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Network Topology


A network topology is the pattern in which nodes (i.e., computers, printers, routers or other
devices) are connected to a local area network (LAN) or other networkvia links (e.g., twisted
pair copper wire cable or optical fiber cable).

There are four principal topologies used in LANs: bus, ring, star and mesh. The most widely used
of these is bus, because it is employed by Ethernet, which is the dominant LAN architecture. In a
bus topology all devices are connected to a central cable, called the bus or backbone. This
topology is relatively inexpensive and easy to install for small networks.

In a ring topology each device is connected directly to two other devices, one on either side of
it, to form a closed loop. This topology is relatively expensive and difficult to install, but it offers
high bandwidth and can span large distances. A variation is the token ring, in which signals
travel in only one direction around the loop, carried by a so-called token from node to node.

In a star topology all devices are connected directly to a central computer or server. Such
networks are relatively easy to install and manage, but bottlenecks can occur because all data
must pass through the central device.

The mesh topology can be either a full mesh or a partial mesh. In the former, each computer is
connected directly to each of the others. In the latter, some computers are connected to most of
the others, and some are connected only to those other nodes with which they exchange the most

The several basic network topologies can be combined in various ways to form hybrid
topologies, such as a ring-star network or a tree network. The latter consists of two or more star
networks connected to a linear bus.

The word topology comes from the Greek words topos meaning place and logos meaning study.
It is a description of any locality in terms of its layout. Topology is a branch of mathematics
concerned with properties of geometric figures that are distorted without tearing or bonding

Network topologies are categorized into the following basic types:

Star Topology
Ring Topology
Bus Topology
Tree Topology
Mesh Topology
Hybrid Topology

Star Topology

A star topology is designed with each node (file server, workstations, and peripherals)
connected directly to a central network hub, switch, or concentrator (See fig. 1).

Data on a star network passes through the hub, switch, or concentrator before
continuing to its destination. The hub, switch, or concentrator manages and controls
all functions of the network. It also acts as a repeater for the data flow. This
configuration is common with twisted pair cable; however, it can also be used with
coaxial cable or fiber optic cable.

Fig. 1. Star topology

Advantages of a Star Topology

Easy to install and wire.

No disruptions to the network then connecting or removing devices.
Easy to detect faults and to remove parts.

Disadvantages of a Star Topology

Requires more cable length than a linear topology.

If the hub or concentrator fails, nodes attached are disabled.
More expensive than linear bus topologies because of the cost of the concentrators.

Ring topology
A ring network is a network topology in which each node connects to exactly two other nodes,
forming a single continuous pathway for signals through each node - a ring. Data travels from
node to node, with each node along the way handling every packet.
Rings can be unidirectional, with all traffic travelling either clockwise or anticlockwise around
the ring, or bidirectional (as in SONET/SDH). Because a unidirectional ring topology provides
only one pathway between any two nodes, unidirectional ring networks may be disrupted by
the failure of a single link.[1] A node failure or cable break might isolate every node attached to
the ring. In response, some ring networks add a "counter-rotating ring" (C-Ring) to form a
redundant topology: in the event of a break, data are wrapped back onto the complementary
ring before reaching the end of the cable, maintaining a path to every node along the resulting
C-Ring. Such "dual ring" networks include Spatial Reuse Protocol, Fiber Distributed Data
Interface (FDDI), and Resilient Packet Ring. 802.5 networks - also known as IBM token
ring networks - avoid the weakness of a ring topology altogether: they actually use
a star topology at the physical layer and a media access unit (MAU) to imitate a ring at
the datalink layer (see fig 2).

Advantage of ring topology

Very orderly network where every device has access to the token and the opportunity to

Performs better than a bus topology under heavy network load

Does not require a central node to manage the connectivity between the computers

Due to the point to point line configuration of devices with a device on either side (each
device is connected to its immediate neighbor), it is quite easy to install and reconfigure
since adding or removing a device requires moving just two connections.

Point to point line configuration makes it easy to identify and isolate faults.

Reconfiguration for line faults of bidirectional rings can be very fast, as switching
happens at a high level, and thus the traffic does not require individual rerouting.
Disadvantage of ring topology

One malfunctioning workstation can create problems for the entire network. This
can be solved by using a dual ring or a switch that closes off the break.

Moving, adding and changing the devices can affect the network

Communication delay is directly proportional to number of nodes in the network

Bandwidth is shared on all links between devices

More difficult to configure than a Star: node adjunction = Ring shutdown and

Bus Topology
A bus network is a network topology in which nodes are directly connected to a common linear
(or branched) half-duplex link called a bus.
Bus networks (not to be confused with the system bus of a computer) use a common backbone
to connect all devices. A single cable, the backbone functions as a shared communication
medium that devices attach or tap into with an interface connector. A device wanting to
communicate with another device on the network sends a broadcast message onto the wire
that all other devices see, but only the intended recipient actually accepts and processes the

Advantage of bus topology

Very easy to connect a computer or peripheral to a linear bus

Requires less cable length than a star topology resulting in lower costs

It works well for small networks.

