Types of Routes Between Nodes: Protocols & Examples

Instructor: Brandon Bass

Brandon has taught Masters and Bachelors courses in Computer Science, Security and Programming. He as a Ph.D in Digital Systems Security and Computer Science.

This lesson is to describe the method that allows communication between nodes over the internet. It is an introductory lesson that covers IPv4, IPv6, and routing methods which allow nodes to send data to one another.

Types of Routes and Protocols

In its most elementary form, network communication is the backbone for the sharing of information, mail, files, and computing resources between workstations. The ability for computers to communicate over a network requires the use of network protocols and address assignment through either IPv4 or IPv6 addresses. IPv4 has been around since 1970 and was used by DARPA for the initial utilization of network processes and the creation of the internet. IPv6 was created in 1998 remedy the quickly shrinking address space of IPv4. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) reported that we would run out of address space by 2011, which was the driving force behind IPv6.

IPv4 Characteristics

IPv4 represents a 32-bit integer or 4 bytes in length. In binary, this is 2^32 or 4,294,967,296 total addresses. IPv4's 4-byte addresses use what is known as dotted decimal notation which has four octets. If you recall, a byte is 8 bits. An octet contains the root word ''octo'' meaning 8. There are 32 bits in the address, so it can be divided into four octets, with periods as delimiters.

IPv6 Characteristics

IPv6 represents a 128-bit alphanumeric string to identify a node. In binary this is 2^128 or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. The appearance of an IPv6 address is drastically different. It uses a hex format delimited by colons. It will appear similar to this. FE80:CD00:0:CDE:1257:0:211E:729C. The solitary zeros have used what is known as 'zero compression' and are actually representative of 4 0's. This example is an example of leading zero compression. Zero compression can only be done once in an address. However, straight zero compression will remove the zero entirely, like in this example. 1234:1234:0000:0000:0000:0000:3456:3434 would become 1234:1234::3456:3434 in zero compression. Not the double colon. That is the hallmark of IPv6 zero compression.

How These Nodes Communicate

Once a node has been assigned an address, it can use its send protocols to transmit IPv4 packets. Through a method known as encapsulation, the node will use the IPv4 or IPv6 communications mode (listed from the OSI model) to take data segments and encapsulate them into a 32 or 128 bit payload depending upon which protocol is being used.

This contains all the necessary information to transmit this data to the node on the other end. The following figures showcase an IPv4 and IPv6 payload header:

Example of an IPv4 Header
IPv4 Payload Header

Example of an IPv6 Header
IPv6 Header

While it is unnecessary at this time to understand every piece of the payload, it is important to visualize the 32-packet payload and to know that as this is sent over the network, the data can be analyzed be each node it touches and forwarded on until it reaches the appropriate destination. It also contains data that lets the receiving node know if the full packet has arrived and is corrupted or intact. That way, it can request a re-transmission if there is something wrong with the packet from the source.

IPv4 nodes must have IPv4 addressing schemes as listed. The same can be said of IPv6. Routing is merely the decision of where to send the payload. Switches will receive the initial payload. If the IPv4 address and subnet of the sender are in the same subnet as the intended recipient, the switch will forward the payload to that node. So, for your computer to send information to your smart TV, they share the same IPv4 subnet of and, with a subnet mask. If it is IPv6, something like 2001:db8:1234:0000:/48, then we can manipulate any address within that 0000 for the nodes on the network.

Anything outside the subnet requires that routers send the information where it needs to go. Routers are configured by network administrators with a series of protocols that ascertain what they are connected to. Then they request information from other routers so they can update their tables. This can be done through protocols.

Address Assignments

Addresses can be assigned one of two ways. Either through static assignment, where an administrator or user goes in and gives the address, mask, gateway and DNS server to the operating system so it can be assigned to the Network Interface Card (NIC). Or, it is assigned through DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a client/server protocol that automatically provides an Internet Protocol (IP) host with its IP address and other related configuration information such as the subnet mask and default gateway. Remote Function Calls (RFC) 2131 and 2132 define DHCP as an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard based on Bootstrap Protocol (BOOTP), a protocol with which DHCP shares many implementation details. DHCP allows hosts to obtain required TCP/IP configuration information from a DHCP server. This way, all items on the network can have a unique address and can use network protocols to pass traffic.

Communication on the same subnet

If systems are on the same subnet, there is no real routing involved. The destination addresses will be known (as they are likely connected on the switch) and the information will simply be forwarded on. If they are not, it will require a router attached to the switch and routing protocols to ensure that the information reaches the required destination.

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