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Network architecture is the design of a communication network. It is a framework for the specification of a network's physical components and their functional organization and configuration, its operational principles and procedures, as well as data formats use. In telecommunication, the specification of a network architecture may also include a detailed description of products and services delivered via a communications network, as well as detailed rate and billing structures under which services are compensated.

The network architecture of the Internet is predominantly expressed by its use of the Internet Protocol Suite, rather than a specific model for interconnecting networks or nodes in the network, or the usage of specific types of hardware links.

OSI network model[edit]

The Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI model) is a product of the Open Systems Interconnection effort at the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) . It is a way of sub-dividing a communications system further into smaller parts called layers. A layer is a collection of similar functions that provide services to the layer above it and receives services from the layer below it. On each layer, an instance provides services to the instances at the layer above and requests service from the layer below.

Distributed computing[edit]

In distinct usage in distributed computing, the term "network architecture" often describes the structure and classification of a distributed application architecture, as the participating nodes in a distributed application are often referred to as a "network". For example, the applications architecture of the public switched 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. Internet) and the intelligent computer network (e.g. the telephone network). 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 two, has gained much interest with its ability to combine the best elements of both.

A popular example of such usage of the term in distributed applications, as well as PVCs (permanent virtual circuits), is the organization of nodes in peer-to-peer (P2P) services and networks. P2P networks usually implement overlay networks running over an underlying physical or logical network. These overlay network may implement certain organizational structures of the nodes according to several distinct models, the network architecture of the system.

Network architecture is a broad plan that specifies everything necessary for two application programs on different networks on an Internet to be able to work together effectively.

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