Network Topologies in Industrial Networks: Types & Examples

Instructor: Haylee Liska

Haylee has a Master's Degree in Computer Science (CS) and has experience teaching as a CS Graduate Assistant.

In terms of networks, the foundation is referred to as a topology. This lesson will explain exactly what a network topology is, identify the different types, and go over some examples of network topologies used in industry.

Network Topology

When we talk about network topology, we are referring to the foundation of the network. At the foundation, we find answers to how the network is built, where things connect, and how information is spread around. Often, the first thing that comes to mind is the physical topology.

The physical topology is the physical layout or design of the network, answering the questions of how the network is built as well as where things connect. However, another network topology, called the logical topology, answers the question of how information is spread around. The logical topology is the logical design of the network, referring to what paths data takes when it is being transmitted.

Types of Physical Topologies

The physical topology of a network defines how different devices, called nodes, are connected to make up the network. Think of cables and wires hooked up to various machines. This category of topology covers four basic types of designs: bus, ring, star, and mesh, as well as one other design known as hybrid.

Bus

The bus topology is constructed from a single cable, referred to as the bus, that each node on the network connects to. Each of these nodes passively listens for data being transmitted along the bus. If one node wants to transmit data to another node along the bus, it sends out a signal to the entire network, letting everyone know that a transmission is occurring. This transmission then travels down the bus, being ignored by all other nodes until it reaches its destination node and is accepted.

Bus Network Topology Image

Ring

The ring topology is constructed from a closed loop cable, known as a ring, that each node on the network connects to. In this topology, the network forms a circular shape and data is transmitted clockwise via a token that each node in the network actively listens for. If a node does not want to transmit data, the node will act as a repeater and send the token around the ring. If a node does want to transmit data, it must wait until the token makes its way to the node and is no longer carrying data. Once both conditions are met, the node seizes the token, attaches to the token both the data it wants to send and the address of where the data is being sent, then releases the token back into the ring. The token then travels along until it reaches its destination node, where the data that was attached to the token is stripped away and the token is sent back to travel the ring. Due to the use of the token, this topology is sometimes referenced as a token ring.

Ring Network Topology Image

Star

The star topology is constructed from a central device, either a switch, router, or hub, which every other node in the network connects to. In this design, each distinct cable only connects two physical devices, with one end hooking up to a node on the network and the other hooking up the central device. If one node wants to transmit data to another node, it must send its transmission to the central device, which will then act as a relay station and pass along the transmission to the destination node.

Star Network Topology Image

Mesh

The mesh topology is constructed by having a cable run from one node directly to the other nodes within the network. In a fully connected mesh, every node is connected to every other node within the network. If one node wants to transmit data, it sends a transmission directly to the destination node. In a partially connected mesh, only a few nodes are connected to every other node in the network; most are connected to just a subset of the nodes present. If a node want to send data in this type of mesh, it can either send the data directly to the destination node if connected, or use one of the nodes it is connected to in order to act as a relay station and pass the transmission along to the destination node.

Mesh Network Topology Image

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