An IMAX theatre system is a complex distributed system that requires control. A mass transit system is another with greater real world impact. Many hospitals have hierarchies of distributed systems with some interleaved and some discrete controls, often with life and death applications.

IMAX theatres have evolved into remarkably complex groupings of technologies that require careful control (IMAX, 2010). From the coordination of very high speed film transport with six channel audio to protocols, including the use of body armor, to deal with the potentially hazardous lighting elements in their projection units (Česky (2010), they require considerable coordination, both technologically and procedurally.

Mass transit systems are a crucial part of many urban environments' functionality. Moving large numbers of people, whether for work or leisure, is simply inherent in how cities work. Doing so with trains and buses could be more efficient than doing so with individual transportation (Mohring, 1972). The technology required and implemented to track transportation assets and their passengers varies widely with the age of a system and the financial resources available in its environment but even the simplest such system is a good analogy for controlling a complex distributed system because that's exactly what it is. Knowing where a vehicle is, where its going, how (over)utilized its capacity is and such factors as possible interconnects and the speed and time to make them make mass transit an appropriate model even in those cases where the technology may be stopwatches and paper.

My experience consulting for health care entities also exposed me to a wide variation of technology. But the bottom line categories were often very similar: they generally fell into treatment controllers, clinical communications and/or decision support and administration. How much any of those were integrated fluctuated but they could all be described as complex distributed systems. In fact, keeping some systems separate was an important design and implementation issue which one could argue cut down on their distributed nature but at the same time might be said to increase their complexity.

In today's world complex distributed systems are ubiquitous. Whether and how much they depend on technology varies but whatever the case they can serve as analogies for networks because the same psychological abstractions apply (Agranoff & McGuire, 2001).

Agranoff, R. & McGuire, M. (2001) Big Questions in Public Network Management Research [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 28 November, 2010)

Česky (2010) Xenon arc lamp [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 28 November, 2010)

IMAX (2010) IMAX Impact [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 28 November, 2010)

Mohring, H. (1972) Optimization and scale economies in urban bus transportation [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 28 November, 2010)