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Types of Backbone Networks

November 4, 2014
Ilja Zegars
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Backbone part of the network is a core of the network with its high throughput capability and significant bandwidth. It is made for the ability of network to communicate with external networks (like Internet). It is a root of the network tree, that has rest of the network growing from it.


Serial Backbone

Serial backbone is formed of two or more devices that are connected in a daisy chain (linked series). It is a simplest kind of backbone. As the one can see from Figure 1, serial backbone can be made not only from switches, but also from gateways and routers.

While designing the backbone, the one should consider the limit of the devices that can be connected to the backbone in the repeating fashion. Exceeding the limit would result in the unexpected errors and data loss in the network. Serial backbone networks are not very fault tolerant and not very scalable, that make them less commonly used that the distributed backbone.


Serial backbone type network

Serial backbone type network

Figure 1. Serial backbone.


Distributed Backbone

Distributed backbone uses hierarchical design of the network, where number of intermediate devices are connected to single or multiple connectivity devices. These central connectivity devices could be switches or routers and shown with purple color in Figure 2.


Simple distributed backbone type network

Simple distributed backbone type network

Figure 2. Simple distributed backbone.


This type of backbone is easily scalable since new layers of devices can be added with no troubles. Distributed backbone allows simple administration and management of the network due to its segregation. This type of network can have daisy chain linked devices for the backbone, however, designer should consider the same limitations as for the serial backbone.

Figure 3 provides a view of more complicated distributed backbone that connects multiple LANs together. LANs are interconnected with routers that form the backbone.


Multiple LAN distributed backbone network

Figure 3. Distributed backbone that connects multiple LANs.


Overall, it is cheap, easy, and quick to implement the distributed backbone network.


Collapsed backbone

This type of backbone uses single, powerful router as the central connection point for multiple subnetworks. As Figure 4 shows, the central device is the highest level of the backbone. It should have powerful computational power in order to manage big traffic coming in. This is highly risky, since if the central device fails, the whole network would be down. However, this type of backbone is useful for the one who wants to interconnect two types of subnetworks, with ability to manage and troubleshoot them.


Collapsed backbone network

Collapsed backbone network

Figure 4. Collapsed backbone.


Parallel backbone

Parallel backbone is a variation of the collapsed backbone, where devices are having more than one connection between them. As Figure 5 shows, there are multiple connections between the high level routers and the network segments. Duplicate connections ensure networks availability at anytime, higher speeds, and high fault tolerance. Logical drawback of this solutions is the increased price, since amount of required cabling is highly increased. It is not obligatory to have duplicate connections between all the devices, selective implementation of parallel structure would significantly lower the overall price and make additional ports of the devices available.


Parallel backbone network

Parallel backbone network

Figure 5. Parallel backbone.


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