6 Types of Enterprise Network Topologies

No two networks are designed and built alike. One company may have radically different network deployment goals than another. Network professionals tailor each system to meet levels of access, control, and performance based on a business’s goals.

That said, enterprise-grade networking technologies have their own limitations, so network professionals must create networks based on how the equipment works. Most network topologies – which include additional networking equipment and software – are flexible, but they also have a few specific deployment methods.

Here is an overview of six popular types of network topologies. Some legacy topologies are rarely used, while others are newer and provide more performance, reliability, and security. Let’s look at each type of topology and how each works.

1. Bus network topology

A bus network topology consists of a flat network where all devices, called stations, directly connect and transmit data between them. From an intelligence perspective, bus networks are simplistic in nature when it comes to transmitting and retransmitting data.

When a station transmits data, the bus automatically broadcasts it to all other stations. Only the destination station accepts the transmission; all other devices can recognize that the traffic is not intended for them and ignore the communication.

Despite its simplicity, a bus topology is sometimes inefficient because it broadcasts data to all devices on a network. This can cause network congestion and reduce performance. Therefore, bus networks are rarely used in modern corporate environments.

2. Ring network topology

A ring topology is a configuration where each device connects directly to two other devices on a network, forming a continuous circle in a non-hierarchical structure. Data sent to a specific device is transmitted from device to device around the ring until it reaches its intended destination. In some cases, data is transmitted in only one direction around the ring. In others, transport is bi-directional.

In the early days of token-ring networking, data passed around the ring, touching each endpoint network interface card until the data reached its destination. Nowadays, ring networks, such as synchronous optical network, consist of network switches that form a ring.

Six Types of Network Topologies

3. Mesh network topology

A mesh topology is another non-hierarchical structure where every node in the network connects directly to every other. Mesh topologies provide tremendous network resiliency because no outage or loss of connectivity occurs if a connection fails. Instead, the traffic simply redirects to a different path.

The caveat of using a mesh topology, however, is that it adds complexity to the architecture. It also greatly increases the number of network cables required if the mesh uses wired links. To avoid cabling issues, companies typically relegate mesh networks to wireless systems, such as Wi-Fi-based mesh deployments.

4. Star network topology

A star topology, also known as a star topologyuses a central node — typically, a Layer 2 or Layer 3 router or switch. Unlike a bus topology, which simply broadcasts transmitted frames to all connected endpoints, a star topology uses components with an extra level of built-in intelligence.

Layer 2 switches maintain a dynamic Media Access Control (MAC) address table in star topology deployments. The table maps a device’s MAC address to its connected physical switch port. When a packet travels to a specific MAC address on a LAN, the switch looks up the MAC address table to determine the destination port of the frame. This drastically reduces the amount of unnecessary broadcast traffic that can create a bottleneck.

Using a Layer 3 device as the central star topology node allows IP addressing and routing tables to target forwarding traffic and send it to a single destination.

5. Tree network topology

A tree topology is a hierarchical structure in which nodes link and organize themselves like a tree when drawn as a network diagram. Network professionals typically deploy tree topologies with core, distribution, and access layers.

At the top of the tree is the core layer, which is responsible for high-speed transport from one part of a network to another. The distribution layer in the middle of the tree performs transport tasks similar to those of the kernel, but at a more localized level. The distribution layer is also where network administrators enforce access control lists and QoS policies. At the bottom of the tree is the access layer, where endpoints connect to the network.

Leaf-spine network topology is a form of tree topology that has become increasingly popular in the data center. A leaf-spine topology sticks to the hierarchical structure of a tree model but has only two layers, as opposed to the traditional three. Leaf-spine network switch components are responsible for high-speed transport across the entire data center; leaf switches fully integrate with spinal nodes and are responsible for connecting application, database, and storage servers to the data center.

6. Hybrid Network Topology

Enterprise networks often use more than one type of network topology. One topology may be preferable over another, depending on performance, reliability, and cost factors. For example, a network professional might set up a wireless LAN that uses a star topology for most network connections, but also use a wireless mesh network in certain situations, such as when a network cable cannot run through. connect to an access point.