Network Applications Course Explores Internets, Intranets
What is the fastest client you can design that fetches files from a web
server and stores the contents in a local file?
That was the question for students participating in the "Internet Derby." The Derby featured anxious contestants, speeds measured in milliseconds, and spectators crowding around ... a laptop computer.
The Derby was the fifth and final project in the new senior-level ECE 4564 Network Application Design course. The course focuses on applications built on top of standard Internet protocols, complementing other courses in telecommunications networks and network architecture.
"Computer networking has become an increasingly important area of
knowledge for computer and electrical engineers," said Professor
Scott Midkiff, the developer of the course. "There are both hardware and software components of networks. We have a telecommunication networks course that covers communications issues, and a computer and network architecture course. However, neither of these courses addresses the area of systems built from networks, including both internets and intranets, which is the purpose of ECE 4564."
The course is design-oriented, with five projects that comprise 60 percent
of a student's grade. In addition to the Derby, the projects involved developing
client and server programs to implement a mailbox protocol; developing an
HTTP server; developing an HTTP client that tests the availability and access
time for a World Wide Web page; and developing a light access protocol (LAP)
client and LAP-HTTP gateway that could be used by a device such as a hand-held
device that would not have the processing power, storage, or display capabilities
for protocols such as HTTP and languages such as HTML.
What was the fastest client developed for the final project? The Derby
was won by Honglian Wu, an ECE graduate student, with a speed of 281 milliseconds
for the benchmark set of web files. "This was very fast for this problem,"
Midkiff said. "However, it should not be compared to standard web browsers,
since our clients only implemented the network part of a browser - the part
that requests and fetches files from a web server - and did not implement
the graphical user interface portion."