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ATM Networks: Concepts, Protocols, Applications (second edition): Rainer Handel, Manfred N Huber, Stefan Schroder, Addison Wesley, 1994. ISBN 0-201-42274-3.

There are probably as many books on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Broadband ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) as there are bytes in the ATM cell user payload. Some are highly specialized: Raif Onvural's "Asynchronous Transfer Mode Networks: Performance Issues" is representative of this genre. Handel, Huber, and Schroder's production falls into what I would consider the "general treatment of ATM" category. The first 3 chapters provide a crisp and well articulated overview of ATM and Broadband ISDN. Chapter 4 and early sections of Chapter 5 bog do down a bit in standards-ese and acronymania (it's ATM-azing how many acronyms one can squeeze into a 250-page book on a data link technology...), but I'd encourage you to read on. The authors provide a highly accurate and succinct description of ATM that will be useful for those who want to understand both general and user-network aspects of this technology.

The strength of the book lies in the latter sections of Chapter 5, where the authors describe the "higher layers and interworking of the [ATM] user plane". Here the authors do a fine job of explaining the roles of ATM as a bearer service for Frame Relay and SMDS, providing a much-needed accurate perspective of the relationship between these services and ATM. A concise description of ATM signaling is provided in chapter 6 (a minor criticism here is that the authors assume the reader is familiar with narrowband ISDN signalling). Chapter 7 is an excellent overview of ATM switching: again, succinct and highly readable, with good comparisons of different switching and networking techniques. I commend the authors for having done such a fine job of defining and comparing matrix switching against central memory switching, and multi-path networking against single-path (Banyan) networks. Chapters 8 and 9 describe ATM transmission networks and the evolution paths to a broadband ISDN environment, and chapters 10 and 11 cover miscellany: issues for voice over ATM, tariffing, telecommunications management networks, etc. While these are generally good chapters, the authors might have included descriptions of more recent trials or operational ATM networks, but this is again a minor criticism.

In certain respects, there is little that distinguishes the material covered in this book from that covered in Martin DePrycker's popular and successful ATM Transfer Mode: Solution for Broadband ISDN (second edition, Ellis Horwood Ltd., 1993, ISBN 0-13-178542-7). Where the books indeed differ is in the level of presentation: whereas DePrycker's book is a highly analytical treatment of ATM, replete with nearly every mathematical formulae necessary to describe queueing and switching strategies associated with ATM, Handel, et. al., do a commendable job of presenting ATM in clean and concise fashion. For a technical book, it is "an easy read".

Having spent a good deal of time on both the computer communications and carrier network ends of the telecommunications spectrum, I would definitely place this book on the telephony networking shelf of my bookcase. The discussions of telephony issues - performance, operations, administration and management, quality of service, telephony transmission systems characteristics - are more detailed and elaborate than discussions about LANs and internetworking: the authors might consider local ATM, multiprotocol and routing operation over ATM in a future edition or revision.

Gratefully, however, the authors do not use X.25 as the lone example of data networking. For the presumed audience of Connexions, the middle chapters will prove to be the most informative and useful. If you are looking for a solid, sweeping introduction to ATM, this book is a good choice. It's also a good choice if you simply enjoy reading books that are extremely well-written: I find it simultaneously remarkable and disappointing that the authors, decidedly European, have a better grasp and respect for the English language than those for whom English is the native language.

-- reviewed by David M. Piscitello, Core Competence, Inc. dave@corecom.com

Reprinted with permission from ConneXions, Volume 9., Number 4, April 1995.

ConneXions-- The Interoperability Report is published monthly by: Interop Company, a division of SOFTBANK Expos.

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