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One of the more common topologies is the Mesh topology. The mesh topology is most commonly referred to as a Wide Area Network (WAN). (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Mesh) A Mesh topology involves multiple sites connected by multiple paths. Each site has a router that determines the best path for the data at that time. The best path is determined by least cost, time of day, and performance. (MicroTech Corp, Mesh) In Figure 1, the mesh topology is illustrated with lines indicating paths that data can follow. Each system has multiple paths to choose from.
Figure 1 Mesh Topology (Kathers, n.d., Mesh)
With the BUS topology, as illustrated in Figure 2, workstations are connected by a long cable (Ethernet) or backbone. The cable or backbone never forms a close loop. The workstations are connected to the cable/backbone via cable drops and taps. BUS is a passive technology, meaning that the computers simply listen and receive signals. In a BUS topology, the backbone must be terminated. If there is no termination, or a break in the line before the termination, the network will go down.
Figure 2 BUS Topology (Kathers, n.d., BUS)
In a Ring topology, each workstation is connected to two other workstations, which forms a loop. Data travels around the loop passing through each workstation. Each transmission is assigned a token, which contains the origination and destination information. This token is picked up and read by each workstation. If the workstation is not the destination, it will regenerate the token and pass the data back on to the loop. This process is repeated around the loop until the data reaches the destination. (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Ring)
Figure 3 Ring Topology (Kathers, n.d., Ring)
The Star topology is configured around a central switching or routing device, an intelligent hub, which receives and sends data to the appropriate recipient (see Figure 4). (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Star) The hub is an efficient, high-speed device that extends the capabilities of a simple cable. In the Star topology, each workstation is connected to one port on the hub. The Star topology is dominant in today's networks.
Figure 4 Star Topology (Kathers, n.d., Star)
The four different topologies mentioned have many advantages. The main advantages of each are listed below:
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a. Stability for single application users
b. Redundant connections
BUS (MicroTech Corp, 1998, BUS)
a. Easy to configure and manage
b. Stable network for under 30 users/nodes
c. Low cost
Ring (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Ring)
a. Stable network for more than 10 users/nodes
b. Relatively easy and inexpensive to install
c. Network continues to work even if one connection fails
Star (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Star)
a. Offers centralized configuration and security
b. High stability and speed
c. Low configuration costs
Of course, with every topology there are disadvantages. The main disadvantages of each are listed below:
Mesh (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Mesh)
a. Costly to reconfigure, replace, and administer.
b. Best suited for situations where it will not move or be expanded beyond five sites or nodes.
c. If one site fails, an entire application can fail.
BUS (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Bus)
a. If a problem occurs on the backbone, the entire network will go down
b. Difficult to troubleshoot.
c. Limited number of users/nodes
Ring (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Ring)
a. Older technology
b. Difficult to troubleshoot a failed connection
c. Cannot reconfigure without shutting down the network
Star (MicroTech Corp, 1998, Star)
a. Single point of failure (hub)
b. Number of ports available limited to the number of ports on the hub
c. Will need to add another hub to expand
So, to make a long story short; the mesh topology offers a multipath configuration that is great for redundancy, but not so great for management while the BUS topology is easy to configure and manage, but limited to distance and the number of nodes that can be supported. The Ring topology is better suited for a large number of nodes, but is expensive to reconfigure and hard to troubleshoot. This leaves the most popular topology, Star. Star offers a high-speed network that is easier to configure and manage due to the central management and security hub.
Ethernet is an IEEE-standard (802.3) data link protocol developed in 1976 by DEC and Intel, that specifies how data is placed on and retrieved from a common transmission medium. (BMTNET, n.d., Ethernet) Ethernet uses a bus or star topology and supports transfer rates of 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1Gbps. Ethernet is one of the most widely implemented Local Area Networks (LAN) standards. (Webopedia, n.d., Ethernet)
Token Ring is a network that uses tokens to pass information about the data being transmitted. The token ring does not use a master controller to control the token; rather each computer knows the address of the computer that should receive the token next. If a computer that picks up the token has nothing to transmit, it passes the token to the next computer in the ring. (BMTNET, n.d., Token Ring)
Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a 100Mbit/s LAN architecture that is normally configured with fiber-optic cables and is a dual-attached, counter-rotating token passing network. (Webopedia, n.d., FDDI) The FDDI ring normally consists of routers and concentrators instead of computers. The host computers are then connected to the routers or concentrators. (BMTNET, n.d., FDDI)
Wireless is defined as any computer network where there are no physical wires between the sender and receiver. (Webopedia, n.d., Wireless) The network communicates over radio waves and/or microwaves. Wireless communications require special Network Interface Cards (NIC) installed on the computer and the receiving router for connectivity.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each networking technology. Listed below are some of the advantages to each:
a. One of the most widely used LAN standards.
