Basic Hardware Components

All networks are made up of basic hardware building blocks to interconnect network nodes, such as Network Interface Cards (NICs), Bridges, Hubs, Switches, and Routers. In addition, some method of connecting these building blocks is required, usually in the form of galvanic cable (most commonly Category 5 cable). Less common are microwave links (as in IEEE 802.11) or optical cable ("optical fiber").
Network Interface Cards
Main article: Network card
A network card, network adapter or NIC (network interface card) is a piece of computer hardware designed to allow computers to communicate over a computer network. It provides physical access to a networking medium and often provides a low-level addressing system through the use of MAC addresses. It allows users to connect to each other either by using cables or wirelessly.
Repeaters
Main article: Repeater
A repeater is an electronic device that receives a signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, or onto the other side of an obstruction, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation.
Hubs
Main article: Network hub
A hub contains multiple ports. When a packet arrives at one port, it is copied to all the ports of the hub. When the packets are copied, the destination address in the frame does not change to a broadcast address. It does this in a rudimentary way, it simply copies the data to all of the Nodes connected to the hub. [5]
Bridges
Main article: Network bridge
A network bridge connects multiple network segments at the data link layer (layer 2) of the OSI model. Bridges do not promiscuously copy traffic to all ports, as hubs do, but learns which MAC addresses are reachable through specific ports. Once the bridge associates a port and an address, it will send traffic for that address only to that port. Bridges do send broadcasts to all ports except the one on which the broadcast was received.
Bridges learn the association of ports and addresses by examining the source address of frames that it sees on various ports. Once a frame arrives through a port, its source address is stored and the bridge assumes that MAC address is associated with that port. The first time that a previously unknown destination address is seen, the bridge will forward the frame to all ports other than the one on which the frame arrived.
Bridges come in three basic types:
1. Local bridges: Directly connect local area networks (LANs)
2. Remote bridges: Can be used to create a wide area network (WAN) link between LANs. Remote bridges, where the connecting link is slower than the end networks, largely have been replaced by routers.
3. Wireless bridges: Can be used to join LANs or connect remote stations to LANs.
Switches
Main article: Network switch
A switch is a device that performs switching. Specifically, it forwards and filters OSI layer 2 datagrams (chunk of data communication) between ports (connected cables) based on the Mac-Addresses in the packets.[6] This is distinct from a hub in that it only forwards the datagrams to the ports involved in the communications rather than all ports connected. Strictly speaking, a switch is not capable of routing traffic based on IP address (layer 3) which is necessary for communicating between network segments or within a large or complex LAN. Some switches are capable of routing based on IP addresses but are still called switches as a marketing term. A switch normally has numerous ports with the intention that most or all of the network be connected directly to a switch, or another switch that is in turn connected to a switch. [7]
"Switches" is a marketing term that encompasses routers and bridges, as well as devices that may distribute traffic on load or by application content (e.g., a Web URL identifier). Switches may operate at one or more OSI layers, including physical, data link, network, or transport (i.e., end-to-end). A device that operates simultaneously at more than one of these layers is called a multilayer switch.
Overemphasizing the ill-defined term "switch" often leads to confusion when first trying to understand networking. Many experienced network designers and operators recommend starting with the logic of devices dealing with only one protocol level, not all of which are covered by OSI. Multilayer device selection is an advanced topic that may lead to selecting particular implementations, but multilayer switching is simply not a real-world design concept.
Routers
Main article: Router
Routers are networking devices that forward data packets between networks using headers and forwarding tables to determine the best path to forward the packets. Routers work at the network layer of the TCP/IP model or layer 3 of the OSI model. Routers also provide interconnectivity between like and unlike media (RFC 1812). This is accomplished by examining the Header of a data packet, and making a decision on the next hop to which it should be sent (RFC 1812) They use preconfigured static routes, status of their hardware interfaces, and routing protocols to select the best route between any two subnets. A router is connected to at least two networks, commonly two LANs or WANs or a LAN and its ISP's network. Some DSL and cable modems, for home use, have been integrated with routers to allow multiple home computers to access the Internet.
References
1. ^ R. Srikant, 2007. The Mathematics of Internet Congestion Control. Birkhäuser, 2004
2. ^ S. P. Meyn, 2007. Control Techniques for Complex Networks, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
3. ^ An example of a USB-based PAN is GeneLinkTM; USB Network (accessed 2008-02-11
4. ^ Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA)
5. ^ Pountain, Dick (2001), The New Penguin Dictionary of Computing, New York: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-051-4376
6. ^ Define switch.. www.webopedia.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
7. ^ Basic Components of a Local Area Network (LAN). NetworkBits.net. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
This article contains material from the Federal Standard 1037C, which, as a work of the United States Government, is in the public domain.

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