A systems approach to understanding the theory behind data networking

If you want to understand more about the theory behind data networking, take a peak at the third edition of Morgan Kaufmann’s Computer Networks: A System Approach.

Written by Larry Peterson, a computer science professor at Princeton University, and Bruce Davie, who works on Multiprotocol Label

Switching (MPLS) and other technologies for Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Networks is intended primarily as a college or university text. Although it is not written as a manual on how to design, build and implement networks, it is useful to networking professionals who want to see the “”big picture”” of networking and understand how protocols work.

You may have learned most of this information in college or university, but unless you’re a recent graduate, this book probably includes information on technologies that you didn’t learn about in college. The third edition includes an updated sections on security (which include DDOS attacks) and wireless (more on 802.11) and MPLS.

Although Davie works for Cisco, this book is not a glorified Cisco white paper. It includes sections on MPLS and H.323, but it’s impossible to write a comprehensive text on networking without explaining these technologies.

Although the authors discuss voice networking, the book is focussed mainly on packet-based networks, rather than circuit-switched.

The purpose of a network is to support one or more applications, and the book is written with this principle in mind. It is not primarily based on the physics and programming principles behind networks. However, the authors provide plenty of detail on concepts such as error detection using methods such as Internet checksum and cyclical redundancy check.

The authors briefly explain the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model, which contains seven “”layers,”” but the text is not based primarily on this model.

They explain basic networking concepts (such as what a host is, different between circuit-switching and packet switching, multiplexing, and the different types of multiplexing).

Subsequent chapters go into minute detail on the theory surrounding concepts such as the difference between forwarding and routing tables, quality of service and cryptographic algorithms.

An advantage of this book is the end of each section includes a summary in green type. If you skip to the end of the section and if the green summary seems pretty elementary to you, then you probably don’t need to read the section.

Each chapter includes problem sets, and the solutions to some are provided at the back of the book (along with a huge glossary).

It’s safe to say that most network administrators will not know (and do not need to know) the theory behind every networking concept covered in this book. It’s also safe to say that with the increased awareness of technologies such as 802.11 and voice over IP, users will want their network managers to understand the technologies — even if they’re not used in the network.

Although most of the information contained in this book is not of immediate importance to you, and won’t provide easy answers to the problems you face today, it is valuable both as a guide to the ever-growing plethora of technologies and acronyms in the networking industry.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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