A blog that complements a networking textbook

The first version of the Computer Networking: Principles, Protocols and Practice was written almost ten years ago. At that time, my main objective was to provide a textbook that students could use to learn the networking concepts that I considered important for a first undergraduate course in computer networking. I tried to cover these concepts in details. I also provided references that students could read to get even more details.

Over the years, I have observed the evolution of both the students and the computer networking field. When I was a student, it was difficult to get information about network protocols, except the IETF documents that were publicly available. Many of the key articles were only available on paper and students had to spend a lot of time to find only a few references. Today’s students have access to a vast amount of documents. The IETF documents are still published online and it does not seem that there is a risk of shortage of new ideas. Scientific articles are available online, either behind the paywalls of some publishers or on the web pages of their authors. With Google Scholar or similar websites, each student has access to tons of scientific documents. Besides these scientific documents, there are also technical conferences, vendor whitepapers, blog posts and trade magazines that can provide interesting sources of information. In parallel, computer networking continues to evolve. Popular protocols are extended and new protocols are proposed.

Today’s students cannot anymore simply know the basic networking concepts. They also need to be able to navigate through the vast amount of technical information that is published every day. One university course cannot obviously cover all the networking protocols that students will have to use during their career. Instead, it should focus on the core concepts and then illustrate them on a few deployed protocols. It is important to focus on deployed protocols because deployment greatly improves the quality of a protocol and forces its designers to consider all corner cases that would otherwise remain unspecified.

Once students have learned both the basic concepts and understand some important deployed protocols, they should be exposed to new protocols or techniques that have not been fully covered in their course. Throughout their career, they will be forced to adapt and learn new skills and it is important that they start this activity early.

The main objective of this blog is to encourage networking students to start their exploration of the vast networking field from a few selected pointers. Some blog posts describe software that students could use, other summarize recent IETF documents, scientific publications or blog posts that can be read by networking students.

*This blog post was written to inform the readers of Computer Networking: Principles, Protocols and Practice about the evolution of the field. You can subscribe to the Atom feed for this blog.

Written on October 9, 2019