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Introduction

A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a collection of hardware


components and computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of
resources and information.
Networks may be classified according to a wide variety of characteristics such as the medium
used to transport the data, communications protocol used, scale, topology, and organizational
scope.
The rules and data formats for exchanging information in a computer network are defined by
communications protocols. Well-known communications protocols are Ethernet, a hardware and
Link Layer standard that is ubiquitous in local area networks, and the Internet Protocol Suite,
which defines a set of protocols for internetworking, i.e. for data communication between
multiple networks, as well as host-to-host data transfer, and application-specific data
transmission formats.
Computer networking is sometimes considered a sub-discipline of electrical engineering,
telecommunications, computer science, information technology or computer engineering, since it
relies upon the theoretical and practical application of these disciplines.
What is Computer Networking?
Computer Networking is basically the process of connecting two or more computers or devices,
using hardware and software, so that data can be transferred and shared between them.
There are different types of networking, for instance there are LANs (local area networks) and
WANs (wide area networks). The difference between these two lies in their spans. LANs are
restricted to small areas, typically homes, whereas WANs are widely spread and can reach across
cities, countries or even continents.
Networks may also be different in their design and layout. There are client/server networks and
peer-to-peer networks. Client/server networks tend to be centralized with most functions being
supported by the central/main system. Peer-to-peer networks consist of computers which all
support the same functions and can interact with each other.

Basic Computer Networking


Layouts can be the different ways in which a network is arranged to share data. Bus, ring, star,
mesh is all different layouts. It all depends on how information is to travel through the network,
if the data is expected to go through all the systems then bus network is suitable but if data is to
be sent to single units separately then star networks or mesh networks might be better suited.
Networks can be wired or wireless. Most protocols for wired networks are also supported by
wireless networks. Wired networks have been around for a long time as compared to wireless
ones. But with advancements in technology wireless networks are fast becoming more reliable
and common.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of network configuration, peer-to-peer networks and
client/server networks.
1) Peer to Peer networks
2) Client/server networks
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are more commonly implemented where less than ten computers
are involved and where strict security is not necessary. All computers have the same status, hence
the term 'peer', and they communicate with each other on an equal footing. Files, such as word
processing or spreadsheet documents, can be shared across the network and all the computers on
the network can share devices, such as printers or scanners, which are connected to any one
computer.

Peer to Peer
Peer-to-peer systems often implement an abstract overlay network, built at Application Layer, on
top of the native or physical network topology. Such overlays are used for indexing and peer
discovery and make the P2P system independent from the physical network topology. Content is
typically exchanged directly over the underlying Internet Protocol (IP) network. Anonymous
peer-to-peer systems are an exception, and implement extra routing layers to obscure the identity
of the source or destination of queries.
In structured peer-to-peer networks, peers (and, sometimes, resources) are organized following
specific criteria and algorithms, which lead to overlays with specific topologies and properties.
They typically use distributed hash table-based (DHT) indexing, such as in the Chord system
(MIT).

Unstructured peer-to-peer networks do not impose any structure on the overlay networks. Peers
in these networks connect in an ad-hoc fashion. Ideally, unstructured P2P systems would have
absolutely no centralized system, but in practice there are several types of unstructured systems
with various degrees of centralization. Three categories can easily be seen.

In pure peer-to-peer systems the entire network consists solely of equipotent peers. There
is only one routing layer, as there are no preferred nodes with any special infrastructure
function.

Hybrid peer-to-peer systems allow such infrastructure nodes to exist often called super
nodes.

In centralized peer-to-peer systems, a central server is used for indexing functions and to
bootstrap the entire system. Although this has similarities with a structured architecture, the
connections between peers are not determined by any algorithm.

Client/server networks are more suitable for larger networks. A central computer, or 'server',
acts as the storage location for files and applications shared on the network. Usually the server is
a higher than average performance computer. The server also controls the network access of the
other computers which are referred to as the 'client' computers. Typically, teachers and students
in a school will use the client computers for their work and only the network administrator
(usually a designated staff member) will have access rights to the server.

Client/server networks
The clientserver characteristic describes the relationship of cooperating programs in an
application. The server component provides a function or service to one or many clients, which
initiate requests for such services.
Functions such as email exchange, web access and database access, are built on the clientserver
model. Users accessing banking services from their computer use a web browser client to send a
request to a web server at a bank. That program may in turn forward the request to its own

database client program that sends a request to a database server at another bank computer to
retrieve the account information. The balance is returned to the bank database client, which in
turn serves it back to the web browser client displaying the results to the user. The clientserver
model has become one of the central ideas of network computing. Many business applications
being written today use the clientserver model. So do the Internet's main application protocols,
such as HTTP, SMTP, Telnet, and DNS.
The interaction between client and server is often described using sequence diagrams.
The Unified Modeling Language has support for sequence diagrams.
Specific types of clients include web browsers, email clients, and online chat clients.
Specific types of servers include web servers, ftp servers, application servers, database
servers, name servers, mail servers, file servers, print servers, and terminal servers. Most web
services are also types of servers.

