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Types of Network Topology

Computer network topology refers to the physical communication schemes used by


connected devices on a network. The basic computer network topology types are:

 Bus
 Ring
 Star
 Mesh
 Tree
 Wireless

Networks that are more complex can be built as hybrids using two or more of these
basic topologies.

Bus Network Topology

Bus Network Topology.

Bus networks share a common connection that extends to all devices. This network
topology is used in small networks, and it is simple to understand. Every computer and
network device connects to the same cable, so if the cable fails, the whole network is
down, but the cost of setting up the network is reasonable.

This type of networking is cost effective. However, the connecting cable has a limited
length, and the network is slower than a ring network.
Ring Network Topology

Ring Network Topology.

Each device in a ring network is attached to two other devices, and the last device
connects to the first to form a circular network. Each message travels through the ring in
one direction—clockwise or counterclockwise—through the shared link. Ring topology
that involves a large number of connected devices requires repeaters. If the connection
cable or one device fails in a ring network, the whole network fails.

Although ring networks are faster than bus networks, they are more difficult to
troubleshoot.

Star Network Topology

Star Network Topology.

A star topology typically uses a network hub or switch and is common in-home
networks. Every device has its own connection to the hub. The performance of a star
network depends on the hub. If the hub fails, the network is down for all connected
devices. The performance of the attached devices is usually high because there are
usually fewer devices connected in star topology that in other types of networks.
A star network is easy to set up and easy to troubleshoot. The cost of setup is higher
than for bus and ring network topology, but if one attached device fails, the other
connected devices are unaffected.

Mesh Network Topology

Mesh Network Topology.

Mesh network topology provides redundant communication paths between some or all
devices in a partial or full mesh. In full mesh topology, every device is connected to all
the other devices. In a partial mesh topology, some of the connected devices or
systems are connected to all the others, but some of the devices only connect to a few
other devices.

Mesh topology is robust and troubleshooting is relatively easy. However, installation and
configuration are more complicated than with the star, ring and bus topologies.
Tree Network Topology

Tree Network Topology.

Tree topology integrates the star and bus topologies in a hybrid approach to improve
network scalability. The network is setup as a hierarchy, usually with at least three
levels. The devices on the bottom level all connect to one of the devices on the level
above it. Eventually, all devices lead to the main hub that controls the network.

This type of network works well in companies that have various grouped workstations.
The system is easy to manage and troubleshoot. However, it is relatively costly to set
up. If the central hub fails, then the network fails.

Wireless Network Topology

Wireless networking is the new kid on the block. In general, wireless networks are
slower than wired networks, but that is changing quickly. With the proliferation of laptops
and mobile devices, the need for networks to accommodate wireless remote access has
increased vastly.

It has become common for wired networks to include a hardware access point that is
available to all the wireless devices that need access to the network. With this
expansion of capabilities comes potential security issues that must be addressed.
In computer networking, topology refers to the layout of connected devices. This article
introduces the standard topologies of networking.

Topology in Network Design

Think of a topology as a network's virtual shape or structure. This shape does not
necessarily correspond to the actual physical layout of the devices on the network. For
example, the computers on a home network may be arranged in a circle in a family
room, but it would be highly unlikely to find a ring topology there.

Network topologies are categorized into the following basic types:

 bus
 ring
 star
 tree
 mesh

More complex networks can be built as hybrids of two or more of the above basic
topologies.

Bus Topology

Bus networks (not to be confused with the system bus of a computer) use a
common backbone to connect all devices. A single cable, the backbone functions as a
shared communication medium that devices attach or tap into with an interface
connector. A device wanting to communicate with another device on the network sends
a broadcast message onto the wire that all other devices see, but only the intended
recipient actually accepts and processes the message.

Ethernet bus topologies are relatively easy to install and don't require much cabling
compared to the alternatives. 10Base-2 ("ThinNet") and 10Base-5 ("ThickNet") both
were popular Ethernet cabling options many years ago for bus topologies. However,
bus networks work best with a limited number of devices.

If more than a few dozen computers are added to a network bus, performance problems
will likely result. In addition, if the backbone cable fails, the entire network effectively
becomes unusable.

Illustration: Bus Topology Diagram

Ring Topology

In a ring network, every device has exactly two neighbors for communication purposes.
All messages travel through a ring in the same direction (either "clockwise" or
"counterclockwise"). A failure in any cable or device breaks the loop and can take down
the entire network.

To implement a ring network, one typically uses FDDI, SONET, or Token


Ringtechnology. Ring topologies are found in some office buildings or school campuses.

Illustration: Ring Topology Diagram

Star Topology

Many home networks use the star topology. A star network features a central
connection point called a "hub node" that may be a network hub, switch or router.
Devices typically connect to the hub with Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Ethernet.

Compared to the bus topology, a star network generally requires more cable, but a
failure in any star network cable will only take down one computer's network access and
not the entire LAN. (If the hub fails, however, the entire network also fails.)

Illustration: Star Topology Diagram

Tree Topology

A tree topology joins multiple star topologies together onto a bus. In its simplest form,
only hub devices connect directly to the tree bus, and each hub functions as the root of
a tree of devices. This bus/star hybrid approach supports future expansion of the
network much better than a bus (limited in the number of devices due to the broadcast
traffic it generates) or a star (limited by the number of hub connection points) alone.

Illustration: Tree Topology Diagram

Mesh Topology

Mesh topology introduces the concept of routes. Unlike each of the previous topologies,
messages sent on a mesh network can take any of several possible paths from source
to destination. (Recall that even in a ring, although two cable paths exist, messages can
only travel in one direction.) Some WANs, most notably the Internet, employ mesh
routing.

A mesh network in which every device connects to every other is called a full mesh. As
shown in the illustration below, partial mesh networks also exist in which some devices
connect only indirectly to others.

Illustration: Mesh Topology Diagram

Summary
Topology remains an important part of network design theory. You can probably build a
home or small business computer network without understanding the difference
between a bus design and a star design, but becoming familiar with the standard
topologies gives you a better understanding of important networking concepts like hubs,
broadcasts, and routes.