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Dated: Jun. 25, 2012
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Networking In General
Overview of Mesh Topology
Apart from star topology that is widely used in almost every network environment, the other type of topology that is complex while setting up but provides 100% fault tolerance to the network is Mesh Topology. In this topology, every computer that has to be connected to the network is connected to every computer that is available in the network. For example if there are four computers namely A, B, C and D, then A will be connected to B, C and D. Likewise B will be connected to A, C and D and so on. This means that when mesh topology is used while establishing a network setup, it is very unlikely that the network would ever face congestions or would ever fail.
Mesh topology is best when the network setup is required to be active 24 x 7 and the organizations cannot afford even the downtime of 0.01%.
Configuration and Functioning of Mesh Topology
Configuration of mesh topology is slightly complicated as compared to other network topologies used in production environments. Since in mesh topology every computer is connected to every computer, the more the computers are in the network, the more NICs are required and the more the NICs are required, the harder it is to connect and configure them. In other words, configuring a mesh topology is like setting up a web that has a complex design.
If the establishment and configuration part of mesh topology is kept aside for a while, the entire network setup is a foolproof solution that provides 0% downtime and 100% uptime. This is because all computers are connected to all computers and if any one segment fails the data can be transmitted from source to destination computers using the other available segment.
Because of its complex nature and additional material used during configuration, mesh topology is not much preferred by the organizations that have less PCs or 100% fault tolerance is not severely important for them. However the concept of mesh topology is implemented while configuring Routers in production environments. In medium or large scale organizations, where several Routers to be connected with each other, the concept of mesh topology provides complete fault tolerance that further helps providing 100% network uptime to the users and administrators. Moreover, while implementing the concept of mesh topology in Routers, routing protocols such as Routing Information Protocol (RIP) or Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) are used to dynamically define the paths that can be used to transmit data from source computers to the destinations.
Star Topology vs. Mesh Topology
Even though mesh topology provides 100% fault tolerance, star topology is still preferred over mesh topology because it is easy to configure and because of central devices like Hubs and/or Switches they do not have single point of failure. Although star topology does not provide fault tolerance, central devices can easily be replaced (within a few minutes) in case they stop functioning.
Up to some extent it can be said that even star topologies have single point of failure in case their central devices fail, whereas mesh topologies provide 100% fault tolerant. Still star topology is preferred because of its easily configurable behavior which is thought of far more convenient as compared to establishing a mesh topology, even if star topology does not provide 100% fault tolerance.
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