Computer Networks: A Systems Approach / Edition 5

Computer Networks: A Systems Approach / Edition 5

by Larry L. Peterson
Pub. Date:
Elsevier Science


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Computer Networks: A Systems Approach / Edition 5

Computer Networks: A Systems Approach, Fifth Edition, explores the key principles of computer networking, with examples drawn from the real world of network and protocol design. Using the Internet as the primary example, this best-selling and classic textbook explains various protocols and networking technologies. The systems-oriented approach encourages students to think about how individual network components fit into a larger, complex system of interactions.

This book has a completely updated content with expanded coverage of the topics of utmost importance to networking professionals and students, including P2P, wireless, network security, and network applications such as e-mail and the Web, IP telephony and video streaming, and peer-to-peer file sharing. There is now increased focus on application layer issues where innovative and exciting research and design is currently the center of attention. Other topics include network design and architecture; the ways users can connect to a network; the concepts of switching, routing, and internetworking; end-to-end protocols; congestion control and resource allocation; and end-to-end data.

Each chapter includes a problem statement, which introduces issues to be examined; shaded sidebars that elaborate on a topic or introduce a related advanced topic; What’s Next? discussions that deal with emerging issues in research, the commercial world, or society; and exercises.

This book is written for graduate or upper-division undergraduate classes in computer networking. It will also be useful for industry professionals retraining for network-related assignments, as well as for network practitioners seeking to understand the workings of network protocols and the big picture of networking.

  • Completely updated content with expanded coverage of the topics of utmost importance to networking professionals and students, including P2P, wireless, security, and applications
  • Increased focus on application layer issues where innovative and exciting research and design is currently the center of attention
  • Free downloadable network simulation software and lab experiments manual available

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780123850591
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Publication date: 03/25/2011
Series: Morgan Kaufmann Series in Networking Series
Pages: 920
Sales rank: 348,910
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Larry L. Peterson is the Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, as well as Vice President and Chief Scientist at Verivue, Inc. He serves as Director of the PlanetLab Consortium, which focuses on the design of scalable network services and next-generation network architectures. He is a Fellow of the ACM and the IEEE, recipient of the IEEE Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Professor Peterson recently served as Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Transactions on Computer Systems, he has been on the Editorial Board for the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking and the IEEE Journal on Select Areas in Communication, and he has served as program chair for SOSP, NSDI, and HotNets. Peterson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the ACM and the IEEE, and the 2010 recipient of the IEEE Kobayahi Computer and Communication Award. He received his Ph.D. degree from Purdue University in 1985.

Bruce Davie is a visiting lecturer at MIT, and Chief Service Provider Architect at Nicira Networks. Formerly a Fellow at Cisco Systems, for many years he led the team of architects responsible for Multiprotocol Label Switching and IP Quality of Service. He is also an active participant in the Internet Engineering Task Force and he is curently SIGCOMM Chair. Prior to joining Cisco he was director of internetworking research and chief scientist at Bell Communications Research. Bruce holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Edinburgh University. He was named an ACM Fellow in 2009. His research interests include routing, network virtualization, transport protocols, and software-defined networks.

Read an Excerpt

Computer Networks

a systems approach
By Larry L. Peterson Bruce S. Davie


Copyright © 2012 Elsevier, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-12-385060-7

Chapter One


I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's; I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.William Blake

Suppose you want to build a computer network, one that has the potential to grow to global proportions and to support applications as diverse as teleconferencing, video on demand, electronic commerce, distributed computing, and digital libraries. What available technologies would serve as the underlying building blocks, and what kind of software architecture would you design to integrate these building blocks into an effective communication service? Answering this question is the overriding goal of this book—to describe the available building materials and then to show how they can be used to construct a network from the ground up.

Before we can understand how to design a computer network, we should first agree on exactly what a computer network is. At one time, the term network meant the set of serial lines used to attach dumb terminals to mainframe computers. Other important networks include the voice telephone network and the cable TV network used to disseminate video signals. The main things these networks have in common are that they are specialized to handle one particular kind of data (keystrokes, voice, or video) and they typically connect to special-purpose devices (terminals, hand receivers, and television sets).

