Review of Top-Down Network Design Posted

by jeffmcjunkin

Amazon has just posted my five-star review of Top-Down Network Design (3rd Edition).

From the review:

Whereas most other networking books focus on one technology or one aspect of network design, Oppenheimer really does guide the reader through designing a network in a top-down (gathering requirements to documentation) fashion. Overall, the book takes you from a 30,000 foot view to about a 2,000 foot view. Despite Oppenheimer’s Cisco-focused background and being published by Cisco Press, her book admirably avoids plugging Cisco as the end-all-be-all solution. Overall, I would recommend this book for all parts of network design, and recommend others for the actual IOS/device configuration (which Top-Down Network Design avoids).

As others have identified, the books is divided into four sections. The section titles are descriptive enough, so I’ll just point out the highlights by chapter instead.

The first chapter covers an introduction to network design, including analyzing business goals and constraints. It emphasizes the need for the network design to make “business sense,” as in justify the business itself. Constraining the network design to the budgetary and staffing constraints of the customer is also important — after all, what good is a highly-reliable, highly-complex network to a CCENT-level network engineer who can’t make necessary modifications without taking down the network?

The fourth chapter relates to the network traffic of the existing network. By categorizing users into “user communities” based off job role (usage of sets of applications) and categorizing the traffic flows themselves, one can describe at a high level the network flow while still providing useful data for technical purchase decisions. The traffic flows are categorized into groups such as peer-to-peer, client/server, server-to-server, terminal/host, and distributed computing.The traffic is also displayed by frame size, broadcast/multicast/unicast type, and error rate to give useful data. QoS requirements for voice and other sensitive applications are also discussed, as are different service categories based off the Asynchronous Transfer Mode Forum definitions.

I appreciate this model, as without these abstractions it’s tough to talk about network flow at a high level without losing specificity.

In chapter six, there’s a sizable section on naming schemes, especially in the Windows world. The “Guidelines for Assigning Names” section is full of solid advice, though the section on WINS can probably be safely removed in the next edition.

Chapter seven is mostly focused on the actual switching and routing protocols, but also covers the creation of decision trees to assist with protocol selection. Table 7-5 on page 230 is a *very* handy summary of the routing protocols covered in the text.

In the last chapter, number 14, Oppenheimer gives a summary of top-down network design by going through the steps of the design methodology, which I found very useful. She also highlights the importance of the network design document, details how to respond to client RFP’s, and then goes over the sections of the network design document in detail.

I found this to be an extremely useful book for its intended purpose. Top-Down Network Design will be a text I refer to for any network design needs I encounter in my future.

Full disclosure: I do know Priscilla Oppenheimer. I have taken several classes from her in networking and network forensics.