Network Transparency Definition

Network transparency is the situation in which an operating system or other service allows a user to access a resource (such as an application program or data) without the user needing to know, and usually not being aware of, whether the resource is located on the local machine (i.e., the computer which the user is currently using) or on a remote machine (i.e., a computer elsewhere on the network).

Thus, for example, when a user opens a directory or file by clicking on an icon (i.e., small image) that appears on the display screen, the contents of the directory could be on the same computer or on some other computer located in the room next door or on another continent. In some cases, the location of the directory or file might be indicated by its name, but often this is not necessary. Likewise, when a user launches an application program, the program might run on the same computer or on some other computer.

Network transparency can be a major convenience to users, as it relieves them from having to be concerned about the details of the structure of the network and of having to take special steps to access remote data. It can also help simplify the tasks of program developers and system administrators.

Network transparency is a major feature of Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. It is made possible through the use of TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) and the support for it which is built into the operating system and other software.

A number of techniques have been developed to permit network transparency. For example, the network file system (NFS) was created to allow users to mount a hard disk drive (HDD) partition that exists on a remote machine and use its contents as if they were on the local machine.

A major feature of the X Window System is that it allows any application program that runs in a GUI (graphical user interface) to run transparently on either the local machine or a remote machine. The X Window System, which is standard on Unix-like operating systems, is a complete, cross-platform and free client-server system for managing GUIs on single computers and on networks of computers.

Created December 23, 2005.
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