The waiter takes the order to the kitchen, and the cook prepares as requested. When ready, the waiter returns to serve you the ordered food. This is the same idea behind client-server architecture.
We take the client as any processing requesting a particular service (You making the order for food). The server is the actual process of providing the service the client requested.
Types of Software Architecture
The various types of software architecture denote the general structure or blueprint developers use when creating apps. It is a good way of helping developers, and project managers have an easy time to efficiently build products. The development team should focus on the architecture patterns they are conversant with and can help them achieve their desired functionality. There is no time for reinventing the wheel; instead, focus on proven patterns and frameworks to achieve your goals.
Each architecture has unique features, and managers should carefully review them. Reviewing helps to select the most appropriate architecture that fulfills the needs of the team or business. Some of the key aspects to understand include:
- The various architectural patterns exist to help create great products
- Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern has a strong base on three components that include model, view, and controller
- Client-server architecture has servers receiving requests from clients. This architecture can be divided into 4 types (1-tier, 2-tier, 3-tier, and N-tier)
- Microkernel pattern is based on core systems and the plugin modules that you can easily customize
- Peer-to-peer architecture facilitates communication and file sharing between devices
- Your project requirements, expertise within the team, project complexity, cost implication, maintenance, scalability issues, and the available technology stacks are the main elements to focus on to help you select the appropriate architecture
Popular architectures include the ones described below:
Model-View-Controller Pattern (MVC)
MVC patterns utilize three major components:
- The model component represents a business layer to execute requests and provide feedback to build an amazing experience.
- The view component has full jurisdiction over the user interface logic and ensures an excellent user experience.
- The controller component handles the routines of all business logic, incoming requests, and other factors to ensure the other components are working well.
MVC applies to many developers when creating web pages using lightweight apps.
Java EE (Enterprise Edition)
This is a flexible architectural pattern for coordinating chores between web service specifications, enterprise specifications, web specifications, and other factors. Developers prefer it to manage distributed systems, create web pages, and facilitate their coordination. The architecture requires basic knowledge of JAVA API for processing JSON, JSON binding, and XML binding.
It is an architectural pattern with layers and two factors: client and server. It is a common pattern people use unknowingly. It falls into four types, including 1-tier architecture, 2-tier architecture, 3-tier architecture, and N-tier architecture.
Microkernel architecture pattern has a core system for processing the primary operations of an app and customizable plugin modules for added functionality. The architecture is good, especially in situations where novelty is a priority. A sample instance is where social media users always look forward to fast apps and swift updates. They will hop to the next available app if there is any lag, promising them quick functionality. This architecture helps achieve such good results.
This pattern utilizes distributed systems to facilitate various device communication. It allows direct sharing of data between computers. One computer submits a request, and another within the network responds.
Particular events form the core basis of this event-driven architecture in triggering communications from one decoupled service to another. The services exist as microservices that can operate independently for quick task processing. The architecture will have event producers, routers, and consumers. E-commerce websites use this architecture where some special events trigger most actions.
This architecture is functional by Netflix, where the user interface actively interacts with several microservices, simultaneously allowing content streaming. The microservices connect to different databases to ensure they relay the requested content. The pattern focuses more on fault isolation, data security, and high scalability.
How Do You Select the Appropriate Architecture
To make such an informed decision, you need to focus on the following factors:
- Project requirements – Define the unique requirements, which include understanding the performance, security, maintenance issues, and scalability. Check the architecture aligns with the project priorities.
- Project complexity – 1-tier or 2-tier patterns are suitable for smaller and less complex apps, while microservices architecture may suit larger and more complex systems well.
- Team expertise – Go for architecture your team is familiar with and has the requisite knowledge. This is a good way to ensure a reduction in the learning curve and thus reduce associated costs.
- Technology stack – Consider the technologies you envision using to avoid compatibility issues.
- Scalability – Event-driven or microservices architectures are good whenever a project calls for rapid scalability.
- Updates and maintenance – The architecture should ensure long-term and easy maintenance and updates. Future enhancements should be a core consideration.
- The cost – Come up with the cost associated with implementing and maintaining a given architecture. Check if there are additional costs like operational, licensing, and infrastructure or if some patterns have more associated costs than others.
What is Client-Server Architecture?
This network model gives various applications the ability to communicate and exchange data over a given network. It divides a system between clients and servers, which can happen to be within the same system or communicating using a given network. There is always communication between the client and the server. The client requests and receives files and services from a centralized server through internet connectivity. Servers are responsible for hosting, managing, and delivering various services and resources to the client. The network may use protocols like TCP/IP or HTTP. Developers use this architecture to develop apps like online shopping and web browsing. Some benefits include security, scalability, performance optimization, and modularity. The client is more interested in the fluidity of the user interface for connectivity to the server, and the server deals with data storage, processing, and business logic.
Key Components of the Client-Server Architecture
For efficient implementation of the client-server architecture, prime components exist to make it work. The components include:
We term them as client computers containing different operating systems. Most will use MS Windows, ranging from Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and more. The OSs are specifically designed for the client machines and are considerably cheaper than operating systems for servers. The workstation has local programs and rules that can be independently operated.
The client computers call for low technical requirements regarding hard drive space, CPU speed, and memory. They do not store data or receive requests from other computers. They always place requests to access shared files and databases. Databases, files, management policies, and a central repository of programs are functions left to the server.
They are termed fast-processing equipment and act as centralized repositories for databases, files, programs, and policies. Servers are characterized by robust memory and huge storage space for handling multiple requests from workstations and providing them with functionalities. Within a given network, a server can act as a file server, domain controller, database server, mail server, app server, and more. Here are some types of the servers:
- Database servers – You can store programs with highly structured data like accounting files or marketing spreadsheets.
