Getting Started with Networks

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March 25, 2021
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he Internet is the largest network in the world and today, it is difficult to envision a world before the Internet and even worse, a world without it. While we all see/reap the benefits, it has taken several years, numerous efforts and contributions to do what had not been done before and build the Internet to what it is today. The late Mario Gerla, a professor of computer science who made significant contributions to internet research and mobile ad hoc networks, shares this journey into the unknown by taking us on a walk down this long history of networks through his eyes and experiences in this UCLA interview.

“The major advantage is that we were travelling new grounds, you know, traveling new grounds, nobody had done the work before, so everything was original.” 
-- Mario Gerla

We hope that this shortlist will be useful as an introduction to Networks and, depending on the stage of your career, set the foundation for your future in Networks or take you down a nostalgic route with some basics and fundamentals of Networks.

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Network Laws

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 47 No. 11, Pages 15-20, November 2004.

To kick off this Select, we recommend this article by Peter Denning where he breaks down some fundamentals of networks that should serve as a good starting point to understand networks and how innovation propagates in networks. 
[Read more]

ACM ByteCast Ep 9: Vint Cerf

First published under ACM Bytecast, January 5, 2021.

It is difficult to think about or even get started with networks without also discussing the Internet. In this ACM Bytecast, Vint Cerf - Internet pioneer and one of the “fathers of the Internet” - takes us on the historical journey of the Internet, explaining the challenges encountered and solutions they used to enable networks to scale to what the Internet is today. He also shares his perspective on some important social, commercial, and ethical issues that still need to be resolved and the exciting times that lay ahead for students and practitioners interested in getting started with networks.
[Learn more]

Networked Life: 20 Questions and Answers 

Published by Cambridge University Press, USA, 2012.

Mung Chiang’s Networked Life: 20 Questions and Answers is a fun book that explains the core concepts and principles of networks by asking and answering 20 intriguing and diverse questions about technological and social networks, such as how Google ranks web pages or why Wi-Fi at a cafè is not as fast as Wi-Fi at your home. The book has both short and long answers, the latter requiring some mathematics background. After reading the book, you will not only find answers to practical questions of the networked life but also have a good understanding of the principles guiding networks, be it a network among computers or people. Please see the review of the book by Jonathan Katz and short answers to the raised questions. 
[Read the book]
[Read the review]

Computer Networking: a Top-Down Approach

Eighth edition published by Pearson, USA, 2021.

This is one of the most popular textbooks worldwide focusing on computer networking principles. The book follows a top-down approach analyzing various concepts, protocols, and technologies that are available at each layer of the Internet Protocol (IP) stack. Starting from the application layer, you will be able to grasp the main concepts and real-life applications of computer networks and the main rules that should be applied to make those applications operational for end-users. 

The book also analyzes the operation of the transport, network, and link layers and provides details on several protocols that are adopted at each layer and the flow of control and information between the layers. The book also discusses some principles of wireless and mobile networks, some fundamental concepts of security in computer networks, and multimedia networking applications and is a great resource for people interested in getting started with networks.
[Watch the video lectures]
[Learn more

Fundamentals of Wireless Communication

Published by Cambridge University Press, USA, 2005.

This book is a great resource for people new to wireless communications. It introduces the main concepts of wireless communications focusing on channel characteristics and modeling, communication concepts and techniques, and the applications of these concepts. The basic properties of multipath wireless channels and their modeling are introduced, as well as point-to-point communication techniques towards increasing the reliability by exploiting the time, frequency, and spatial diversity.

Several multiple access techniques and interference management issues for cellular system design are analysed as well as multi-user capacity and opportunistic communications in a wireless data system, multiple input multiple output (MIMO) channel modeling, capacity, and architectures. 
[Read the book]

Measurement and analysis of online social networks

First published in Proceedings of the 7th ACM SIGCOMM conference on Internet measurement, October 2007.

Online social media websites generate social network graphs that are very large in scale. Analyzing and measuring the social networking graphs enable not only improvements in the efficiency of big data analytics, but also understand fundamental issues in our societies such as the ways information disseminates. This paper studies large social network graphs of more than 10 million users and 300 million links to analyze the statistical and structural properties of these graphs. 
[Learn more]

Elements of the theory of dynamic networks 

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61, No. 2, January 2018.

“Dynamic networks” are a generic term used to classify any networks that change with time. This classification is not only restricted to technology but also applies to networks that exist in chemical reactions, humans and animal interactions, transportation etc. In the context of wireless communications, the unpredictable nature of dynamic networks create challenges to computing environments. In this article, Othon Michail and Paul G. Spirakis review these challenges and share their considerations as they look to the future of computing in highly dynamic networks.
[Learn more]

The Road to SDN: An intellectual history of programmable networks 

First published in ACM Queue, Vol. 11, Issue 12, December 2013.

Over the years, innovation has helped to scale networks and shaped them to become more sophisticated in meeting higher usage demands and requirements. Although recognized more recently, software-defined networking (SDN) has a long history which can be traced back to the earlier days of the Internet. This ACM Queue article paints the roadmap to SDN - sharing the “long” history of programmable networking, some underlying concepts and debunking some myths and misconceptions of SDN.
[Learn more]

5G Mobile and Wireless Communications Technology

First edition published by Cambridge University Press, USA, 2016.

This book introduces 5G mobile and wireless communications by covering the most likely use cases, a wide range of technology options, and potential 5G system architectures, and spectrum issues. Several topics are covered, such as device-to-device communications, 5G air interfaces, massive MIMO, millimeter-wave communications, wireless network coding, and interference and mobility management. 

The book also summarizes main findings of international initiatives focusing on 5G research and describes network requirements, system architectures, and key scenarios to be implemented within 5G networks. The connection of 5G mobile and wireless communications to the Internet of Things environments, the machine type communications, and the cyber-physical systems are also described, highlighting the revolution that 5G networks can bring to several sectors, such as energy, automotive, and buildings.
[Read the review ]
[Read the book]

Network simulators 

To learn the operation of networks hands-on, simulator and emulator software can be very helpful as they let you create computer networking scenarios, develop your own communication protocols, and observe the operation of the generated networks. While there are many simulators, the best tool depends on which network is to be simulated and with which level of details. For instance, NS-3  is usually preferred for simulating the complete networking stack from the application layer to the physical layer and for Wi-Fi and cellular systems, ONE simulator for scenarios involving mobility and mobile ad-hoc networks, and Mininet for emulating SDNs. 
[Learn more about NS-3]
[Learn more about the ONE Simulator]
[Learn more about Mininet]

ACM Resources

People In Computing #5: Women Who Shaped The Internet

This ACM Select provides a snapshot of women whose contributions have shaped both the Internet and the technology's profound influence in our lives. From the development and management of ARPANET to building relationships that brought the Internet to China, each profile presents a small slice of a rich history of leadership and innovation that has made the Internet what it is today.
[Learn more]


The ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication provides a forum for computing professionals involved in the vital field of data communication. SIGCOMM is also a community resource for those interested in network research, network standards, network history, and the educational aspects of networking.
[Learn more]

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