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Computer Network Topology and its Types | Computer Network


Computer Network Topology and its Types | Computer Network

Topology means the physical design of a network including the devices, location and cable installation. Logical Topology refers to the fact that how data actually transfers in a network as opposed to its design.


Network topology is the layout pattern of interconnections of the various elements (links, nodes, etc.) of a computer network. Network topologies may be physical or logical. Physical topology means the physical design of a network including the devices, location and cable installation. Logical topology refers to how data is actually transferred in a network as opposed to its physical design. In general, physical topology relates to a core network whereas logical topology relates to basic network.

A local area network (LAN) is one example of a network that exhibits both a physical topology and a logical topology. Any given node in the LAN has one or more links to one or more nodes in the network and the mapping of these links and nodes in a graph results in a geometric shape that may be used to describe the physical topology of the network. Likewise, the mapping of the data flow between the nodes in the network determines the logical topology of the network. The physical and logical topologies may or may not be identical in any particular network.


Basic topology types:


The study of network topology recognizes seven basic topologies: 
  • Point-to-point topology
  • Bus (point-to-multipoint) topology
  • Star topology
  • Ring topology
  • Tree topology
  • Mesh topology
  • Hybrid topology

This classification is based on the interconnection between computers — be it physical or logical. The physical topology of a network is determined by the capabilities of the network access devices and media, the level of control or fault tolerance desired, and the cost associated with cabling or telecommunications circuits.  

Point-to-point

Point-to-Point Topology

Point-to-Point Topology

The simplest topology is a permanent link between two endpoints. Switched point-to-point topologies are the basic model of conventional telephony. The value of a permanent point-to-point network is the value of guaranteed, or nearly so, communications between the two endpoints. The value of an on-demand point-topoint connection is proportional to the number of potential pairs of subscribers, and has been expressed as Metcalfe's Law.

Types of Point-to-Point topology:

a  Permanent (Dedicated)

Easiest to understand, of the variations of point-to-point topology, is a point-to-point communications channel that appears, to the user, to be permanently associated with the two endpoints. A children's "tin-can telephone" is one example, with a microphone to a single public address speaker is another. These are examples of physical dedicated channels.
Within many switched telecommunications systems, it is possible to establish a permanent circuit. One example might be a telephone in the lobby of a public building, which is programmed to ring only the number of a telephone dispatcher. "Nailing down" a switched connection saves the cost of running a physical circuit between the two points. The resources in such a connection can be released when no longer needed, for example, a television circuit from a parade route back to the studio.

b  Switched


Using circuit-switching or packet-switching technologies, a point-to-point circuit can be set up dynamically, and dropped when no longer needed. This is the basic mode of conventional telephony.


Bus topology

Bus Topology

Bus Topology

In local area networks where bus topology is used, each node is connected to a single cable. Each computer or server is connected to the single bus cable through some kind of connector. A terminator is required at each end of the bus cable to prevent the signal from bouncing back and forth on the bus cable. A signal from the source travels in both directions to all machines connected on the bus cable until it finds the MAC address or IP address on the network that is the intended recipient. If the machine address does not match the intended address for the data, the machine ignores the data. Alternatively, if the data does match the machine address, the data is accepted. Since the bus topology consists of only one wire, it is rather inexpensive to implement when compared to other topologies. However, the low cost of implementing the technology is offset by the high cost of managing the network. Additionally, since only one cable is utilized, it can be the single point of failure. If the network cable breaks, the entire network will be down.

Types of Bus network topology:


a  Linear bus

The type of network topology in which all of the nodes of the network are connected to a common transmission medium which has exactly two endpoints (this is the 'bus', which is also commonly referred to as the backbone, or trunk) – all data that is transmitted between nodes in the network is transmitted over this common transmission medium and is able to be received by all nodes in the network virtually simultaneously (disregarding propagation delays).

The two endpoints of the common transmission medium are normally terminated with a device called a terminator that exhibits the characteristic impedance of the transmission medium and which dissipates or absorbs the energy that remains in the signal to prevent the signal from being reflected or propagated back onto the transmission medium in the opposite direction, which would cause interference with and degradation of the signals on the transmission medium.

b  Distributed bus

The type of network topology in which all of the nodes of the network are connected to a common transmission medium which has more than two endpoints that are created by adding branches to the main section of the transmission medium – the physical distributed bus topology functions in exactly the same fashion as the physical linear bus topology (i.e., all nodes share a common transmission medium).

  1. All of the endpoints of the common transmission medium are normally terminated with a device called a 'terminator'.
  2. The physical linear bus topology is sometimes considered to be a special case of the physical distributed bus topology – i.e., a distributed bus with no branching segments.
  3. The physical distributed bus topology is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a physical tree topology – however, although the physical distributed bus topology resembles the physical tree topology, it differs from the physical tree topology in that there is no central node to which any other nodes are connected, since this hierarchical functionality is replaced by the common bus.


Star topology

Start Topology

Start Topology

In local area networks with a star topology, each network host is connected to a central hub. In contrast to the bus topology, the star topology connects each node to the hub with a point-to-point connection. All traffic that traverses the network passes through the central hub. The hub acts as a signal booster or repeater. The star topology is considered the easiest topology to design and implement. An advantage of the star topology is the simplicity of adding additional nodes. The primary disadvantage of the star topology is that the hub represents a single point of failure.

