LAN Topologies

LAN Topologies Page 13 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
LAN Topologies
The application in use, such as multimedia, database updates, e-mail, or file and print
sharing, generally determines the type of data transmission.
LAN transmissions fit into one of three categories:
With unicast transmissions, a single packet is sent from the source to a destination on a
network. The source-node addresses the packet by using the network address of the
destination node. The packet is then forwarded to the destination network and the network
passes the packet to its final destination. Figure 2-1 is an example of a unicast network.
Figure 2-1
Unicast Network
Client Page 14 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
With a multicast transmission, a single data packet is copied and forwarded to a specific
subset of nodes on the network. The source node addresses the packet by using a multicast
address. For example, the TCP/IP suite uses to The packet is
then sent to the network, which makes copies of the packet and sends a copy to each
segment with a node that is part of the multicast address. Figure 2-2 is an example of a
multicast network.
Figure 2-2
Multicast Network
Broadcasts are found in LAN environments. Broadcasts do not traverse a WAN unless the
Layer 3 edge-routing device is configured with a helper address (or the like) to direct these
broadcasts to a specified network address. This Layer 3 routing device acts as an interface
between the local-area network (LAN) and the wide-area network (WAN).
Broadcasts will traverse a WAN if the WAN is bridged. Page 15 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Ethernet is a broadcast environment in which one device transmits and all other devices see
the transmission. Ethernet (broadcast) operation should not be confused with other LAN or
WAN broadcasts, where the frame addressed to the broadcast address (a broadcast frame)
is copied and forwarded across the network. Figure 2-3 is an example of a broadcast
Figure 2-3
Broadcast Network
Multimedia broadcast traffic is a much more bandwidth-intensive broadcast traffic type.
Multimedia broadcasts, unlike data broadcasts, typically are several megabits in size;
therefore, they can quickly consume network and bandwidth resources. Broadcast-based
protocols are not preferred because every network device on the network must expend CPU
cycles to process each data frame and packet to determine if that device is the intended
recipient. Data broadcasts are necessary in a LAN environment, but they have minimal
impact because the data broadcast frames that are traversing the network are typically
small. Broadcast storms can cripple a network in no time because the broadcasting device
uses whatever available bandwidth is on the network.
An example of a data broadcast on a LAN could be a host searching for server resources,
such as Novell’s IPX GNS (Get Nearest Server) or AppleTalk’s Chooser application.
Unlike data broadcasts, which are usually made up of small frames, multimedia broadcasts
are typically several megabits in size. As a result, multimedia broadcasts can quickly
consume all available bandwidth on a network, bringing a network and its attached devices
to a crawl, if not render them inoperable. Page 16 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Table 2-1 demonstrates the amount of bandwidth that multimedia applications can consume
on a network.
Table 2-1
Multimedia Bandwidth Impact on a LAN (1.5 Mbps* Stream)
Link Type
Full-Screen, Full-Motion Client/Server Connections
Supported (1.5 Mbps Stream)
10 Mbps
6 to 7
100 Mbps
50 to 60
1000 Mbps
250 to 300
= megabits per second
For video-conferencing applications, 384 kilobits per second (Kbps) is the recommended
maximum bandwidth for uncompressed data streams. Any bandwidth in excess of 384
Kbps typically will not be noticed by end users and could be considered a waste of
bandwidth—and in some cases, money. Table 2-2 shows multimedia bandwidth impact on
a LAN.
Table 2-2
Multimedia Bandwidth Impact on a LAN (384 Kbps Stream)
Link Type
Full-Screen, Full-Motion Client/Server
Connections Supported (384 Kbps Stream)
10 Mbps
24 to 28
100 Mbps
200 to 240
1000 Mbps
1,000 to 1,200
LAN Addressing
LAN (or any internetwork) addresses identify individual or groups of devices. Addressing
schemes vary depending on the protocol family and OSI layer.
MAC Addresses
Media Access Control (MAC) addresses identify network devices in LANs. MAC
addresses are unique for each LAN interface on a device. MAC addresses are 48 bits in
length and are expressed as 12 hexadecimal digits. The first six hexadecimal digits, which
are administered by the IEEE, identify the manufacturer or vendor and comprise the
organizational unique identifier (OUI). The last six hexadecimal digits comprise the
interface serial number, or another value administered by the specific vendor. MAC
addresses are sometimes referred to as burned-in addresses (BIAs) because they are burned
into read-only memory (ROM) and are copied into random-access memory (RAM) when
the interface card initializes. Page 17 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
LAN Topologies
MAC addresses are supported at the data link layer of the OSI model. According to the
IEEE’s specifications, Layer 2 comprises two components: the MAC sublayer and the
logical link control (LLC) sublayer. The MAC sublayer interfaces with the physical layer
(OSI model Layer 1), and the LLC sublayer interfaces with the network layer (OSI model
Layer 3).
Network Layer Addresses
Network layer addresses identify a device at the OSI network layer (Layer 3). Network
addresses exist within a hierarchical address space and sometimes are called virtual or
logical addresses.
Network layer addresses have two parts: the network of which the device is a part and the
device, or host, number of that device on that network. Devices on the same logical network
must have addresses with the same network part; however, they will have unique device
parts, such as network and host addresses in an IP or IPX network.
