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Friday, February 26, 2010

Network Bridging

Bridging is a forwarding technique used in packet-switched computer networks. Unlike routing, bridging makes no assumptions about where in a network a particular address is located. Instead, it depends on flooding and examination of source addresses in received packet headers to locate unknown devices. Once a device has been located, its location is recorded in a table where the MAC address is stored so as to preclude the need for further broadcasting. The utility of bridging is limited by its dependence on flooding, and is thus only used in local area networks.
A network bridge is a device which connects two parts of a network together at the data link layer (layer 2 of the OSI model).

Situations Where Bridging Is Appropriate :
- Connecting Networks.
- Filtering/Traffic Shaping Firewall.
- Network Tap.
- Layer 2 VPN : Two Ethernet networks can be joined across an IP link by bridging the networks to an EtherIP tunnel or a tap(4) based solution such as OpenVPN.
- Layer 2 Redundancy : A network can be connected together with multiple links and use the Spanning Tree Protocol to block redundant paths.

Advantages :
- Self-configuring.
- Isolate collision domain.
- Reduce the size of collision domain by micro segmentation in non-switched networks.
- Transparent to protocols above the MAC layer.
- LANs interconnected are separate, and physical constraints such as number of stations, repeaters and segment length don't apply.
- Helps minimize bandwidth usage.

Disadvantages :
- It does not limit the scope of broadcasts.
- It does not scale to extremely large networks.
- Buffering and processing introduces delays.
- Bridges are more expensive than repeaters or hubs.

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