Network topology

What is network topology?

A topology is a layout of a network, which determines how the network communicates with different devices. Both the physical and logical structure of nodes and connections in a network are shown in network topology diagram.

Network topology software is best used by IT administrators to determine the right layout for each node and aid the traffic flow. A well-designed network topology enables an organization to double down on issues quickly, resolve them, and have the network functioning at the most efficient data transfer rate.

Importance of network topology

  • Impacts how a network functions. When a suitable network topology is used, it ensures that the network will function at maximum efficiency with improved data transfer rates.
  • Helps IT administrators understand how the entire network infrastructure is organized. Network topology tool enables the IT operations team to better visualize the network, and understand the dependencies of each device.
  • Enables geographic visualization of a distributed network. This ensures that an IT admin can effectively chart the organization's network spanning across multiple countries.
  • Explains how devices and applications impact others in the network. Knowing the device dependency through network topology helps identify what device or application might be affecting other devices and causing network bottleneck.
  • Helps find and resolve systemwide issues. With the right network topology map in place, diagnosis of problems, troubleshooting, and network resource allocation becomes easier.

Types of network topology

Network topologies are classed into physical and logical topologies. Physical topologies showcase the actual physical wired layout, showing where and how exactly the network is connected. Logical topologies show the logical network path along which data travels from one end to the other. Some of the primary network topologies are bus, ring, star and mesh topologies.

Star topology: Star topology is the most commonly used topology system. Every node connects to a central network device in this layout, like a hub, switch or computer. Star topology is centralized in nature, making it user-friendly, reliable, and easy to manage. However, star topology involves high costs and requires continuous maintenance.

Bus topology: In bus topology, every workstation is connected in a series to the main central cable. The simple linear layout and cost efficiency makes it ideal for small networks. However, bus topology tends to be slow for larger networks, and problem identification is difficult in this topology in the event of a network failure.

Ring topology: In a ring topology, network devices are cabled together so that the last network device will be connected to the first. Each device connects to exactly two devices, forming a continuous ring. Ring topology is cost-efficient, with minimum chances of packet collision. However, ring topology is dependent on one cable, difficult to troubleshoot, and expensive to maintain.

Mesh topology: In Mesh topology, nodes are linked with connections in such a way that paths between at least some points of the network are available. A "fully meshed" network mapping is one that has all nodes connected to all other nodes, whereas a "partially meshed" network will have only some nodes with multiple connections with others. Meshing multiple paths improves network resiliency. However, more space is needed for dedicated links and involves high costs.

Hybrid topology: When a network uses any combination of two or more topologies, it is called a hybrid network topology. Hybrid topology offers flexibility to different departments of an organization, within a network. A department can opt to implement a customized network topology mapping that is more suitable to its needs.

Use cases of network topology

Business-level mapping

Using business-level mapping, also called network dependency mapping, IT admins can obtain a graphical representation of devices according to business services that they serve. IT admins can create network-level dependency by adding links between devices. These links can then be configured based on user or organization requirements. You can also add maps to represent geographies where data centers are located. Business-level maps ensure that business-critical applications are always available and help with quicker troubleshooting.

Layer 2 mapping

Layer 2 maps simplify complex and cluttered network interconnections. This is accomplished by first discovering a set of devices or subnet within a network. Layer 2 maps then presents the data-link layer of the network topography, enabling IT admins to monitor network connections, and each of its nodes and links. For instance, thanks to Layer 2 mapping, IT admins can instantly ascertain the device interconnections from a seed router. In doing so, an IT admin can monitor the seed router and all connected devices closely and in real time while not getting overwhelmed by alerts or alarms from all the devices.

Layer 2 maps can be discovered using various protocols, including:

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP): ARP can be used if you want to map an IP address to a physical or media access control (MAC) address that is recognized on the local device.

Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP): LLDP is used to discover wired LAN ethernets. Within a wired LAN ethernet, LLDP can be used to transmit the identity, capabilities, and neighbors.

Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP): CDP is used to transmit information about directly connected Cisco devices. If Cisco devices are used in your network, CDP is recommended to use for discovery.

Grouping by network topology

Network topology mapper enables an IT admin to segment or group a specific set of devices or interfaces within a network. The grouping can be by department name, floor number, location, criticality, interface type, or any other defined group. Grouping allows an IT admin to apply bulk configuration changes to multiple devices in an instant easily. An IT admin can also pinpoint faulty devices or interfaces in each branch, group, or subgroup. Device grouping promptly highlights trends and patterns to an IT admin, which in turn complements the forecasting and capacity planning of the IT infrastructure.

OpManager delivers a feature-rich and in-depth network topology solution

ManageEngine OpManager provides comprehensive real-time network topology mapping capabilities. Network topology services combined with OpManager's wide array of features have made it a dependable solution for organizations and IT administrators around the world. OpManager's prominent real time network topology mapping features include:

  • Layer 2 Maps
  • Business Views
  • Virtual Topology Maps

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