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Network design in distributed embedded applications is a novel challenging task which requires 1) the extraction of communication requirements from application specification and 2) the choice of a suitable communication infrastructure among physical nodes. These issues are faced in the paper by adopting a middleware-based design flow in which the middleware is also modeled and simulated as a component of the whole system. This way, the communication requirements are extracted from middleware calls and network design consists in the choice among different actual middleware implementations whose communication impact has been characterized. Experimental results on actual boards show the accuracy of the proposed methodology.