For example, an IP address is often expressed as a dotted decimal notation, such as x.x.x.x.
Each x in the address indicates either a network or host number, demonstrated as n.n.h.h.
The subnet mask determines where the network boundary ends and the host boundary
LAN Topologies
Four LAN topologies exist:
Star (Hub-and-Spoke)
Star (Hub-and-Spoke) Topology
All stations are attached by cable to a central point, usually a wiring hub or other device
operating in a similar function.
Several different cable types can be used for this point-to-point link, such as shielded
twisted-pair (STP), unshielded twisted-pair (UTP), and fiber-optic cabling. Wireless media
can also be used for communications links. Page 18 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
STP is not typically used in a point-to-point configuration. STP is used primarily in the
Token Ring environment, where the hubs are called MAUs or MSAUs and the connections
from the NIC to the MAU are not really point-to-point. This is because there is a transmit
and a receive side, and the transmission is one way. In fact, this is sometimes called a
The advantage of the star topology is that no cable segment is a single point of failure
impacting the entire network. This allows for better management of the LAN. If one of the
cables develops a problem, only that LAN-attached station is affected; all other stations
remain operational.
The disadvantage of a star (hub-and-spoke) topology is the central hub device. This central
hub is a single point-of-failure in that if it fails, every attached station is out of service.
These central hubs, or concentrators, have changed over the years. Today, it is common to
deploy hubs with built-in redundancy. Such redundancy is designed to isolate a faulty or
failed component, such as the backplane or power supply. Figure 2-4 is an example of a star
(hub-and-spoke) topology.
Figure 2-4
Star (Hub-and-Spoke) Topology
This example demonstrates a star topology with a file server, printer, and two workstations.
If a cable to one of the workstations fails, the rest of the devices are unaffected unless they
need to access resources from the “disconnected” device. Page 19 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
LAN Topologies
Ring Topology
All stations in a ring topology are considered repeaters and are enclosed in a loop. Unlike
the star (hub-and-spoke) topology, a ring topology has no end points. The repeater in this
case is a function of the LAN-attached station’s network interface card (NIC).
Because each NIC in a LAN-attached station is a repeater, each LAN station will repeat any
signal that is on the network, regardless of whether it is destined for that particular station.
If a LAN-attached station’s NIC fails to perform this repeater function, the entire network
could come down. The NIC controller is capable of recognizing and handling the defective
repeater and can pull itself off the ring, allowing the ring to stabilize and continue operating.
Token Ring (IEEE 802.5) best represents a ring topology. Although the physical cabling is
considered to be a star topology, Token Ring is a ring in logical topology, as demonstrated
by the following figures. Although physical topology is a physical layer attribute, the media
access method used at the data link layer determines the logical topology. Token Ring
defines a logical ring and contention, as Ethernet defines a logical bus. Even when attached
to a hub, when one Ethernet device transmits, everyone hears the transmission, just as
though on a bus. Figures 2-5 and 2-6 are examples of ring topologies.
Figure 2-5
Ring Topology (Logical)
Data flow
around the ring
Repeater function
within NIC
Node Page 20 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Figure 2-6
Ring Topology
Token Ring MAUs
(Multistation Access Units)
File Server
Fiber Data Distributed Interface (FDDI) is another example of a ring topology
implementation. Like Token Ring, FDDI rings are physically cabled in a star topology.
FDDI stations can be configured either as a single attachment station (SAS) or as a dual
attachment station (DAS). SASs are connected to one of the two FDDI rings, whereas
DASs are connected to both rings via an A and B port on the FDDI stations and
Token Ring and FDDI LANs will be discussed in greater detail in Chapters 6, “Token Ring/
IEEE 802.5,” and 7, “FDDI.”
Bus Topology
Sometimes referred to as linear-bus topology, Bus is a simple design that utilizes a single
length of cable, also known as the medium, with directly attached LAN stations. All
stations share this cable segment. Every station on this segment sees transmissions from
every other station on the cable segment; this is known as a broadcast medium. The LAN
attachment stations are definite endpoints to the cable segment and are known as bus
network termination points.
This single cable segment lends itself to being a single point of failure. If the cable is
broken, no LAN station will have connectivity or the ability to transmit and receive. Page 21 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
LAN Topologies
Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) best represents this topology. Ethernet has the ability to utilize many
different cable schemes. Further discussion of Ethernet and these cable schemes will be
found in greater detail in Chapter 3. Figure 2-7 is an example of a bus topology.
Figure 2-7
Bus Topology
LAN Node
LAN Node
Tree Topology
The tree topology is a logical extension of the bus topology and could be described as
multiple interconnected bus networks. The physical (cable) plant is known as a branching
tree with all stations attached to it. The tree begins at the root, the pinnacle point, and
expands to the network endpoints. This topology allows a network to expand dynamically
with only one active data path between any two network endpoints.
