Network topology is a usually schematic description of the arrangement of a network, including its nodes and connecting lines. There are two ways of defining network geometry: the physical topology and the logical (or signal) topology.
In many instances, the logical topology is the same as the physical topology. But this is not always the case. For example, some networks are physically laid out in a star configuration, but they operate logically as bus networks.
Network topology is technically a part of graph theory. Distances between nodes, physical interconnections, transmission rates, and/or signal types may differ in two networks and yet their topologies may be identical.
There are several common physical topologies, as described below and as shown in the Figure 1.
|Figure 1: Physical topologies|
Bus - 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. 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.
Star - Topology in which each of the nodes of the network is connected to a central node with a point-to-point link in a "hub" and "spoke" fashion, the central node being the "hub" and the nodes that are attached to the central node being the "spokes" (e.g., a collection of point-to-point links from the peripheral nodes that converge at a central node) – all data that is transmitted between nodes in the network is transmitted to this central node, which is usually some type of device that then retransmits the data to some or all of the other nodes in the network, although the central node may also be a simple common connection point without any active device to repeat the signals.
Ring - Topology in which each of the nodes of the network is connected to two other nodes in the network and with the first and last nodes being connected to each other, forming a ring – all data that is transmitted between nodes in the network travels from one node to the next node in a circular manner and the data generally flows in a single direction only.
Mesh - Topology in which each of the nodes of the network is connected to each of the other nodes in the network with a point-to-point link – this makes it possible for data to be simultaneously transmitted from any single node to all of the other nodes. 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.
Tree (or hierarchical) - 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 – the hierarchy of the tree is symmetrical, each node in the network having a specific fixed number, f, of nodes connected to it at the next lower level in the hierarchy, the number, f, being referred to as the "branching factor" of the hierarchical tree.
Hybrid - The hybrid topology is a type of network topology that is composed of one or more interconnections of two or more networks that are based upon different physical topologies mentioned above.