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Network Topology

Network Topology Definition

Network topology is the schematic description of the arrangement of the physical and logical elements of a communication network.

Diagram displays the 7 most common network topology types.
Image from DNSstuff


What is Network Topology?

Network topology refers to the manner in which the links and nodes of a network are arranged to relate to each other. Topologies are categorized as either physical network topology, which is the physical signal transmission medium, or logical network topology, which refers to the manner in which data travels through the network between devices, independent of physical connection of the devices. Logical network topology examples include twisted pair Ethernet, which is categorized as a logical bus topology, and token ring, which is categorized as a logical ring topology.

Physical network topology examples include star, mesh, tree, ring, point-to-point, circular, hybrid, and bus topology networks, each consisting of different configurations of nodes and links. The ideal network topology depends on each business’s size, scale, goals, and budget. A network topology diagram helps visualize the communicating devices, which are modeled as nodes, and the connections between the devices, which are modeled as links between the nodes.

Types of Network Topology

There are several different logical and physical network topologies from which administrators can choose to build a secure, robust, and easily maintainable topology. The most popular configurations include:

  • Bus network topology -- Also known as backbone network topology, this configuration connects all devices to a main cable via drop lines. The advantages of bus network topology lie in its simplicity, as there is less cable required than in alternative topologies, which makes for easy installation.
  • Mesh network topology -- A dedicated point-to-point link connects each device on the network to another device on the network, only carrying data between two devices. 
  • Ring network topology -- Two dedicated point-to-point links connect a device to the two devices located on either side of it, creating a ring of devices through which data is forwarded via repeaters until it reaches the target device. 
  • Star network topology -- The most common network topology, star topology connects each device in the network to a central hub. Devices can only communicate with each other indirectly through the central hub. 
  • Hybrid network topology -- Any combination of two or more topologies is a hybrid topology. 
  • Tree network topology -- This topology consists of a parent-child hierarchy in which star networks are interconnected via bus networks. Nodes branch out linearly from one root node, and two connected nodes only share one mutual connection.

Multi-access network topology, also known as a non-broadcast multiple access network (NBMA), consists of multiple linked hosts in which data is transferred directly from one computer to another single host across a switched fabric or over a virtual circuit. 

Smart grid network topology refers to the network configurations that are necessary to facilitate system operations in a smart grid. A smart grid is an electrical network of smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy efficient resources that condition and control the production and distribution of electricity.

Edge computing is a type of decentralized computing that is conducted at or in close proximity to remote sources of generated data, reducing travel time from client to server and time to insight. Edge network topology consists of the cloud or a data center, which connects to edge gateway servers or edge nodes, which then connect to the sensors and controls in IoT devices, such as connected wind turbines and connected oil platforms.

Network Topology Software

In determining how to design network topology that is ideal for the needs and usage requirements of a network, it is crucial to first develop a comprehensive understanding of the network’s functionality. Network topology mapper software is a valuable network topology tool that creates network topology diagrams, which illustrate a visual overview of the network infrastructure. Network topology mapping software visualizes how devices connect and aids in identifying the most efficient topology.

Once a configuration is selected, network topology design software, network configuration management tools, and network management software solutions aid not only in building network topology, but also in automating configuration, continuously monitoring performance, and troubleshooting network issues. There are both proprietary and free network topology software solutions on the market, such as Microsoft Visio and LibreOffice Draw.

What is the Importance of Network Topology?

The layout of a network has a direct impact on network functionality. Selecting the right topology can improve performance and data efficiency, optimize allocation of resources, and reduce operational costs. Software-created network topology diagrams are important references for diagnosing network connectivity problems, investigating network slowdowns, and generally troubleshooting issues. One of the primary uses of network topology is to define the configuration of various telecommunication networks, including computer networks, command and control radio networks, and industrial fieldbusses.

Does HEAVY.AI Offer a Network Topology Solution?

Telecommunication network operators and data scientists can use the HEAVY.AI platform to design and visualize network topologies in a variety of use cases, including 5G network architecture, special event performance and network monitoring, and customer churn analysis. HEAVY.AIi can rapidly visualize billions of records of spatiotemporal data and rapidly run millions of complex calculations, empowering network operators and data scientists to plan networks efficiently, reduce interference between networks, monitor networks in real-time, derive real-time insights from real-time events, identify anomalies before they become problems, and maximize overall network performance.