A tree topology network is one that does not employ loops in its topology. An example of
a tree topology network is a bridged or switched network running the spanning tree
algorithm, usually found with Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) networks. The spanning tree
algorithm disables loops in what would otherwise be a looped topology. Spanning tree
expands through the network and ensures that only one active path exists between any two
LAN-attached stations. Figure 2-8 is an example of a tree topology. Page 22 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Figure 2-8
Tree Topology
Network Devices
The four primary devices used in LANs are as follows:
Respective to the OSI model, these devices operate at the following layers:
OSI Layer 1 (physical)—Hubs, repeaters (hubs are considered to be multiport
OSI Layer 2 (data link)—Bridges, switches
OSI Layer 3 (network)—Routers Page 23 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Hubs operate at the physical layer (Layer 1) of the OSI model. A hub is used to connect
devices so that they are on one shared LAN, as shown in Figure 2-9. Because only two
devices can be directly connected with LAN cables, a hub is needed to interconnect two or
more devices on a single LAN. The cable termination points are the hub and the LAN
device (host).
Figure 2-9
Hub-Based Network
Ethernet hubs are not “smart” devices; hubs send all the data from a network device on one
port to all other hub ports. When network devices are connected via a hub, LAN-attached
devices will hear all conversations across the LAN. Each station then examines the message
header to determine if it is the intended recipient. If more than one LAN station transmits
at the same time, a collision occurs and both stations initiate a backoff algorithm before
attempting retransmission. This type of operation is also known as contention. All devices
attached to the hub are said to be in a single collision domain.
Backbone hubs are hubs deployed to connect other hubs to a single termination, or root,
point. This is known as a multitiered design and is illustrated in Figure 2-10.
Figure 2-10 Backbone, or Multitiered, Hub Network Page 24 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Several benefits can be derived from this multitiered design:
It provides interdepartmental connections between hubs.
It extends the maximum distance between any pair of nodes on the network.
Intelligent Hubs
Intelligent hubs contain logic circuits that will shut down a port if the traffic originating
from that port indicates that bad, or malformed, frames are the rule rather than the
Managed Hubs
Visit for up-to-date product information and announcements.
Stackable Hubs
Visit for up-to-date product information and announcements.
This section focuses on transparent bridges, which can also be referred to as learning or
Ethernet bridges. Bridges have a physical layer (Layer 1), but are said to operate at the data
link layer (Layer 2) of the OSI model. Bridges forward data frames based on the destination
MAC address.
Bridges also forward frames based on frame header information. Bridges create multiple
collision domains and are generally deployed to provide more useable bandwidth. Bridges
don’t stop broadcast traffic; they forward broadcast traffic out every port of each bridge
device. Each port on a bridge has a separate bandwidth (collision) domain, but all ports are
on the same broadcast domain.
Bridges were also deployed in complex environments, which is where broadcast storms
became such a problem.
Routers were added to the complex bridged environments to control broadcasts. Later,
VLANs were devised when switches were deployed in enterprise environments and
brought back the old problem of broadcast storms.
Bridges, like repeaters, do not modify traffic. Unlike repeaters, bridges can originate traffic
in the form of spanning tree bridge protocol data units (BPDUs). Page 25 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Bridges maintain a MAC address table, sometimes referred to as a content addressable
memory (CAM) or bridging table, which maintains the following information:
MAC addresses
Port assignment
Bridges/switches can modify traffic. IP QoS and RIF are examples.
Bridge Operation
A learning bridge examines the source field of every frame it sees on each port and builds
up a picture of which addresses are connected to which ports. This means that it will not
retransmit a frame if it knows that the destination address is connected to the same port on
which the bridge saw the frame.
A special problem arises if a bridge sees a frame addressed to a destination that is not in its
address table. In this case, the frame is retransmitted on every port except the one on which
it was received. This is known as flooding.
Bridges also age address table entries. If a given address has not been heard from in a
specified period of time, then the address is purged from the address table.
The learning bridge concept works equally well with several interconnected networks,
provided that no loops exist in the system. Consider the following simple configuration.
Suppose both stations A and B start up and A attempts to communicate with B (see
Figure 2-11). At this point, the following process occurs:
1 A frame from A addressed to B reaches port 1 off bridge B1. B1 then learns that
station A is connected to port 1, but it knows nothing about station B so it retransmits
the frame destined for B on all available ports except port 1.
2 Bridge B2 receives the frame. Because Bridge B2 does not know where station B is,
it retransmits on all available ports except port 1, causing the frame to reach B and
generate a response.
3 By examining the incoming frame, bridge B2 knows that A is reachable via its port 1.
4 Station B’s response reaches B2 on port 2 so that B2 can update its address table with
information about the location of B.
5 B2 already knows how to get to A, so the response is transmitted on B2’s port 1 and
reaches B1.
6 B1 examines this incoming frame and determines that B is reachable via its port 2.
7 Both bridges now know how to send frames to both A and B. Page 26 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Figure 2-11 Simple Bridge Network
The original all-ports broadcast of A’s first frame to B ensures that B3 knows how to send
to frames to A. An attempt by C to communicate with B results in B3 broadcasting the
frame on all ports (except number 2), so the frame reaches B1 on port 4. While B1 forwards
this frame to B2, it also learns what to do with frames destined for C.
Unfortunately, this simple and elegant arrangement breaks down disastrously if loops are
in the network. Consider the following arrangement. Figure 2-12 is an example of a looped
bridge network.
