Department of Computer Science and Technology

Course pages 2017–18

Network Architectures

Principal lecturer: Prof Jon Crowcroft
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: R02
Hours: 16
Class limit: 16 students
Prerequisites: Undergraduate courses that cover the material in Principles of Cimmunications, Security, and Computer Systems Modelling


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.

Online submission of coursework is available from the Moodle page (Only available to Cambridge University staff and students)

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.