Physical and Logical Topologies

As you learned in the previous topic, the data link layer prepares network data for the physical network. It must know the logical topology of a network in order to be able to determine what is needed to transfer frames from one device to another. This topic explains the ways in which the data link layer works with different logical network topologies.

The topology of a network is the arrangement, or the relationship, of the network devices and the interconnections between them.

There are two types of topologies used when describing LAN and WAN networks:

  • Physical topology – Identifies the physical connections and how end devices and intermediary devices (i.e, routers, switches, and wireless access points) are interconnected. The topology may also include specific device location such as room number and location on the equipment rack. Physical topologies are usually point-to-point or star.
  • Logical topology – Refers to the way a network transfers frames from one node to the next. This topology identifies virtual connections using device interfaces and Layer 3 IP addressing schemes.

The data link layer “sees” the logical topology of a network when controlling data access to the media. It is the logical topology that influences the type of network framing and media access control used.

The figure displays a sample physical topology for a small sample network.

Physical Topology