Figure 2-12 Looped Bridge Network
Network 2
Network 1
Suppose host A has just booted up and wants to communicate with B. A’s initial frame will
be seen on both Bridge 1’s (B1) port 1 and Bridge 2’s (B2) port 2, so both bridges know
that host A is on network 1. The frame is then transmitted onto network 2 by B1 on port 2
and by B2 on port 1. One of the bridges will transmit it first—suppose it is B1—and then
B2 will see a frame from A on its network 2 port 1. It will now update its table as to the
location of A and retransmit the frame on network 1. B1 sees this frame and does not know Page 27 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
that it’s a duplicate, so it retransmits it on network 2. From there, B2 retransmits it on
network 1, and so on indefinitely. Adding a third bridge to this two-network scenario makes
things exponentially more complicated.
This is clearly unsatisfactory. Prohibiting loops is an unrealistic target. Practical bridges use
a method known as the spanning tree algorithm to construct an effective non-looping
topology by deciding not to use certain links in the network. It is also possible to
reconfigure this network dynamically.
Redundant bridges (bridge pairs), added for fault tolerance, cause bridging loops. The
ability to reconfigure dynamically helps provide fault tolerance.
Bridges interchange special messages known as configuration messages. The spanning tree
algorithm (IEEE 802.1) uses BPDUs. The bridge configuration message contains enough
information to enable the bridges to do the following:
Elect a single bridge from among all the connected bridges to be the “root” bridge.
Choose a port on each bridge that gives the best path toward the root.
Calculate the least cost path to the “root” bridge from each bridge.
For each LAN, identify a “designated bridge” on that LAN that will be used for
forwarding frames toward the root.
Select ports to be included in the spanning tree.
The effective topology after construction of the spanning tree is loop free; this is achieved
by effectively choosing not to use certain links between bridges. The links are still there and
might come into use if the network is reconfigured.
Configuration messages are sent to a special multicast MAC address, meaning all bridges
that use the binary SAP value 01000010. Configuration messages are autonomously
originated by bridges, but they are not forwarded by bridges. A configuration message
contains four pieces of information:
The ID of the bridge assumed to be root.
The port number on which the message was transmitted.
The ID of the bridge transmitting the message.
The cost of the least cost-known path from the transmitting bridge to the assumed
A bridge initially assumes itself to be the root, with a path cost of zero. For each bridge port,
a bridge will receive incoming configuration messages from other bridges on the LAN
connected to that same port. For each port, the bridge will remember the lowest cost Page 28 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
configuration message. The following algorithm describes how a bridge would determine
which of C1 and C2 is the better configuration message.
if(C1.root_id < C2.root_id) C1 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.root_id > C2.root_id) C2 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.root_cost < C2.root_cost) C1 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.root_cost > C2.root_cost) C2 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.tx_id < C2.tx_id) C1 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.tx_id > C2.tx_id) C2 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.port_id < C2.port_id) C1 _is_BETTER
else if (C1.port_id > C2.port_id) C2 _is_BETTER
If the bridge configuration message that a bridge receives on any port is better than the
bridge configuration message it would transmit, the bridge stops transmitting configuration
messages on that port. The bridge uses the new information to recalculate the spanning tree
information in the BDPU configuration messages that it will transmit out ports other than
the one from which the new information was learned.
This method details how a network starts up. It is also necessary for networks to be able to
reconfigure automatically if a node or link fails or a new node or link comes online. To
allow for reconfiguration updates, all stored configuration messages in a bridge are aged.
After the age of a configuration message exceeds a certain value, it is discarded and the
configuration is recalculated. In the normal course of events, the root bridge periodically
transmits configuration messages with an age of zero; receipt of these by bridges causes the
bridges to transmit their own configuration messages, also with an age of zero. The time
between such messages is called the Hello Time.
After the network has stabilized, bridges will issue configuration messages only if they
receive such messages or if the age of their internal messages has exceeded the maximum.
Configuration messages with age zero can only be transmitted if a configuration message
with age zero has been received.
Bridges might not attempt to forward data traffic while the spanning tree is being
calculated. In fact, they should not even attempt the “learning” phase until the tree has been
defined. This is called the forward delay. A special “topology change” flag in a
configuration message forces a bridge into the spanning tree calculation mode.
Figure 2-13 illustrates the format of a bridge configuration message, and the following lists
gives an explanation of each field. Page 29 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Figure 2-13 Configuration Message BPDU Frame Format
Protocol Identifier
(2 Bytes)
Version (0)
(1 Byte)
Message Type (0)
(1 Byte)
Flags - Topology Change
(1 Byte)
Root ID
(8 Bytes)
Cost of Path to Root
(4 Bytes)
Bridge ID
(8 Bytes)
Port ID
(2 Bytes)
Message Age
(2 Bytes)
Maximum Age
(2 Bytes)
Hello Time
(2 Bytes)
Forward Delay
(2 Bytes)
Protocol identifier—Contains the value zero.
Root ID—Defines the bridge that is at the top of the spanning tree.
Bridge ID—Identifies the bridge that generated the BPDU and is used by the
algorithm to build a spanning tree.