What distinguishes a computer network from these other types of networks? Probably the most important characteristic of a computer network is its generality. Computer networks are built primarily from general-purpose programmable hardware, and they are not optimized for a particular application like making phone calls or delivering television signals. Instead, they are able to carry many different types of data, and they support a wide, and ever growing, range of applications. Today's computer networks are increasingly taking over the functions previously performed by single-use networks. This chapter looks at some typical applications of computer networks and discusses the requirements that a network designer who wishes to support such applications must be aware of.

Once we understand the requirements, how do we proceed? Fortunately, we will not be building the first network. Others, most notably the community of researchers responsible for the Internet, have gone before us. We will use the wealth of experience generated from the Internet to guide our design. This experience is embodied in a network architecture that identifies the available hardware and software components and shows how they can be arranged to form a complete network system.

In addition to understanding how networks are built, it is increasingly important to understand how they are operated or managed and how network applications are developed. Most of us now have computer networks in our homes, offices, and in some cases in our cars, so operating networks is no longer a matter only for a few specialists. And, with the proliferation of programmable, network-attached devices such as smartphones, many more of this generation will develop networked applications than in the past. So we need to consider networks from these multiple perspectives: builders, operators, application developers.

To start us on the road toward understanding how to build, operate, and program a network, this chapter does four things. First, it explores the requirements that different applications and different communities of people place on the network. Second, it introduces the idea of a network architecture, which lays the foundation for the rest of the book. Third, it introduces some of the key elements in the implementation of computer networks. Finally, it identifies the key metrics that are used to evaluate the performance of computer networks.


Most people know the Internet through its applications: the World Wide Web, email, online social networking, streaming audio and video, instant messaging, file-sharing, to name just a few examples. That is to say, we interact with the Internet as users of the network. Internet users represent the largest class of people who interact with the Internet in some way, but there are several other important constituencies. There is the group of people who create the applications—a group that has greatly expanded in recent years as powerful programming platforms and new devices such as smartphones have created new opportunities to develop applications quickly and to bring them to a large market. Then there are those who operate or manage networks—mostly a behind-the-scenes job, but a critical one and often a very complex one. With the prevalence of home networks, more and more people are also becoming, if only in a small way, network operators. Finally, there are those who design and build the devices and protocols that collectively make up the Internet. That final constituency is the traditional target of networking textbooks such as this one and will continue to be our main focus. However, throughout this book we will also consider the perspectives of application developers and network operators. Considering these perspectives will enable us to better understand the diverse requirements that a network must meet. Application developers will also be able to make applications that work better if they understand how the underlying technology works and interacts with the applications. So, before we start figuring out how to build a network, let's look more closely at the types of applications that today's networks support.

1.1.1 Classes of Applications

The World Wide Web is the Internet application that catapulted the Internet from a somewhat obscure tool used mostly by scientists and engineers to the mainstream phenomenon that it is today. The Web itself has become such a powerful platform that many people confuse it with the Internet (as in "the Interwebs"), and it's a bit of a stretch to say that the Web is a single application.

In its basic form, the Web presents an intuitively simple interface. Users view pages full of textual and graphical objects and click on objects that they want to learn more about, and a corresponding new page appears. Most people are also aware that just under the covers each selectable object on a page is bound to an identifier for the next page or object to be viewed. This identifier, called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), provides a way of identifying all the possible objects that can be viewed from your web browser. For example,

is the URL for a page providing information about one of this book's authors: the string http indicates that the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) should be used to download the page, is the name of the machine that serves the page, and


uniquely identifies Larry's home page at this site.

What most web users are not aware of, however, is that by clicking on just one such URL over a dozen messages may be exchanged over the Internet, and many more than that if the web page is complicated with lots of embedded objects. This message exchange includes up to six messages to translate the server name ( into its Internet Protocol (IP) address (, three messages to set up a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection between your browser and this server, four messages for your browser to send the HTTP "GET" request and the server to respond with the requested page (and for each side to acknowledge receipt of that message), and four messages to tear down the TCP connection. Of course, this does not include the millions of messages exchanged by Internet nodes throughout the day, just to let each other know that they exist and are ready to serve web pages, translate names to addresses, and forward messages toward their ultimate destination.

