N-tier application architecture provides a model for developers to create a flexible and reusable application. By breaking up an application into tiers, developers only have to modify or add a specific layer, rather than have to rewrite the enitire application over, if they decide to change technologies or scale up. In the term "N-tier," "N" implies any number -- like 2-tier, or 4-tier; basically, any number of distinct tiers used in your architecture. Application architectures are part of Layer 7 of the OSI model.
For an introduction to application architecture, see Robert Chartier's article, "Application Architecture: An N-Tier Approach," on 15Seconds.
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