February 24, 2012, 3:02 PM —
When it comes to connecting networks or other systems together, it is best to have many, but not too many, connections, mathematicians have found.
Administrators and network engineers have long assumed that the more connections they insert between multiple networks the more resilient the communications between these networks will be. The Internet, for example, derives much of its resiliency from multiple, redundant links. But this is true only up to a point. Too many connections can actually be dangerous, because failures in one network can easily cascade to the other, noted Charles Brummitt, a mathematics researcher at the University of California, Davis, who led a team that looked into this issue.
Instead, network owners should fine-tune the number of connections for maximum resiliency, Brummitt said.
Brummitt's team published its work in this week's issue of the "Proceedings of The National Academies of Science."
The work is a mathematical model of how a collection of systems works together. "We're taking a larger view and studying networks of networks," he said. Interconnected networks can be vulnerable to cascading failures, in which a failure, or overload, in one network can disrupt another network. In a typical scenario, when one network is overloaded, it will offload its traffic to the second network. But if a failure is enough to overwhelm the first network, it may overwhelm the second network as well.