Backbone Networks: Types & Uses

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

Backbone networks are those that provide the foundation for different network parts. Discover what a backbone network is and explore the different types, including serial backbone, distributed backbone, collapsed backbone, and parallel backbone, and the uses of each. Updated: 03/11/2022

What Is a Backbone Network?

The word 'backbone' means the most important part of a system that provides the core support for the rest of the system. Like the backbone of the human body that holds and balances all the body parts together, the same holds true for networks.

A backbone network is a network containing a high capacity connectivity infrastructure that forms the main link, or backbone, to the different parts of the network. The network consists of various LANs, WANs, and sub networks. The connectivity may cover a local area within a building or vicinity or may have a global outreach that spans vast geographical areas. The backbone has a capacity that far exceeds that of the individual networks connected to it.

A backbone network normally consists of cabling, switches, bridges, routers, and gateways in varying segments. Individual nodes do not connect directly to the backbone but do so through their LANs and ISPs or larger organizational infrastructures.

Let's examine the different networks that can be integrated with backbone technology:

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  • 0:04 What Is a Backbone Network?
  • 1:04 Serial Backbone
  • 1:34 Distributed Backbone
  • 2:02 Collapsed Backbone
  • 2:35 Parallel Backbone
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Serial Backbone

The serial backbone consists of two or more connected devices or nodes linked to each other via a single cable in series that connects to an extension to the network. It's the most simple of all backbone architecture but is rarely used for enterprise-level network topologies because of its high susceptibility to faults and system downtime. If a link between routers becomes faulty, the whole network may get disrupted, as there are no alternate data transmission routes. Therefore, this type is only used in small network setups.

Figure 1 shows an example of a serial backbone:

Figure 1: Serial Backbone Network
Serial Backbone Network

Distributed Backbone

The distributed backbone network comprises a hierarchical formation of devices that are adaptable to multiple connectivity. For example, if multiple devices are connected to switches, these form the intermediary devices connecting to the backbone router and gateway devices.

The distributed backbone network, unlike the serial backbone network, is well suited for enterprise-wide connectivity. Expanding and troubleshooting the network is simple, as layers of the network are easily added and managed.

An example is shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2: Distributed Backbone Network
Distributed Backbone Network

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