Version—Contains the value zero.
Message type—Contains the value zero.
Flags—Signifies one of two events: topology changes or acknowledgements to
topology changes.
Cost of path to root—Defines the accumulated cost from the advertising bridge to the
root bridge in the network. Page 30 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Port ID—Defines from which port this BPDU message left the bridge. Other bridges
use this to detect and remove loops in a network.
Message age—Defines the last time the root bridge advertised a BPDU message on
which the current network configuration is based.
Maximum age—Defines the age at which the protocol will remove the information
from its database and initiate a topology change by rerunning the spanning tree
algorithm. This parameter allows all bridges to age uniformly and to rerun the
spanning tree algorithm in parallel.
Hello time—Serves as the interval in which a bridge advertises BPDUs.
Forward delay—Defines the length of time that a port will remain in a port state.
(Forward delay is discussed later in this chapter.)
A topology change can be advised using a type 128 message with only the first four fields
present. Such messages are called topology change notification BPDUs and are defined by
IEEE 802.1. They are encapsulated in normal LAN data link layer frames using SAP
01000010 (binary) and are sent to a special multicast MAC address that means “all
Bridges introduce latency, or delay, when forwarding traffic because of the overhead
involved. This latency is measured from the moment that the first bit of a frame enters the
input port on the device until the time that the first bit of the same frame is forwarded out
of the exit port.
Bridges introduce about 20 to 30 percent loss of throughput for some applications.
Latency has a severe negative impact with some time-dependent technologies, such as
voice, video, or mainframe applications.
High levels of latency can result in loss of connections and noticeable video and voice
degradation. Routers (OSI Layer 3 network devices) were introduced to overcome the
inherent problems of bridging over multiple segments.
Routers introduce more latency than a bridge does. Routers were introduced to contain
broadcasts, one of the other problems associated with flat, bridged networks. Page 31 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Types of Bridging
Following is a discussion of the four types of bridging:
Transparent bridging
Source-route bridging
Source-route translational, or mixed-media, bridging
Source-route transparent bridging
Transparent Bridging
Transparent bridging is so named because its operation is transparent to the network hosts.
When a host on a remote LAN sends data to a specific destination, it does not look to see
where on the bridging LAN the data is. The transparent bridge will read the source frames
and forward the data, as discussed earlier.
The major difference between the tables built by bridges and the tables built by routers
(Layer 3 devices) is that bridge tables are based on the MAC addresses, whereas routers
build their tables based on the network addresses.
Transparent bridges build their tables independently of each other, rather than exchange
information like routers. Each bridge learns different MAC addresses by associating the
source addresses of transmitted frames with the port on which the frame arrived into the
bridge. Each entry in this bridge table has a maximum age associated with it. If this
maximum age timer is exceeded—meaning that no traffic has originated from that port
within the defined timeframe—the entry is flushed out of the table.
A discussion of bridge states can be found later in this chapter, in the section “Spanning
Tree Topology.”
Source-Route Bridging
IBM developed source-route bridging. It was later adopted into the IEEE 802.5 (Token
Ring) standard.
In a source-route bridged (SRB) network, frames are sent with the complete source-todestination path included. Source-route bridges check frames for destination information
and store and forward as appropriate. The source will make the forwarding choice based on
configurable source-route bridging metrics. Page 32 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
In an SRB network, end systems, or hosts, send an explorer frame to the network to find a
path from source to destination prior to sending data. The source-route bridges are
responsible for adding the path information to these explorer frames and making sure they
are passed to and from the appropriate end systems. In addition to passing these explorer
frames, source-route bridges also store this routing information in what is called a RIF
cache. Source-route bridges look into a Token-Ring frame and determine whether routing
information exists by checking the routing information indicator (RII) bit. The bridges then
add the RII bit ring and bridge information to the routing descriptor (RD) field, also called
the routing information field (RIF) or RI field.
Unlike transparent bridges, source-route bridges do not build and maintain tables of MAC
addresses and associated ports. Instead, source-route bridges examine the contents of each
Token-Ring frame as follows:
1 Source-route bridges start by examining the first bit of a Token-Ring frame’s source
address to see if the value is a zero or a one. This first bit is the RII. The source host
of the frame sets the value of the RII.
2 If the RII is set to zero, no source-route information exists in the Token-Ring frame.
3 If the RII is set to one, source-route information exists within the Token-Ring frame
and resides in the RIF.
Three types of explorer frames are found in a source-route bridged network: local
explorers, all-routes explorers, and spanning tree explorers.
Local explorers are used with local source-route bridged networks. Local sourceroute bridging directly connects two or more Token-Ring networks. Bridged traffic
does not cross non-Token media.
All-paths explorers, as the name implies, take all possible paths on their way to the
destination. The amount of traffic generated by all-paths explorers could be
considerable in a complex network, which is not good.
Spanning tree explorers solve the problem of the all-paths explorer by sending packets
only to branches in the spanning tree. The network administrator can statically assign
which interfaces will forward spanning tree explorer frames and which interfaces will
block them. The network administrator can also use the spanning tree algorithm to
automatically set a single route explorer. (The spanning tree algorithm and the
Spanning Tree Protocol will be discussed later in this chapter.)
