Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Network Topologies

Okay, I'll start off with the boring stuff (i.e. the stuff I've been geeking out to the past few days).


According to the Wikipedia article, there are a total of eight recognized topologies for a network:

  • Point-to-point
  • Bus
  • Star
  • Ring or circular
  • Mesh
  • Tree
  • Hybrid
  • Daisy chain

I can't say that I totally understand all of them, but I recognize a few of them as less-than-great for a community effort.  Point-to-point networking occurs between two people and happens every time a USB drive gets passed from one person to another.  But there's not much else to say about that.  Line- and Tree-style networks remind me far too much of obnoxious chain letters where you have to pass on the information to a certain number of people or else your Aunt Myrtle is going to die.  In reverse, they have a hierarchy that makes me uncomfortable.  I don't want to have to report my activities to a direct supervisor when I'm not at work!

Full connection is an ideal, but not likely in a hectic everyday schedule.  So I want to center in on three possible topologies for a Folk Sneakernet: bus, ring, and star.

"Are you on the bus, or off the bus?"

The bus topology reminds me the most of the fifth floor of Rhoads Hall at ISU.  If one of us found content we really liked, such as an entire season of Invader Zim, we all piled into that person's room and watched the show.  All of us received the content at the same time.  While that's not totally possible with just one USB drive, a single drive can be passed around to multiple people in a single sitting, each of them downloading the content off the "bus."  Then other people issue their packets (i.e. share their content) to everyone else all at the same time, and we all go home happier and Zim-mier.

PROS: It's a party!  A wild content-downloading nerd party!

CONS: Everybody has to show up all at the same time.  If you miss the bus, you're out of luck.

"If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it."

The ring topology is much more like passing a magazine around with friends.  (For some of you it might have been Penthouse or Guitar World, but for me it was Dragon Magazine.  *cough*)

I find content I like, and then I pass a packet of it to a friend (i.e. hand them a USB drive).  That person passes it on to another friend, who adds or removes information, and the USB packet goes all the way back around the circle until I get it again.

PROS: We can pass the packet around when we've got the time to do so.  No all-night nerd parties here.  (Though the lack of all-night nerd parties could also be considered a con.)

CONS: Latency, especially if Broseph takes the USB drive and then leaves it at home when he goes to Australia for the month.  One break in the connection breaks the entire ring.

"You could be my lucky star..."

The star topology reminds me, oddly enough, of the rack of shoes in the bowling alley.  You take one down when you need it, and then return it to the central storing facility when you're finished.  It's also much more like a library than the other systems.

This configuration could be executed as easily as keeping a coffee mug full of USB drives at your favorite bar or coffee shop, or even as a centerpiece on your kitchen table.  People upload media when they find it, and then return that media to the central facility once they're done.  People can then browse through and find what they like.  (This is also a lot like an FTP server.)

PROS: A central hub where everyone knows they can go to access resources.

CONS: A central hub where EVERYONE knows people can go to access resources.

These are just some musings on the subject, and I'm sure some network analysts could rip me a new one on my use of the terminology.  But this is a working set of definitions for the project.

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