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Network architecture is the design (the configuration of nodes and connections) of a computer network. Network archi­tecture can range from two devices connected to each other in one location to hundreds of thousands of devices connected across many geographically dispersed locations.


The term network architecture has the following meanings:

  1. The design principles, physical configuration, functional organization, operational procedures, and data formats used as the bases for the design, construction, modification, and operation of a communications network.
  2. The structure of an existing communications network, including the physical configuration, facilities, operational structure, operational procedures, and the data formats in use.

With the development of distributed computing, the term "network architecture" has also come to denote classifications and implementations of distributed computing architectures. For example, the applications architecture of the telephone network PSTN has been termed the Advanced Intelligent Network. There are any number of specific classifications but all lie on a continuum between the dumb network (e.g. the Internet) and the intelligent computer network (e.g. the telephone network PSTN). Other networks contain various elements of these two classical types to make them suitable for various types of applications. Recently the context aware network, which is a synthesis of the two, has gained much interest with its ability to combine the best elements of both.

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