Peer-to-Peer Networks vs Client/Server Networks


Peer-to-Peer Networks

Client/Server Networks

Easy to set up

More difficult to set up

Less expensive to install

More expensive to install

A variety of operating systems can be


Can be implemented on a wide supported on the client computers, but the
range of operating systems
server needs to run an operating system that
supports networking
More time consuming to maintain Less time consuming to maintain the
the software being used (as computers software being used (as most of the
must be managed individually)
maintenance is managed from the server)
High levels of security
Very low levels of security
of which are controlled
supported or none at all. These can be
Such measures prevent
very cumbersome to set up, depending
essential system files or
on the operating system being used
settings

are supported, all


from the server.
the deletion of
the changing of

Ideal for networks with less than 10 No limit to the number of computers that
computers
can be supported by the network
Does not require a server

Requires a server running a server


operating system

Demands that the network administrator


Demands a moderate level of skill has a high level of IT skills with a good
to administer the network
working knowledge of a server operating
system

Local Area Network


Networks used to interconnect computers in a single room, rooms within a building or buildings
on one site are called Local Area Network (LAN). LAN transmits data with a speed of several
megabits per second (106 bits per second). The transmission medium is normally coaxial cables.
LAN links computers, i.e., software and hardware, in the same area for the purpose of sharing
information. Usually LAN links computers within a limited geographical area because they must
be connected by a cable, which is quite expensive. People working in LAN get more capabilities
in data processing, work processing and other information exchange compared to stand-alone
computers. Because of this information exchange most of the business and government
organizations are using LAN.
Major Characteristics of LAN

every computer has the potential to communicate with any other computers of the
network
high degree of interconnection between computers
easy physical connection of computers in a network
inexpensive medium of data transmission
high data transmission rate

Local Area Network


Advantages

The reliability of network is high because the failure of one computer in the network does
not affect the functioning for other computers.
Addition of new computer to network is easy.
High rate of data transmission is possible.
Peripheral devices like magnetic disk and printer can be shared by other computers.

Disadvantages

If the communication line fails, the entire network system breaks down.

Use of LAN
Followings are the major areas where LAN is normally used

File transfers and Access


Word and text processing
Electronic message handling
Remote database access
Personal computing
Digital voice transmission and storage

Metropolitan Area Network


Metropolitan area network (MAN) is a computer network that usually spans a city or a large
campus. A MAN usually interconnects a number of local area networks (LANs) using a highcapacity backbone technology, such as fiber-optical links, and provides up-link services to wide
area networks (or WAN) and the Internet.

Metropolitan Area Network

Wide Area Network


The term Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to describe a computer network spanning a
regional, national or global area. For example, for a large company the head quarters might be at
Delhi and regional branches at Bombay, Madras, Bangalore and Calcutta. Here regional centers

are connected to head quarters through WAN. The distance between computers connected to
WAN is larger. Therefore the transmission medium used is normally telephone lines, microwaves
and satellite links.

Wide area network


Characteristics of WAN
Followings are the major characteristics of WAN.
1. Communication Facility: For a big company spanning over different parts of the country
the employees can save long distance phone calls and it overcomes the time lag in overseas
communications. Computer conferencing is another use of WAN where users communicate
with each other through their computer system.
2. Remote Data Entry: Remote data entry is possible in WAN. It means sitting at any location
you can enter data, update data and query other information of any computer attached to the
WAN but located in other cities. For example, suppose you are sitting at Madras and want to
see some data of a computer located at Delhi, you can do it through WAN.
3. Centralised Information: In modern computerised environment you will find that big
organisations go for centralised data storage. This means if the organisation is spread over
many cities, they keep their important business data in a single place. As the data are
generated at different sites, WAN permits collection of this data from different sites and save
at a single site.
Examples of WAN
1. Ethernet: Ethernet developed by Xerox Corporation is a famous example of WAN. This
network uses coaxial cables for data transmission. Special integrated circuit chips called
controllers are used to connect equipment to the cable.
2. Aparnet: The Aparnet is another example of WAN. It was developed at Advanced Research
Projects Agency of U. S. Department. This Network connects more than 40 universities and
institutions throughout USA and Europe.
Difference between LAN and WAN

LAN is restricted to limited geographical area of few kilometers. But WAN covers great
distance and operate nationwide or even worldwide.

