Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering


Networks are becoming increasingly complex and automated. This is due in part to their increased bandwidth, the need for automated protection switching, the deployment of virtual networks based on B-ISDN and ATM technology and the increase in traffic complexity typified by multimedia communications. In turn, network management is becoming more complex and more mission-critical to a larger number of organisations. In the past, this has led to the development of integrated network management systems using Windows Icons Mouse Pointer (WIMP) based user interfaces. However, it is believed that these two-dimensional user interfaces are no longer suitable for management of large and high-speed broadband networks.

This thesis investigates the application of Virtual Reality (VR) user interfaces for management of modern telecommunication networks. It tries to exploit the extra display dimensions and high level of interaction of VR systems to provide an environment, in which managers can navigate and manipulate network elements more easily, reducing the risk of human errors. Moreover, the thesis is aimed at determining the usability 3D user interfaces for network management and comparing them with traditional network management systems.

In this regard, initially, an immersive user interface has been designed and implemented. In this system, users use head mounted displays (HMDs), VR glove and other 3D input and output devices to navigate through the network hierarchy and manipulate the network elements. Object-oriented design techniques were used to create a modular and configurable system.

The empirical and qualitative evaluation of this system revealed that the required technology for using immersive VR as a user interface paradigm is not yet available. This fact led to the development of a desktop flat screen 3D VR user interface based on WWW-technologies. This permits the use of tools and facilities provided by the Internet to create a distributed collaborative multiuser interface.

A protocol is required for the exchange of collaboration data among the users. As the existing protocols, such as DIS, were inadequate, a protocol and its Protocol Data Units (PDUs) were defined. Realising the similarities among user interfaces of different applications, the protocol was generalised to become a Generic Protocol for Multiuser Interfaces (GPMI).

Using the GPMI, a Web-based multiuser interface for network management was designed and implemented. The WWW-based Network Management System (WNMS) uses the facilities of a three-dimensional desktop VR to provide an integrated universal interface, in which users collaboratively manage networks more efficiently. WWW technologies, such as VRML, HTML, CGI scripts, Java and JavaScript, were utilised to implement this system.

Apart from empirical evaluation methods, more rigorous techniques were used to compare WNMS with one of the traditional network management systems, showing the merits and pitfalls of each system. The experiments and subjective measurements that the users significantly preferred the W N M S to the traditional user interface. In addition, the measurement of the taskload using the NASA TaskLoad Index (TLX) revealed that the amount of cognitive workload in WNMS is significantly less than that of the traditional user interface.