It is easy to extend by joining cable with connector or repeater.

Figure 3

Disadvantage of bus topology

Entire network shuts down if there is a break in the main cable.

Terminators are required at both ends of the backbone cable.
Difficult to identify the problem if the entire network shuts down.
Not meant to be used as a stand-alone solution in a large building

Tree or Expanded Star

A tree topology combines characteristics of linear bus and star topologies. It consists
of groups of star-configured workstations connected to a linear bus backbone cable

(See fig. 3). Tree topologies allow for the expansion of an existing network, and
enable schools to configure a network to meet their needs.
Tree topologies integrate multiple star topologies together onto a bus. In its simplest form, only
hub devices connect directly to the tree bus, and each hub functions as the "root" of a tree of
devices. This bus/star hybrid approach supports future expandability of the network much
better than a bus (limited in the number of devices due to the broadcast traffic it generates) or a
star (limited by the number of hub connection points) alone.

Figure 4

Figure 5.

Advantages of a Tree Topology

Point-to-point wiring for individual segments.

Supported by several hardware and software venders.

Disadvantages of a Tree Topology
Overall length of each segment is limited by the type of cabling used.
If the backbone line breaks, the entire segment goes down.
More difficult to configure and wire than other topologies.

Mesh Topology
Mesh topologies involve the concept of routes. Unlike each of the previous topologies,
messages sent on a mesh network can take any of several possible paths from source to
destination. (Recall that even in a ring, although two cable paths exist, messages can only travel
in one direction.) Some WANs, most notably the Internet, employ mesh routing.
A mesh network in which every device connects to every other is called a full mesh. As shown in
the illustration below, partial mesh networks also exist in which some devices connect only
indirectly to others.
Figure 6

Figure 5
Advantages of mesh topology
A broken node wont distract the transmission of data in a mesh network. Each node is
connected to several other nodes which make it easier to relay data. A broken device will be
ignored by the signals and will then find a new one that is connected with the node.
Additional devices in a mesh topology will not affect its network connection. Hence it
will improve the traffic in the network. Mesh topology makes a large data center that
simulates useful information to its nodes.
A mesh topology can handle high amount of network traffic since every additional
device into the network is considered a node. Interconnected devices can simultaneously
transfer data smoothly and will not complicate the network connection.
Disadvantages of mesh topology
Maintaining mesh networks can be very hard to manage. It requires continuous
supervision because of the redundancy present in the network. Skilled network
administrators will find it easy to manage this kind of topology.
Due to the fact that building this topology requires a lot of devices it will need a lot of
capital to invest in. It may be expensive but the service it provides you will definitely give
back the invested capital.

Hybrid Topology

A combination of any two or more network topologies. Note 1: Instances can occur where two
basic network topologies, when connected together, can still retain the basic network character,
and therefore not be a hybrid network. For example, a tree network connected to a tree
network is still a tree network. Therefore, a hybrid network accrues only when two basic
networks are connected and the resulting network topology fails to meet one of the basic
topology definitions. For example, two star networks connected together exhibit hybrid network
topologies. Note 2: A hybrid topology always accrues when two different basic network
topologies are connected (see fig 6).

Advantages of Hybrid Network Topology

1) Reliable : Unlike other networks, fault detection and troubleshooting is easy in this type of
topology. The part in which fault is detected can be isolated from the rest of network and
required corrective measures can be taken, WITHOUT affecting the functioning of rest of the
2) Scalable: Its easy to increase the size of network by adding new components, without
disturbing existing architecture.
3) Flexible: Hybrid Network can be designed according to the requirements of the organization
and by optimizing the available resources. Special care can be given to nodes where traffic is
high as well as where chances of fault are high.
4) Effective: Hybrid topology is the combination of two or more topologies, so we can design it
in such a way that strengths of constituent topologies are maximized while there weaknesses
are neutralized. For example we saw Ring Topology has good data reliability (achieved by use of
tokens) and Star topology has high tolerance capability (as each node is not directly connected
to other but through central device), so these two can be used effectively in hybrid star-ring

Disadvantages of Hybrid Topology

1) Complexity of Design: One of the biggest drawback of hybrid topology is its design. Its not
easy to design this type of architecture and its a tough job for designers. Configuration and
installation process needs to be very efficient.
2) Costly Hub: The hubs used to connect two distinct networks, are very expensive. These hubs
are different from usual hubs as they need to be intelligent enough to work with different
architectures and should be function even if a part of network is down.
3) Costly Infrastructure: As hybrid architectures are usually larger in scale, they require a lot of
cables, cooling systems, sophisticate network devices, etc.

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