  • A point-to-point link is sometimes categorized as a special instance of the physical star topology – therefore, the simplest type of network that is based upon the physical star topology would consist of one node with a single point-to-point link to a second node, the choice of which node is the 'hub' and which node is the 'spoke' being arbitrary.
  • After the special case of the point-to-point link, the next simplest type of network that is based upon the physical star topology would consist of one central node – the 'hub' – with two separate point-to-point links to two peripheral nodes – the 'spokes'.
  • Although most networks that are based upon the physical star topology are commonly implemented using a special device such as a hubor switch as the central node (i.e., the 'hub' of the star), it is also possible to implement a network that is based upon the physical star topology using a computer or even a simple common connection point as the 'hub' or central node.
  • Star networks may also be described as either broadcast multi-access(BMA) or non-broadcast multi-access (NBMA), depending on whether the technology of the network either automatically propagates a signal at the hub to all spokes, or only addresses individual spokes with each communication.

a Extended star 

A type of network topology in which a network that is based upon the physical star topology has one or more repeaters between the central node (the 'hub' of the star) and the peripheral or 'spoke' nodes, the repeaters being used to extend the maximum transmission distance of the point-to-point links between the central node and the peripheral nodes beyond that which is supported by the transmitter power of the central node or beyond that which is supported by the standard upon which the physical layer of the physical star network is based.
If the repeaters in a network that is based upon the physical extended star topology are replaced with hubs or switches, then a hybrid network topology is created that is referred to as a physical hierarchical star topology, although some texts make no distinction between the two topologies.

b Distributed Star 

A type of network topology that is composed of individual networks that are based upon the physical star topology connected together in a linear fashion – i.e.; 'daisy-chained' – with no central or top level connection point (e.g., two or more 'stacked' hubs, along with their associated star connected nodes or 'spokes').

Ring topology

Ring Topology

Ring Topology

A network topology that is set up in a circular fashion in which data travels around the ring in one direction and each device on the right acts as a repeater to keep the signal strong as it travels. Each device incorporates a receiver for the incoming signal and a transmitter to send the data on to the next device in the ring. The network is dependent on the ability of the signal to travel around the ring.

Types of Ring network topology:


4.a Token Ring

Token ring local area network (LAN) technology is a local area network protocol which resides at the data link layer (DLL) of the OSI model. It uses a special three-byte frame called a token that travels around the ring. Token-possession grants the possessor permission to transmit on the medium. Token ring frames travel completely around the loop.

4.2 Dual Ring (failover)

This structure consists of dual rings – the primary for data transfer; and the secondary is for reliability and robustness.

Mesh Topology

Mesh Topology

Mesh Topology

The value of fully meshed networks is proportional to the exponent of the number of subscribers, assuming that communicating groups of any two endpoints, up to and including all the endpoints, is approximated by Reed's Law.

The number of connections in a full mesh = n(n - 1) / 2

a  Fully connected mesh

The physical fully connected mesh topology is generally too costly and complex for practical networks, although the topology is used when there are only a small number of nodes to be interconnected.

b  Partially connected mesh

The type of network topology in which some of the nodes of the network are connected to more than one other node in the network with a point-to-point link – this makes it possible to take advantage of some of the redundancy that is provided by a physical fully connected mesh topology without the expense and complexity required for a connection between every node in the network.


In most practical networks that are based upon the physical partially connected mesh topology, all of the data that is transmitted between nodes in the network takes the shortest path (or an approximation of the shortest path) between nodes, except in the case of a failure or break in one of the links, in which case the data takes an alternative path to the destination. This requires that the nodes of the network possess some type of logical 'routing' algorithm to determine the correct path to use at any particular time.


Tree topology

Tree Topology

Tree Topology

Tree topology is also known as a hierarchy network.

The type of network topology in which a central 'root' node (the top level of the hierarchy) is connected to one or more other nodes that are one level lower in the hierarchy (i.e.; the second level) with a point-to-point link between each of the second level nodes and the top level central 'root' node, while each of the second level nodes that are connected to the top level central 'root' node will also have one or more other nodes that are one level lower in the hierarchy (i.e.; the third level) connected to it; also with a point-to-point link, the top level central 'root' node being the only node that has no other node above it in the hierarchy. Each node in the network having a specific fixed number of nodes connected to it at the next lower level in the hierarchy, the number; being referred to as the 'branching factor' of the hierarchical tree. This tree has individual peripheral nodes.

  • A network that is based upon the physical hierarchical topology must have at least three levels in the hierarchy of the tree, since a network with a central 'root' node and only one hierarchical level below it would exhibit the physical topology of a star.
  • A network that is based upon the physical hierarchical topology and with a branching factor of 1 would be classified as a physical linear topology.
  • The branching factor, f, is independent of the total number of nodes in the network and, therefore, if the nodes in the network require ports for connection to other nodes the total number of ports per node may be kept low even though the total number of nodes is large – this makes the effect of the cost of adding ports to each node totally dependent upon the branching factor and may therefore be kept as low as required without any effect upon the total number of nodes that are possible.
  • The total number of point-to-point links in a network that is based upon the physical hierarchical topology will be one less than the total number of nodes in the network.
  • If the nodes in a network that is based upon the physical hierarchical topology are required to perform any processing upon the data that is transmitted between nodes in the network, the nodes that are at higher levels in the hierarchy will be required to perform more processing operations on behalf of other nodes than the nodes that are lower in the hierarchy. Such a type of network topology is very useful and highly recommended.


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