b. Uses Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) to monitor network traffic
c. Low cost.
Token Ring (Follows, 2000, Page 10)
a. Token Frames can contain up to 17,800 bytes.
b. Can handle heavier loads very well
FDDI (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2)
a. Combines the advantages of token passing on the ring with the high speed of fiber-optic transmission.
b. Its dual ring topology provides redundancy and fault tolerance.
a. No Wires
b. Allows for increased productivity due to more access to networks.
As with everything, there are disadvantages to each. Listed below are some of the disadvantages.
Ethernet (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.5.1)
a. Susceptibility to Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI).
b. Higher speed hubs induce higher costs.
Token Ring (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.5.2)
a. Topology can be confusing.
b. New Token cannot be transmitted until the current token completes its transmission.
FDDI (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2)
a. More expensive to implement
b. Distance limitations makes it unsuitable for WAN implementations
a. Access generally slower than wired networks
b. Transmissions are broadcast through open air.
The differences between the four networking technologies are that each is advancement on the other. The Token Ring was developed to make networks high speed and to minimize errors. The Ethernet was developed with error correction, higher speed, and low cost in mind. The FDDI was developed to speed up the Ring Topology while implementing fault tolerance. The wireless technology was developed to take cable distance limitations of each of the previous three out of the picture.
The appropriate time to use Ethernet would be when a stable, high-speed, reliable network is needed at generally low costs. Ethernet networks are widely used so there is a lot of expertise available for installation and management. Ethernet networks would typically be installed in an office LAN. The LAN would connect desktop computers and their peripherals throughout the office.
The appropriate time to use Token Ring would be for a network with a large number of devices to connect. A token ring can contain as many as 260 devices. (Follows, 2000, Page 16) A simple example would be a network where a mainframe would need to communicate with PCs, minicomputers, and open systems. The Token Ring works well with Systems Network Architecture (SNA), used by IBM mainframes.
TCP/IP in OSI
In the OSI model, TCP/IP functions in the transport and network layers. TCP is the main Internet protocol for reliability of data delivery. (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.4.2) IP operates on the network layer and provides source and destination addressing and can forward packets from one network to another. (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.4.2)
The Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model was developed to implement a framework for networking standards. (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.3.2) Some of the benefits of the OSI model are that it promotes interoperability in networking and provide an architecture for developing protocols that use the functions of each layer. (Cisco Systems, n.d., Chapter 2.3.2)
BMTNET (n.d.). [Glossary]. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.bmtnet.com/networking/glossary.htm#TR
Cisco Systems (n.d.). IT Essentials II: Network operating systems v 2.0. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.nksd.net/schools/nkhs/staff/Jim_Viner/A+/Semester%202/itess2/ch2/2_5_3/index.html
Follows, J. (2000). Token Ring Solutions. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpapers/pdfs/redp0031.pdf
Kathers, (n.d.). Topology. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://members.lycos.co.uk/kathers/topology.htm
MicroTech Corp (1998). An overview of how to setup your network. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.bmtnet.com/networking/bus.htm
MicroTech Corp (1998). An overview of how to setup your network. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.bmtnet.com/networking/ring.htm
MicroTech Corp (1998). An overview of how to setup your network. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.bmtnet.com/networking/star.htm
MicroTech Corp (1998, December). Mesh. An overview of how to setup your network. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.bmtnet.com/networking/mesh.htm
Webopedia (n.d.). Ethernet. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/E/Ethernet.html
Webopedia (n.d.). FDDI. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/F/FDDI.html
Webopedia (n.d.). Wireless. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/w/wireless.html