Source-Route Translational, or Mixed-Media, Bridging
Source-route translational bridging (SR/TLB) is used when connecting two networks that
are running different types of bridging technologies; the most common are Ethernet and
Token-Ring. SR/TLB is implemented to perform several functions:
Overcome MTU and frame format differences between Ethernet and Token Ring. Page 33 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Reconcile differences between Token-Ring frames (which contain RIFs) and Ethernet
frames (which never contain RIFs) by using Source-route translational bridging.
Resolve the formatting differences between Ethernet and Token Ring. Token Ring
addresses are in non-canonical format; Ethernet addresses are in canonical format.
The MTU for Ethernet is 1,500 bytes. The MTU for 4 Mbps Token Ring is 4,550 bytes.
16 M and 100 M Token-Ring is 18.2 KB, or 18,200 bytes.
Source-route translational bridging assures that all these differences are resolved when
forwarding frames from Token Ring to Ethernet and Ethernet to Token Ring.
The translational, transparent bridge translates only the frame format between many of the
IEEE protocols and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI). It is transparent bridging on
all ports.
Source-Route Transparent Bridging
Source-route transparent (SRT) bridging is a bridge that will either source-route bridge or
transparent bridge a Token-Ring frame. The RII value makes this determination to either
source-route or transparently bridge the frame.
If the RII value is zero, the frame will be transparently bridged.
If the RII value is one, the frame will be source-route bridged.
Cisco-Specific Bridging Solutions
Cisco has developed the following five alternative solutions to the previously discussed
bridging options:
Concurrent routing and bridging (CRB)—When CRB is implemented on a Cisco
router, specific protocols can be bridged and routed to specific interfaces.
Integrated routing and bridging (IRB)—Although CRB allows the concurrent routing
and bridging of the same protocol on the same routing device, the two never mix. IRB
allows bridged and routed traffic of the same protocol to be interchanged. By creating
a logical interface, called the Bridge Virtual Identifier (BVI), bridged traffic of a given
network layer protocol can be forwarded to a routed interface of the same protocol,
and vice versa. Page 34 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Virtual rings for multiport source route bridges—Whereas standard Token-Ring
bridges have only two ports, Cisco routers can be configured as a multiport sourceroute bridge by creating a virtual ring within the router. On a multiport source-route
bridge, frames from physical interfaces are first forwarded to the virtual ring, and then
to another physical interface.
Remote source-route bridging (RSRB)—RSRB takes the concept of a virtual ring a
step further. Instead of forwarding Token-Ring frames from one physical interface to
another through a virtual ring, RSRB forwards Token-Ring frames from physical
Token-Ring interfaces to interfaces connected to an IP cloud through a virtual ring.
The benefit is that this provides a method for performing source-route bridging over
a WAN, such as Frame Relay or ATM.
Data-link switching plus (DLSw+)—DLSw+ is backward compatible with RSRB.
DLSw+ performs the same functional tasks that RSRB does, with additional options
supported. DLSw+ also supports interconnection of transparent bridging (TB), SRT
bridging, SR/TLB, and SDLC-to-LAN conversion (SDLLC) over an IP backbone.
LAN switches are used to connect a common broadcast domain (a hub). They are also used
to provide frame-level filtering as well as dedicated port speed to specific end users. Some
switches have limited routing capabilities and can provide Layer 3 routing functions at the
most basic level. Some of the major benefits of using switches in a network are higher
bandwidth to the desktop and ease of configuration. Switches are being deployed more
often to replace hubs and bridges as more bandwidth-intensive applications are being
implemented at all levels of an organization.
Switch Operations
The following discussion focuses on Ethernet switches. The switches transfer data on a
network by receiving data frames from a source port and forwarding them out to the
destination through a different port on the switch based on the frame information. Like
transparent bridges, Layer 2 Ethernet switching works by looking at the MAC addressing
information in the data frame’s header and forwarding the data according to the switch, or
Content Addressable Memory (CAM), table information. If the switch looks at the MAC
addressing information and still doesn’t know from which port to send out the frames, it
will broadcast the frames out all of the switch ports. This is known as flooding, and it is used
to determine the destination. After the destination address is found, the information is added
to the switching table.
Switches work by providing dedicated bandwidth per port to an end user or application.
Switches allow fewer users in each network segment, and they provide dedicated
bandwidth, which is increasingly important with graphics and multimedia applications. Page 35 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
Deploying LAN switches in an existing network environment requires minimal
configuration and little or no changes to existing wiring closets, hubs, LAN cabling, or
Switches allow network users the ability to transfer data traffic in a network environment
free of collisions and bandwidth contention. Several types of switching technologies enable
quick and scalable network transmission.
Switching Modes
The switch can be configured in a variety of ways to allow certain network services and
features to be available within the network.
The modes of LAN switching found today are store-and-forward, cut-through, runt-free,
and adaptive cut-through. Some LAN switches can also support the router modes of fast
switching and Layer-3 switching.
Store and Forward Switching
This is one of the two common modes of LAN switching. A store and forward switch works
by reading and copying the entire data frame into its buffers. Error checking is performed,
and the destination address is looked up in the MAC address table. After the switch has
determined to which interface the frame should switch, the frame is forwarded to the
appropriate destination.
