Andrew S. Tanenbaum and William Stallings are two experts on computer networking and data communications whose books I refer to constantly. Stallings is the author of “Data and Computer Communications,” a textbook first published in 1997 and is now in its ninth updated edition. Tanenbaum, this time with David J. Wetherall, is the author of “Computer Networks ,” first published in 1981 and now in its fifth edition.
I have had both textbooks since they were originally published and make it a point every few years to go out and obtain the latest revised edition is because they both do an excellent job of updating them, either through new sections and chapters or, more often, by going through the text line by line and changing previous information in the context of what has been learned in later years.
But in the newest 2011 editions of their books both authors have outdone themselves, adding not only a lot of new information, but many enhancements that make understanding the technical information easier.
I would be hard pressed to choose which author is my favorite. I read both for their different perspectives on some of the same issues. Also, one may give more emphasis and detail on some topics than the other. But between the two, I know I have all my bases covered. So, if you have the time, and money, I would recommend getting both books.
The new stuff in Tanenbaum’s Fifth
Anyone who battles to stay on top of what is going on in networking and data communications will appreciate the work that Tanenbaum and Wetherall have put into this newest version of their book.
Chapter 1 has the same introductory function as in the fourth edition, but the contents have been revised and brought up to date with new information on mobile and wireless phones, 802.11, RFID and sensor networks, but material on the original Ethernet – with its vampire taps – has been removed, along with the material on ATM.
Chapter 2, on the physical layer, now includes digital modulation (including OFDM as widely used in wireless networks) and 3G networks (based on CDMA) as well as some discussion of Fiber to the Home and power-line networking.
Chapter 3, on point-to-point links, has been improved in two ways. First, the material on codes for error detection and correction has been updated, and second, a description is included of the modern codes that are important in practice (e.g., convolutional and LDPC codes). Particularly useful are the examples of protocols regarding Packet over SONET and ADSL.
The basic principles of the MAC sublayer covered in Chapter 4 are essentially the same, but the example networks they have included have been redone extensively to include gigabit Ethernet, 802.11, 802.16, Bluetooth, and RFID. Also updated is the coverage of LAN switching, including VLANs.
While Chapter 5, on the network layer, covers the same ground as the earlier editions, it has been updated and expanded with reference to quality of service (relevant for real-time media) and internetworking. The sections on BGP, OSPF and CIDR have been expanded, as has the treatment of multicast routing. Anycast routing is now included.
In Chapter 6, on the transport layer, there is new material describing delay-tolerant networking and congestion control, and revised material updates. The coverage of TCP congestion control has been expanded. Removed, though, is any discussion of connection-oriented network layers, something rarely seen anymore.
In Chapter 7, on applications, the material on DNS and email is similar to the earlier edition, but the sections on the Web and streaming media have been brought up to date. A new section covers content distribution, including CDNs and peer-to-peer networks.
Chapter 8, on security, still covers both symmetric and public-key cryptography for confidentiality and authenticity. Material on the techniques used in practice, including firewalls and VPNs, has been updated, with new material on 802.11 security and Kerberos V5 added.
Most interesting to me – glutton for information that I am – is the bibliography in Chapter 9, which has been updated and expanded to 300 citations of the current literature, more than half to papers and books written since 2000.
Improvements to Stallings book
In addition to an impressive number of examples to illustrate some of the technical content, Stallings has made extensive changes in this new edition that will be enormously useful. For example, this new edition covers the 2009 ANSI/TIA 568-C standards and the recent ISO/IEC 11801 twisted-pair transmissions, which are important for gigabit-range Ethernet and other high-speed twisted-pair applications.
There is also new coverage of virtual LANs, specifically VLAN technology, as well is the IEEE 802A Q standard. There is updated coverage of high-speed Ethernet including not only the new 100-Gbps standard but the multilane distribution (MLD) transmission technique as well, and expanded coverage of 6413/6613 encoding.
Stallings has also updated his coverage of Wi-Fi/IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs. New coverage includes 802.11 as well as Mobile IP, which standardizes techniques for IP addressing and routing for mobile end systems.
New to this edition is a full chapter devoted to Multiprotocol Label Switching, which is becoming increasingly important on the Internet and other IP-based networks as well as in telecommunications networks. Finally, the coverage of security has been completely rewritten and expanded to two chapters.
As Tanenbaum and Wetherall have done, throughout his book Stallings has taken care that virtually every topic has been updated to reflect the developments in standards and technology that have occurred since the publication of the earlier edition.
Additional online content
Targeted primarily at students using these books in college courses, the publisher – Pearson Education/Prentice Hall – has augmented the printed and ebook versions of the textbooks with a tremendous amount of online content . There is so much that is useful I would be tempted to go back to school to gain access to more of it.
For the Tanenbaum book there is a resources page on co-author Weatherall’s site at the University of Washington with additional related web resources, links to tutorials, and organizations as well as demos of such things as steganography and an online network protocol simulator.
Even more impressive is the online content available for Stallings book at http://williamstallings.com/DataCommunications/ . Two additional chapters to the book are available in PDF form: one on electronic mail, HTTP, and DNS, and the other on Internet multimedia support. There are 20 other supplementary appendices, in addition to the two in the book.
The collected technical wisdom in both these books does not come cheap. Stalling’s 800 page text book is just under $60 for the ebook version. Tanenbaum/Weatherall’s 875 page text it is $128 for the print version and just over $50 for the ebook version. But both are worth the price.