Computer Networks and the Internet

Computer Networks and the Internet

Today’s Internet is perhaps the largest engineered system ever created by mankind, with hundred of millions of connected computers, communication links, and switches; hundreds of millions of users who connect from time to time via cell phones and PDAs; and devices such as sensors, webcams, game consoles, picture frames and even washing machines being connected to the internet. Given that the Internet is so large and has so many varied parts and uses, is there any hope of understanding how it (and more generally computer networks) work? Are there guiding principles and structure that can provide a foundation for understanding such an amazingly large and complicated system? And if so, is it possible that it actually could be both interesting and fun to learn about computer networks? Luckily, the answers to all of these questions is a resounding YES! Indeed, it’s our aim in this blog to provide you with a modern introduction to the dynamic field of computer networking, giving you the principles and practical insights you’ll need to understand not only today’s networks, but tomorrow’s as well.

This first part presents an extensive overview of computer networking and the Internet. Our aim here is to paint a large picture and set the context for the rest of this blog, to see the forest through the trees. We’ll cover a lot of ground in this introductory section and discuss a lot of the pieces of computer network, without losing sight of the big picture.

We'll make our overview of computer networks in this section as follows. After introducing some basic terminology and concepts, we'll first study the basic hardware and software components that make up a network. We'll begin at the network's edge and look at the end systems and network applications running in the network. We'll then discover the core of a computer network, examining the links and the switches that transport data, as well as the access networks and physical media that connect end systems to the network core. We'll learn that the Internet is a network of networks, and we'll learn how these networks connect with each other.

After having completed this overview of the edge and core of a computer network, we'll take the broader and more abstract view in the second half of this section. We’ll study delay, loss, and throughput in a computer network and provide simple quantitative models for end-to-end throughput and delay: models that take into account transmission, propagation, and queuing delays. We’ll then introduce some of the key architectural principles in computer networking, namely, protocol layering and service models. We'll also learn that computer networks are defenseless against many different types of attacks; we'll survey some of these attacks and consider how computer networks can be made more protected. Lastly, we'll close this section with a brief history of computer networking.


computer network, protocol layering, network application

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