Computer Laboratory

Course pages 2011–12

Network Architectures

Principal lecturer: Prof Jon Crowcroft
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: R02
Hours: 16
Prerequisites: Undergraduate courses in computer networks and security


This module aims to provide the world with more network architects. The 2010-2011 version was oriented around the evolution of IP to support new services like multicast, mobility, multihoming, pub/sub and, in general, data oriented networking.


  • IPng [4 lectures, including overview/revision from Digital Communication I and II, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Multicast [3 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Software/hardware interface [1 lecture, Andrew Moore]
  • Naming [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Pub/Sub [1 lecture, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Data driven networks [3 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Resource Pooling [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • contribute to new network system designs;
  • engineer evolutionary changes in network systems;
  • identify and repair architectural design flaws in networked systems;
  • see that there are no perfect solutions (aside from academic ones) for routing, addressing, naming;
  • understand tradeoffs in modularisation and other pressures on clean software systems implementation, and see how the world is changing the proper choices in protocol layering, or non layered or cross-layered.


Assessment is through three graded essays (each chosen individually from a number of suggested or student-chosen topics), as follows:

  1. Analysis of two different architectures for a particular scenario in terms of cost/performance tradeoffs for some functionality and design dimension, for example:
    • ATM – e.g. for hardware versus software tradeoff
    • IP – e.g. for mobility, multi-homing, multicast, multipath
    • 3GPP – e.g. for plain complexity versus complicatedness
  2. A discursive essay on a specific communications systems component, in a particular context, such as ad hoc routing, or wireless sensor networks.
  3. A bespoke network design for a narrow, well specified specialised target scenario, for example:
    • A customer baggage tracking network for an airport.
    • in-flight entertainment system.
    • in-car network for monitoring and control.
    • inter-car sensor/control network for automatic highways.

Practical work

Rapid simulation and modelling...


There will be a mix of reading club, and design and evaluation. Evaluation will be a mix of analysis, back-of-an-envelope simulation and models.

The reading club will involve essay material with comparative evaluation of approaches in papers.

Given network problems (much like narrative way of teaching economics in Chicago) we want a lot of hands on problem solving – one size doesn't fit all.

Reading/essays: 60%, practical lessons 40%.

Recommended reading

Pre-course reading:

Keshav, S. (1997). An engineering approach to computer networking. Addison-Wesley (1st ed.). ISBN 0201634422
Peterson, L.L. & Davie, B.S. (2007). Computer networks: a systems approach. Morgan Kaufmann (4th ed.).

Design patterns:

Day, John (2007). Patterns in network architecture: a return to fundamentals. Prentice Hall.

Example systems:

Krishnamurthy, B. & Rexford, J. (2001). Web protocols and practice: HTTP/1.1, Networking protocols, caching, and traffic measurement. Addison-Wesley.

Economics and networks:

Frank, Robert H. (2008). The economic naturalist: why economics explains almost everything.


Certainly, a collection of papers (see ACM CCR which publishes notable network researchers' favourite ten papers every 6 months or so).