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In studying or designing parallel and distributed systems one should have available a robust analytical model that includes the major parameters that determine the system performance. Jackson networks have been very successful in modeling parallel and distributed systems. However, Jackson networks have their limitations. In particular, the product-form solution of Jackson networks assumes steady state and exponential service centers with certain specialized queueing discipline. In this paper, we present a performance model that can be used to study the transient behavior of parallel and distributed systems with finite workload. When the number of tasks to be executed is large enough, the model approaches the product-form of Jackson networks (steady state solution). We show how to use the model to analyze the performance of parallel and distributed systems. We also use the model to show to what extent the product-form solution of Jackson networks can be used.