Systems Approach is on Substack

Explaining the Internet: its technology, its architecture, and its evolution

For almost three decades we have been helping to explain the Internet: its technology, its architecture, and its evolution. We started with Computer Networks: A Systems Approach, a textbook by Peterson & Davie, published in 1996 just as the Internet was finding its way into widespread use. With the fifth edition of that text, we made the entire contents of the book available as an open source project. Our goals continue to be: to document the design decisions that have shaped the Internet; explain emerging trends that will impact its future; and to provide a sense of perspective as to what is important versus what is hype or irrelevant detail. We are now producing, with an expanding set of co-authors, a series of books that bring the systems approach lens to a range of emerging technologies such as 5G and SDN. Our newsletter, which we expect to publish 2-3 times per month, is a running commentary on that process. We’ll talk about what we’re writing, comment on recent events in the field of networking, and highlight some of our favorite papers and articles, current and historic.

The "Systems Approach" refers to the field of design and implementation of computer systems. The term is used commonly by computer science researchers and practitioners who study the issues that arise when building complex computing systems such as operating systems, networks, distributed applications, etc. The key to the systems approach is a "big picture" view - you need to look at how the components of a system interact with each other to achieve an overall result, rather than simply optimizing each component. In the networking context, that often means going beyond the traditional layered view to see how an issue is best tackled in a way that might touch several layers. The Systems Approach has a strong focus on real-world implementation, with the Internet being the obvious example of a widely-deployed, complex networking system.

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