In LAN, the computer terminals and peripheral devices are connected with wires and
coaxial cables. In WAN there is no physical connection. Communication is done through
telephone lines and satellite links.
Cost of data transmission in LAN is less because the transmission medium is owned by a
single organization. In case of WAN the cost of data transmission is very high because
the transmission medium used is hired either telephone lines or satellite links.

The speed of data transmission is much higher in LAN than in WAN. The transmission
speed in LAN varies from 0.1 to 100 megabits per second. In case of WAN the speed
ranges from 1800 to 9600 bits per second (bps).

Few data transmission errors occur in LAN compared to WAN. It is because in LAN the
distance covered is negligible.

Network topology:
There are two basic categories of network topologies:

Physical topologies

Logical topologies

The shape of the cabling layout used to link devices is called the physical topology of the
network. This refers to the layout of cabling, the locations of nodes, and the interconnections
between the nodes and the cabling. 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.
The logical topology, in contrast, is the way that the signals act on the network media, or the way
that the data passes through the network from one device to the next without regard to the
physical interconnection of the devices. A network's logical topology is not necessarily the same
as its physical topology. For example, the original twisted pair Ethernet using repeater hubs was
a logical bus topology with a physical star topology layout. Token Ring is a logical ring
topology, but is wired a physical star from the Media Access Unit.
Logical topologies are often closely associated with Media Access Control methods and
protocols. Logical topologies are able to be dynamically reconfigured by special types of
equipment such as routers and switches.
The study of network topology recognizes seven basic topologies:

Point-to-point

Bus

Star

Ring

Mesh

Tree

Hybrid

Daisy chain

Bus topology
In bus topology all workstations are connected to a single communication line called bus. In this
type of network topology there is no central node as in star topology. Transmission from any
station travels the length of the bus in both directions and can be received by all workstations.
The advantage of the bus topology is that

It is quite easy to set up.


If one station of the topology fails it does not affect the entire system.

The disadvantage of bus topology is that any break in the bus is difficult to identify.

Bus topology

Star topology
In local area networks with a star topology, each network host is connected to a central hub with
a point-to-point connection. The network does not necessarily have to resemble a star to be
classified as a star network, but all of the nodes on the network must be connected to one central
device. All traffic that traverses the network passes through the central hub. The hub acts as
a signal 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.

1. A point-to-point link (described above) 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.[1]
2. After the special case of the point-to-point link, as in note (1) above, 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'.
3. Although most networks that are based upon the physical star topology are
commonly implemented using a special device such as a hub or 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.
4. Star networks may also be described as either broadcast multi-access 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.

Star topology

Ring topology
In ring topology each station is attached nearby stations on a point to point basis so that the entire
system is in the form of a ring. In this topology data is transmitted in one direction only. Thus the
data packets circulate along the ring in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. The
advantage of this topology is that any signal transmitted on the network passes through all the
LAN stations. The disadvantage of ring network is that the breakdown of any one station on the
ring can disable the entire system.

Ring topology
You can see the encapsulation process with the OSI model below.

OSI model
Basic Elements of a Communication System
To connect your system to a network, it must have some software and hardware support. Each
and every computer is not capable of being the member of a network, unless it fulfills the
minimum requirements to be a part of the network.
In general, when you speak to a friend, you are the sender and your friend is the receiver. The
communication channel that is carrying your voice from mouth to his ears in the air. If you speak
in English and your friend understands Punjabi only, then you need a third person to convert
your sentences or language into Punjabi and his sentences into English so that it could be
understood by you. All these problems also exist in networks.
The main elements of a communication system are:
1. Sender: It is the computer that is the source of the message or information. It transmits data
on the Network for a particular node or a group of nodes, actually who creates the message to be
transmitted.

2. Receiver: It is the computer on the network that receives the data sent by the sender. The
receivers may be a few meters away from the sender or it can be thousands of miles away,
actually who receives the message.
3. Communication Channel or Medium: It is the medium on which the message is carried
from sender to the receiver's computer. There are many types of communication channels
available in today's life. You can use twisted pair, coaxial or fiber cables in wired mode or you
can use radio waves, microwaves or Bluetooth technologies to transmit in wireless mode. Each
of these media has its own data carrying capacities, speed of transfer and other physical
attributes.
4. Operating System: - To be part of the network, you must have an operating system installed
on your computer which supports networking features. Generally network operating systems like
Windows 2007, XP, UNIX, Linux, and Mac and so on.
5. Network Devices: - These are the devices that are used to increase the performance of the
transmission. There are many types of network devices being used in this nuclear age.

Basic Elements of Communication System


Data Transmission Modes:
Network devices use three transmission modes (methods) to exchange data, or "talk" from one
point to another, as follows: simplex, half duplex, and full duplex.

