Network topology defines the structure of the network. One part of the topology definition is the physical topology, which is the actual layout of the wire or media. The other part is the logical topology, which defines how the hosts access the media to send data. The physical topologies that are commonly used are as follows:
- A bus topology uses a single backbone cable that is terminated at both ends. All the hosts connect directly to this backbone.
- A ring topology connects one host to the next and the last host to the first. This creates a physical ring of cable.
- A star topology connects all cables to a central point.
- An extended star topology links individual stars together by connecting the hubs or switches.
- A hierarchical topology is similar to an extended star. However, instead of linking the hubs or switches together, the system is linked to a computer that controls the traffic on the topology.
- A mesh topology is implemented to provide as much protection as possible from interruption of service. For example, a nuclear power plant might use a mesh topology in the networked control systems. As seen in the graphic, each host has its own connections to all other hosts. Although the Internet has multiple paths to any one location, it does not adopt the full mesh topology.
The logical topology of a network determines how the hosts communicate across the medium. The two most common types of logical topologies are broadcast and token passing.
The use of a broadcast topology indicates that each host sends its data to all other hosts on the network medium. There is no order that the stations must follow to use the network. It is first come, first serve. Ethernet works this way .
The second logical topology is token passing. In this type of topology, an electronic token is passed sequentially to each host. When a host receives the token, that host can send data on the network. If the host has no data to send, it passes the token to the next host and the process repeats itself. Two examples of networks that use token passing are Token Ring and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI). A variation of Token Ring and FDDI is Arcnet. Arcnet is token passing on a bus topology.