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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  Networking Fundamentals
      9  Types and Sizes of Networks

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Local Area Networks (LANs), Wireless LANs (WLANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) and Variants (CANs, MANs and PANs)
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The Internet, Intranets and Extranets
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Segments, Networks, Subnetworks and Internetworks
(Page 1 of 2)

One of the reasons that networks are so powerful is that they can not only be used to connect computers together, but to connect groups of computers together. Thus, network connections can exist at multiple levels; one network can be attached to another network, and that entire whole can be attached to another set of networks, and so on. The ultimate example of this is, of course, the Internet, a huge collection of networks that have been interconnected into… dare I say a “Web”? J

This means a larger network can be described as consisting of several smaller networks or even parts of networks that are linked together. Conversely, we can talk about taking individual networks or network portions and assembling them into larger structures. The reason why this concept is important is that certain technologies are best explained when looking at an entire large network at a high level, while others really require that we drill down to the detailed level of how constituent network pieces work.

Common Terms Describing the Size of Networks

Over time, a collection of terms has evolved in the networking world to describe the relative sizes of larger and smaller networks. Understanding these different terms is important not only for helping you comprehend what you read about networks, but also because they are important concepts in network design. This is particularly true for local area networking, where decisions regarding how to set up segments and how to connect them to each other have an important impact on the overall performance and usability of the network. Here are some of the most common ones.

Network

This is the least specific of the terms mentioned here. Basically, a network can be of pretty much any size, from two devices to thousands. When networks get very large, however, and are clearly comprised of smaller networks connected together, they are often no longer called networks but internetworks, as we will see momentarily. Despite this, it is fairly common to hear someone refer to something like “Microsoft's corporate network”, which obviously contains thousands or even tens of thousands of machines.

Subnetwork (Subnet)

A subnetwork is a portion of a network, or a network that is part of a larger internetwork. This term is also a rather subjective one; subnetworks can in fact be rather large when they are part of a network that is very large.

The abbreviated term “subnet” can refer generically to a subnetwork, but also has a specific meaning in the context of TCP/IP addressing.


Previous Topic/Section
Local Area Networks (LANs), Wireless LANs (WLANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) and Variants (CANs, MANs and PANs)
Previous Page
Pages in Current Topic/Section
1
2
Next Page
The Internet, Intranets and Extranets
Next Topic/Section

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