Simplex transmission is like a one-way street where traffic moves in only one direction. Simplex
mode is a one-way-only transmission, which means that data can flow only in one direction from
the sending device to the receiving device.

Simplex
Half-duplex transmission is like the center lane on some three-lane roads. It is a single lane in
which traffic can move in one direction or the other, but not in both directions at the same time.
Half-duplex mode limits data transmission because each device must take turns using the line.
Therefore, data can flow from A to B and from B to A, but not at the same time.

Half duplex
Full-duplex transmission is like a major highway with two lanes of traffic, each lane
accommodating traffic going in opposite directions. Full-duplex mode accommodates two-way
simultaneous transmission, which means that both sides can send and receive at the same time.
In full-duplex mode, data can flow from A to B and B to A at the same time.

Full duplex

Internetworking Tools:
Interconnecting two or more networks to form a single network is called internetworking, and
the resulting network is called internetwork. Therefore, a WAN of multiple LANs is an
internetwork.
There are three commonly used internetworking tools are.

Bridge
Routers
Gateways

Bridge: Bridge is termed as a network device which is helpful in filtering the data load of the
traffic by dividing it into segments or packets. They are used to lower the load of traffic on the
LAN and other networks. Bridges are passive devices, because there is no interaction between
bridged and the paths of bridging. Bridges operate on the physical and data link layer of the OSI
model.

Bridge
For example, Bridges maybe used to connect two networks, one of which uses fiber-optic
communication medium and the other uses coaxial cable; or one of which uses Ethernet
technology and the other uses Token Ring technology.
Router: Routers operate at the Network layer of the OSI model. Therefore, routers do not care
what topologies or access-level protocols the interconnected network segments use. Since routers
use the bottom three layers of the OSI model. Router is a device that forwards
data packets along networks. A router is connected to at least two networks, commonly
two LANs or WANs or a LAN and its ISP network. Routers are located at gateways, the places
where two or more networks connect.

Router
Gateways:
Gateways operate at the top three layers of the OSI model. They are the most sophisticated
internetworking tools and are used for interconnecting dissimilar networks, which use different
communication protocols.

Gateway
A gateway is a network point that acts as an entrance to another network. On the Internet,
a node or stopping point node or a host (end-point) node. Both the computers of Internet users
and the computers that serve pages to users are host nodes, while the nodes that connect the
networks in between are gateways. For example, the computers that control traffic between
company networks or the computers used by internet service providers (ISPs) to connect users to
the internet are gateway nodes.
Wireless Networks:
Wireless network is a network set up by using radio signal frequency to communicate among
computers and other network devices. Sometimes its also referred to as Wi-Fi
network or WLAN. This network is getting popular nowadays due to easy to setup feature and
no cabling involved. You can connect computers anywhere in your home without the need for
wires.
Here is simple explanation of how it works, let say you have 2 computers each equipped with
wireless adapter and you have set up wireless router. When the computer sends out the data, the
binary data will be encoded to radio frequency and transmitted via wireless router. The receiving
computer will then decode the signal back to binary data.
The two main components are wireless router or access point and wireless clients.

If you have not set up any wired network, then just get a wireless router and attach it to cable
or DSL modem. You then set up wireless client by adding wireless card to each computer and
form a simple wireless network. You can also cable connect computer directly to router if there
are switch ports available.

Wireless Network

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is a popular technology that allows an electronic device to exchange


data wirelessly over a computer network, including high-speed Internet connections. If you've
been in an airport, coffee shop, University library or hotel recently, chances are you've been right
in the middle of a wireless network. Many people also use wireless networking, also called WiFi
or 802.11 networking, to connect their computers at home, and some cities are trying to use the
technology to provide free or low-cost Internet access to residents. In the near future, wireless
networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at
any time, without using wires.
WiMAX: WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless
communications standard designed to provide 30 to 40 megabit - per second data rates with the
2011 update providing up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations. It is a part of a fourth generation,
or 4G, of wireless-communication technology. WiMax far surpasses the 30-metre (100-foot)
wireless range of a conventional Wi-Fi local area network (LAN), offering a metropolitan area
network with a signal radius of about 50 km (30 miles).

TERMINAL QUESTIONS
1. What is a computer Network? How is it useful?
2. Identify the basic elements of a communication system and the purpose of each.
3. Differentiate among simplex, half duplex and full duplex modes of data transmission.

4. What is LAN, MAN and WAN? Give one example of each.


5. Describe the OSI model.
6. What is meant by network topology? Describe three commonly used network topologies
with their relative advantages and disadvantages.
7. What is meant by internetworking? What are the main issues in internetworking? Explain
the difference among the following terms:
a) Bridge
b) Router
c) Gateway

ISOs OSI Reference Model