Introduction to Network Systems
How can we automate the transfer of information from one computer to another? To answer that question, this course introduces students to the fundamental technology and concepts that make networking systems possible. The question itself is a very practical one and the concepts taught are more concerned with practices and processes rather than theoretical generalities.
The most important concept introduced is that of the OSI reference model and its bottom four layers, which are most directly concerned with networking instead of computing. Each networking layer is explored in a three-lesson chapter. By the end of the course, every student should be comfortable reading a sentence that says something like, "X is a protocol working at the third layer."
The course also explores a good deal of technology, specifically the software and hardware supporting LANs, WANs, and Wi-Fi networks. Particularly important are the protocols in the TCP/IP stack that are used to communicate across a network, but the students are also introduced to the hardware, including hubs, switches, bridges, routers, and transmission media. The student is expected to learn that a network is not some mysterious idea out there in cyberspace. It is a mechanism that is fully dependent on its parts working properly.
Once the students understand the fundamentals of the layers and network hardware, they can be introduced to questions of security, network management, and network operating systems. In particular, they should understand the role of the server. They have already encountered many examples of client-server relationships, and the material later in the course should introduce them to the many roles that a server can play as a part of a network.
- State the purpose of a computer network, and explain the role of network hardware in achieving that purpose;
- List at least four protocols from the TCP/IP stack and explain how each contributes to data transmission;
- Explain the technical differences between a LAN and a WAN;
- Explain the importance of technical standards in networks;
- List all seven layers of the OSI reference model and explain what each of the bottom four layers contributes to a network;
- Compare and contrast the Windows Server and Linux operating systems.
Students who are unfamiliar with computers and/or the Internet are likely to be at a disadvantage in this course. There are, however, no theoretical concepts required or expected for students entering the course.