What is the complexity of a distributed computing system?

Anand Ranganathan, Roy H. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Distributed computing systems are becoming bigger and more complex. Although the complexity of large-scale distributed systems has been acknowledged to be an important challenge, there has not been much work in defining or measuring system complexity. Thus, today, it is difficult to compare the complexities of different systems, or to state that one system is easier to program, to manage, or to use than another. In this article, we try to understand the factors that cause computing systems to appear very complex to people. We define different aspects of system complexity and propose metrics for measuring these aspects. We also show how these aspects affect different kinds of people - viz. developers, administrators, and end-users. On the basis of the aspects and metrics of complexity that we identify, we propose general guidelines that can help reduce the complexity of systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007


  • Complexity
  • Distributed computing
  • Human aspects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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