Another widespread application class of the Internet is the delivery of "streaming" audio and video. Services such as video on demand and Internet radio use this technology. While we frequently start at a website to initiate a streaming session, the delivery of audio and video has some important differences from fetching a simple web page of text and images. For example, you often don't want to download an entire video file—a process that might take minutes to hours—before watching the first scene. Streaming audio and video implies a more timely transfer of messages from sender to receiver, and the receiver displays the video or plays the audio pretty much as it arrives.

Note that the difference between streaming applications and the more traditional delivery of a page of text or still images is that humans consume audio and video streams in a continuous manner, and discontinuity—in the form of skipped sounds or stalled video—is not acceptable. By contrast, a page of text can be delivered and read in bits and pieces. This difference affects how the network supports these different classes of applications.

A subtly different application class is real-time audio and video. These applications have considerably tighter timing constraints than streaming applications. When using a voice-over-IP application such as Skype™ or a videoconferencing application, the interactions among the participants must be timely. When a person at one end gestures, then that action must be displayed at the other end as quickly as possible. When one person tries to interrupt another, the interrupted person needs to hear that as soon as possible and decide whether to allow the interruption or to keep talking over the interrupter. Too much delay in this sort of environment makes the system unusable. Contrast this with video on demand where, if it takes several seconds from the time the user starts the video until the first image is displayed, the service is still deemed satisfactory. Also, interactive applications usually entail audio and/or video flows in both directions, while a streaming application is most likely sending video or audio in only one direction.

Videoconferencing tools that run over the Internet have been around now since the early 1990s but have achieved much more widespread use in the last couple of years, as higher network speeds and more powerful computers have become commonplace. An example of one such system is shown in Figure 1.1. Just as downloading a web page involves a bit more than meets the eye, so too with video applications. Fitting the video content into a relatively low bandwidth network, for example, or making sure that the video and audio remain in sync and arrive in time for a good user experience are all problems that network and protocol designers have to worry about. We'll look at these and many other issues related to multimedia applications later in the book.

Although they are just two examples, downloading pages from the web and participating in a videoconference demonstrate the diversity of applications that can be built on top of the Internet and hint at the complexity of the Internet's design. Later in the book we will develop a more complete taxonomy of application types to help guide our discussion of key design decisions as we seek to build, operate, and use networks that support such a wide range of applications. In Chapter 9, the book concludes by revisiting these two specific applications, as well as several others that illustrate the breadth of what is possible on today's Internet. Not quite "as soon as possible"—human factors research indicates 300 ms is a reasonable upper bound for how much round-trip delay can be tolerated in a telephone call before humans complain, and a 100-ms delay sounds very good.

For now, this quick look at a few typical applications will suffice to enable us to start looking at the problems that must be addressed if we are to build a network that supports such application diversity.


We have established an ambitious goal for ourselves: to understand how to build a computer network from the ground up. Our approach to accomplishing this goal will be to start from first principles and then ask the kinds of questions we would naturally ask if building an actual network. At each step, we will use today's protocols to illustrate various design choices available to us, but we will not accept these existing artifacts as gospel. Instead, we will be asking (and answering) the question of why networks are designed the way they are. While it is tempting to settle for just understanding the way it's done today, it is important to recognize the underlying concepts because networks are constantly changing as the technology evolves and new applications are invented. It is our experience that once you understand the fundamental ideas, any new protocol that you are confronted with will be relatively easy to digest.


Excerpted from Computer Networks by Larry L. Peterson Bruce S. Davie Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MORGAN KAUFMANN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Foundation
2. Getting Connected
3. Internetworking
4. Advanced Internetworking
5. End-to-End Protocols
6. Congestion Controland Resource Allocation
7. End-to-End Data
8. Network Security
9. Applications

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