Cut-Through Switching
The other common LAN switching mode is cut-through switching, which allows faster
processing than store-and-forward switching. A switch using cut-through switching will
copy the destination address and a small portion of the frame to its buffers before checking
for the destination address interface in its MAC address table. As soon as the destination is
found, the frame is sent out the appropriate port on the switch. Increased switching speed
is realized because the cut-through switch does not copy the entire frame to the switch
buffers. Cut-through switches enable faster processing by reducing the latency introduced
by the switch to a small and constant value—the time it takes to read 6 bytes.
Cut-through switching has an inherent danger to it in that the propagation of bad packets,
such as runts or frames with an invalid CRC, can occur. To prevent this forwarding of “bad”
frames runt-free (read 64 bytes before forwarding) or adaptive cut-through (fallback to
store-and-forward if too many errors), modes might need to be implemented. Page 36 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Fast Switching
Fast switching is the process of copying data frame headers into a memory buffer. You
determine the path to the destination host by looking up the destination in the fast-switching
cache, building a new frame header/trailer, and forwarding the frame out the appropriate
interface. After you determine the destination host path, future data frames will use that
switching path, reducing path determination time because the path and outgoing interface
have already been established.
This is more of a router function than a LAN switch function. Higher-end Cisco switches
can perform this function with an installed router blade.
Layer 3 Switching
Layer 3 switching differs from traditional Layer 2 switching by enabling data frames to be
switched based on network addressing information. Traditional Layer 2 switching will look
at the frames for the MAC address information for the intended destination.
Layer 3 switching can use some routing functions, such as addressing and path
determination. Switches can be configured like routers into an addressing mechanism, but
they are still bound by a flat-network addressing scheme. Switches that operate at Layer 3
do not support features such as path optimization and load balancing because these features
are based on routing processes.
Spanning Tree Algorithm
The spanning tree algorithm is based on the IEEE 802.1 standard, which specifies standards
for network management at the hardware level. The spanning tree algorithm is used to
ensure that only a single path is selected when using bridges or routers to pass messages—
usually in the form of BPDUs between networks—and to find a replacement path if the
selected path fails.
The Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) is based on this algorithm and is defined by the IEEE
802.1d standard.
Spanning Tree Protocol (IEEE 802.1d)
As stated earlier, when multiple bridges or switches are interconnected with multiple paths,
a looped topology may be formed. A looped topology is often desirable to provide
redundancy, but looped traffic is undesirable. Bridged traffic is especially vulnerable to
broadcast loops. The Spanning Tree Protocol, IEEE 802.1d, was designed to prevent such
loops from being formed. The Spanning Tree Protocol was originally developed for Page 37 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Network Devices
bridges. Today, it is also applied to LAN switch topologies. By applying the Spanning Tree
Protocol to a looped bridged or LAN switch topology, all bridged segments will be
reachable. However, any points where loops can occur will be blocked.
Spanning Tree Operation
The Spanning Tree Protocol has four phases of operation:
1 Electing a root bridge among a bridge/LAN group
2 Calculating the least-cost path to the root bridge/LAN switch by all non-root switches
3 Blocking higher cost paths to the root bridge/LAN switch by all non-root switches
4 Maintaining and recalculating the spanning tree with BPDUs
After a spanning tree is formed, all bridges and LAN switches know who the root bridge/
LAN switch is, what direction the root bridge/LAN switch is in, and what the lowest path
cost to the root of the spanning tree is.
When a bridge port or LAN switch port is first activated, it broadcasts BPDUs, with you as
the root of the spanning tree. When a bridge or LAN switch receives BPDUs from other
bridges or LAN switches, it conducts a spanning tree election to determine which bridge is
the root of the spanning tree. Parameters used to determine this spanning tree root bridge
include a spanning tree bridge/LAN switch priority number and a MAC address identifying
the bridge or LAN switch. Only one root bridge exists in a single spanning tree at any given
Spanning Tree Topology
A spanning tree topology consists of the following basic components:
Bridges/LAN switches
Bridge/LAN switch segments
A spanning tree topology also consists of the following types of bridges:
Root bridge/root LAN switches
Designated bridges/LAN switches
Non-root bridges/LAN switches
Non-designated bridges/LAN switches
As previously stated, at any given time only one root bridge/LAN switch exists for the
entire spanning tree. A spanning tree election process selects a root bridge/LAN switch.
A designated bridge/LAN switch is the device closest to the root bridge/LAN switch on a
given segment. At any given time, only one designated bridge/LAN switch exists for each Page 38 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
segment. A spanning tree election process selects a designated bridge/LAN switch. Each
bridge segment must have a designated bridge.
The non-designated bridge is called the backup bridge.
The root bridge/LAN switch is the designated bridge for all segments to which it is
A spanning tree topology consists of the following types of ports:
One designated port residing on each designated bridge for each bridge/LAN switch
One root port on every non-root bridge/LAN switch. The root port is the port that
provides the most optimal path to the root bridge on a given bridge or LAN switch.
