Computer Laboratory

Course pages 2013–14

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 2011-2012 version was oriented around the evolution of IP to support new services like multicast, mobility, multihoming, pub/sub and, in general, data oriented networking. The course is a paper reading which puts the onus on the student to do the work.


  • IPng [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • New Architectures [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Multicast [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Content Distribution and Content Centric Networks [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Resource Pooling [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Green Networking [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Alternative Router Implementions [2 lectures, Jon Crowcroft]
  • Data Center Networks [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

This course does not feature any implementation work due to time constraints.


  • Three 1,200-word essays (worth 25% each), and
  • an annotated bibliography (25%).

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).


R02 Network Architectures cannot be taken in conjunction with L100 Introduction to Natural Language Processing in 2012-13.