Computer Laboratory

Course pages 2012–13

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 implemenation due to time constraints.


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.

Presentations/essays/Annotated Bibliography: 100%

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.