- Application servers – They assist in accessing internet apps without requiring downloading copies of your device.
- Web servers – They give the capability to access the internet.
- Computing servers – Offers great power and space to enhance faster performance to a given device.
- Web proxy – This is a communication gateway facilitating the devices to communicate.
- Domain Name Services (DNS) – These servers translate what is typed on the browser’s address bars, ensuring a device can easily locate a website the user is searching on the internet.
These are useful in the client-server architecture for facilitating the connection between the workstations and servers. There are several networking devices with different functions. Examples include:
- Hubs facilitate the connection of a server to various workstations
- Repeaters transfer data from one device to the next.
- Bridges are good at segmenting isolated networks.
Examples of the Client-Server architecture
We use the client-server model in our day-to-day life. Some of the examples include:
- Mail servers – These allow sending and receiving emails between different parties. Email handling can be done by different software.
- File servers – They offer a central location where files can be stored. Google Docs is a good example of where you can easily save a file from your PC and access or edit it using your phone. They also facilitate access to multiple users.
- Web servers – They are supercomputers with high-performance capabilities that are good for hosting various web pages. The client uses high-speed internet to request server-side data.
How the Client-Server Architecture works
There are simple steps that occur within the Client-Server Architecture:
- A client uses a network medium to send a request (a command, message, or query) to the server.
- The server receives the client’s request and understands the logic and data before processing it. If need be, the server may use additional resources or other servers to accomplish the request.
- The server forwards the feedback/response (acknowledgment, data, or error message) to the client via the network medium.
- The client receives feedback and showcases to use or carries out additional steps depending on the feedback.
The Different Types of Client-Server Architecture
The architecture is divided into data layers, presentation, or business logic categories. They include the following
Business logic, presentation, and data layers appear as a single package since they are stored on the same shared storage device or a single device. An example is the desktop app working offline and storing all its data within the same device of operation.
Here, the database operates as a separate entity. Business logic and presentation layer storage is on the client, and the data layer is on the server. An example is a desktop app requesting one to log in to an online account.
Storage of the presentation layer is on the client; one server hosts the business logic layer, and a different layer hosts the data layer. A middleware that controls the application layer exists. Client devices have full control over the presentation layer, while the server controls the database layer. An example can be a smartphone app. The middleware receives a request from the client device and presents it to the server. The request is then received and processed by the server. There is more security and data integrity here.
This model splits the business logic layer into several layers to ensure performance, stability, and management become better. The different functions like application processing, data management, and display may fall into different layers. E-commerce system is the best example here.
Benefits of Client-Server Architecture
Scalability: The system has the capability of handling more pressure through the addition of resources like servers and clients. This happens when the user desires to add the server size to cater to many clients, and no interruption, slowdown, or crash is felt. Adding more servers helps spread the load, and the system handles clients easily.
Modularity: The architecture separates server and client issues, making it easy to manage in the development process, testing phase, and maintenance. You can comfortably change one part of the system, and no effect is felt on the other parts. Finding and fixing errors within the system becomes easy.
Centralized control: There is centralized control within the client-server networks, given that all information resides in one location. Management and administration can be done from a central area, meaning any issue within the entire network is solved from a central point. Updating data and resources becomes an easy task.
Scurity: Logic and data are centralized; thus, there is controlled access to the entire system. There is a reduction in unauthorized access, which helps protect data well. Access controls, like usernames & passwords, are set in place.
Performance: Once you offload resource-intensive tasks to your server, the client enhances a responsive and fluid UI. The system will remain efficient even when there is a heavy load.
Shortcomings of Client-Server Architecture
Single point of failure: Any downtime in the server affects the whole system, and clients won’t access it. That means you need backup servers or failover systems.
Network dependency: There is over-reliance on network communication, which may cause issues in responsiveness and performance. That means you need extra resources to handle this, like having caching mechanisms and ensuring network protocols are optimized.
Congestion in the network: A single server with too many clients can lead to slowed connectivity or server crashes. Overloading the server means having accessibility issues.
Increased complexity: Handling this architecture may add complexity, especially when maintaining data consistency. You may also need to design and manage communication protocols. Such complexity comes as an advantage in disguise by enhancing the efficient utilization of resources and the system becoming more secure.
Scalability issues: You will need load-balancing techniques and more design features to evenly distribute load across several servers.
Limitation in offline functionality: The architecture relies more on an active network connection, meaning you will experience issues whenever there is low connectivity or the system is offline. You can handle this by implementing offline data synchronization mechanisms.
Requires an extra cost: You must incur expenses to set up and maintain your server. Having powerful networks means going for expensive purchases.
When to Choose Client-Server Architecture
There are different scenarios when client-server architecture is the best consideration.
- When you need centralized data storage and logic processing
- Whenever there is a need for scalability since this model scales more effectively
- In the cases where better security is a requirement, and you also want to have strict access control
- Go for this when you need to have modules and separate data processing and business logic from the user interface
- Client-server architecture is good at handling resource-intensive chores, leading to performance optimization. The client remains fast and responsive since most activities are offloaded to the server.
- Client-server architecture provides a unified solution when there is a need to support various types of clients like desktop apps, mobile applications, and web browsers.
- The architecture comes into play when you need to consider better control over data consistency and integrity
- The architecture is good in situations that require resource sharing, like hardware devices, databases, or files.
- In a situation where multiple users want to collaborate in real-time, this architecture comes in handy when we have a central server managing all the data
We can all agree that the client-server architecture is so flexible and powerful to help you manage network resources and apps. Businesses need to use the power of networking to help achieve their growth objectives and become digital in their operations. IT professionals can aim to distribute workload and responsibilities between servers and clients to avoid overloads. Go ahead and master the ins and outs of this architecture.
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