Port States
The IEEE 802.1d specification defines five port states for spanning tree:
1 Disabled—This is a unique state for a port. A port that is in a disabled state has either
been disabled by the switch because of physical problems or security, or it has been
manually disabled by the network administrator.
2 Blocking—When a port is in the blocking state, it only listens for BPDUs from other
bridges. It does not listen to or save addresses or forward data frames.
In this state, the bridge assumes that it is the root until it exchanges BPDUs with other
3 Listening—Passing from a blocking state, a port will then enter into a listening state.
In this state, a port will listen for frames to detect available paths to the root bridge but
will not take source MAC addresses of end stations and place them into the bridge’s
address table. Also in this state, the bridge will not forward user frames.
4 Learning—Upon completion of the listening state, a port will move into a learning
state. In the learning state, a port will examine data frames for source MAC addresses
and place these in the bridge’s address table. Like the listening state, no user data
frames are forwarded while the port is in this state. Page 39 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
5 Forwarding—After completing the learning state, a port will then be placed into a
forwarding state where the bridge will perform its normal functioning. It will learn
source MAC addresses and update the bridge’s CAM table as well as forward frames
through the bridge.
Root bridge/LAN switch ports and designated ports are never in a blocking state.
When a bridge or LAN switch port is activated, it normally goes through three spanning
tree states: listening, learning, and forwarding. If the port is the highest cost path to the root
bridge in a looped topology, it enters the blocking state. By default, all bridge ports go
through the first two states: learning and listening. Based on the information they obtain
during these states, the interface attains a forwarding or blocking state.
Typically, the spanning tree algorithm takes 50 seconds to calculate a new topology. The
transition time for each state is as follows:
From blocking to listening—20 seconds
From listening to learning—15 seconds
From learning to forwarding—15 seconds
Latency, in addition to normal operation, is incurred when the ports go through the different
states due to a network change, such as a failed path, addition of a new bridge or switch, or
enabling a bridge or switch port. Cisco uses a default value of 15 seconds for the forward
delay time, used to measure the time a port stays in a specific state.
In any bridged network, it is important to keep track of the number of times the Spanning
Tree Protocol is run. As previously discussed, when each bridge runs the spanning tree
algorithm, no user traffic is moved around the network, causing a disruption of service to
the end users and their resources. Adding bridges to a network can lengthen the time it takes
for the spanning tree algorithm to run its course.
Routers are not usually active in simple LAN environments because routers are WAN
devices. Routers are typically found at the edge of a LAN, interfacing with a WAN. Routers
operate at the network layer (Layer 3) of the OSI model. Broadcast containment and
security are needed in more complex environments. Page 40 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
Chapter 2: LAN Topologies
Whereas bridges and switches will use the spanning tree algorithm to determine the optimal
path to a destination, routers use an algorithm based on the routing protocol that is
The three categories of LAN transmission are as follows:
Unicast—One-to-one transmission
Multicast—One-to-many transmission
Broadcast—One-to-all transmission
LAN addressing uses the Layer 2 Media Access Control (MAC) burned-in address (BIA)
on the network interface hardware. This address is 48 bits (12 hexadecimal) in length. The
first 24 bits, or 6 hexadecimal digits, signify the organizational (vendor manufacturer)
identifier as determined by the IEEE. The second 24 bits, or 6 hexadecimal digits, signify
a value administered by the specific vendor.
The four primary LAN topologies are as follows:
Star (hub-and-spoke)—All stations are attached by cable to a central point.
Bus—All stations are directly attached to a shared cable segment.
Ring—All stations are considered repeaters and are enclosed in a loop. Logical
configuration is a ring; physical configuration might be a ring or a star.
Tree—All stations are interconnected via several bus networks in a logical extension
to the bus topology.
The four primary devices used in LANs include the following:
Hubs—Hubs operate at the physical layer (Layer 1) of the OSI model and are
essentially multiport repeaters, repeating signals out all hub ports.
Bridges—Bridges create multiple collision domains. Bridges work at the physical
layer (Layer 1) of the OSI model and operate at the data link layer (Layer 2). Bridges
forward data frames based on the destination MAC address. Bridges utilize the
spanning tree algorithm for path determination.
Switches—LAN switches are essentially multiport bridges. LAN switches are used to
connect common broadcast domains (hubs) and to provide frame-level filtering as
well as dedicated port speed to end users. LAN switches are also used to create virtual
LANs (VLANs). Like bridges, switches use the spanning tree algorithm for path
Routers—Routers are typically found at the edge of a LAN, interfacing with a WAN,
or in more complex LAN environments. Routers operate at the network layer (Layer
3) of the OSI model. Page 41 Wednesday, November 14, 2001 3:28 PM
The four types of bridges are as follows:
Transparent bridges—These create two or more LAN segments (collision domains).
They are transparent to end devices.
Source-route bridging—Frames are sent from the source end device with the sourceto-destination route, or path, included.
Source-route translational, or mixed-media, bridging—These are used when
connecting networks of two different bridging types (transparent and source-route) or
media types, such as Ethernet and Token Ring.
Source-route transparent bridging—This bridge will either source-route or
transparently bridge a frame depending on the routing information indicator (RII)
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