Routing on Internet

Routing on Internet

A router is a network device that plays a crucial role in computer networking by connecting different networks together and directing the flow of data between them. It operates at the network layer (Layer 3) of the OSI model and is responsible for routing data packets from their source to their destination. Routers are fundamental components in the functioning of the internet and in local area networks (LANs).

Router is a Layer 3 (OSI model) device, primarly responsible for routing through the network.

What is a Default Gateway?

A gateway, in the context of computer networking, is a device or software that connects different networks, allowing data to flow between them. The default gateway, often referred to as a default gateway router, is a specific type of gateway that plays a crucial role in routing data packets on a local area network (LAN) or within a computer’s configuration. Here’s how it works:

  1. Network Routing
    A default gateway router is primarily responsible for routing data between devices within a local network and external networks, such as the internet. When a device on the LAN wants to communicate with a device on another network, it sends its data packets to the default gateway.
  2. IP Address Assignment
    Each device on a network is assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address. The default gateway also typically has an IP address, and this IP address must be specified in the network settings of devices on the local network. This setting tells the devices where to send their data when it needs to go outside the local network.
  3. Packet Forwarding
    When a device on the local network wants to communicate with a device on an external network (e.g., a website on the internet), it forwards its data packets to the default gateway. The default gateway examines the destination IP address of the packet to determine whether it needs to be routed to an external network or if it’s intended for another device within the local network.
  4. Routing Decision
    If the default gateway router determines that the packet is destined for an external network, it will forward the packet to the appropriate gateway or router that can take it closer to its destination. This may involve multiple hops through various routers on the internet.
  5. Return Path
    When the external network sends a response back to the device on the local network, the response packet follows a similar path in reverse. It goes through the default gateway router, which then routes it to the correct device on the local network based on the IP address and port information.

The default gateway router acts as a gateway between a local network and external networks, such as the Internet. It plays a crucial role in directing data traffic to and from devices on the local network, making it possible for devices to communicate with the broader internet and other external networks. Setting the correct default gateway address is essential for proper network communication.

Address Resoulution Protocol (ARP)

The Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is a fundamental networking protocol used in both IPv4 and IPv6 networks to map a network layer IP address to a physical (MAC) address used at the data link layer. ARP helps devices on a local network discover and associate the IP addresses of other devices with their corresponding hardware addresses, enabling proper data communication within the local network. Here’s how ARP works in a simplified manner:

  1. ARP Request: When a device on a local network needs to send data to another device, but it only knows the target’s IP address, it broadcasts an ARP request to the entire local network. This request essentially asks, “Who has this IP address, and what is your MAC address?”
  2. ARP Response: The device with the matching IP address in the ARP request responds with an ARP reply that contains its MAC address. This reply is usually sent directly to the device that made the request, not broadcast to the entire network.
  3. ARP Table: Once the requesting device receives the ARP reply, it updates its ARP table (also called the ARP cache) with the IP-to-MAC address mapping. The ARP table is a local database that keeps track of known IP addresses and their corresponding MAC addresses for efficient communication.
  4. Data Transmission: With the IP-to-MAC mapping now available in the ARP table, the device can use the MAC address to encapsulate the data packets properly and send them to the correct destination on the local network.

ARP is crucial for local network communication because it enables devices to discover each other’s hardware addresses, which are essential for delivering data at the data link layer. Without ARP, devices would have to rely solely on IP addresses, making it impossible to forward data packets within the local network.

However, it’s important to note that ARP operates within a local network and is not used for routing data between different networks (that’s the job of routers and the default gateway router, as explained in a previous response). ARP is specific to the data link layer and is essential for devices to communicate within the same network segment.

Routing Logic and Routing Table

A router’s routing logic and routing table are essential components of its functionality in computer networking. These elements enable a router to determine the best path for forwarding data packets from one network to another. Here’s an overview of a router’s routing logic and routing table:

Routing Logic

Routing logic, in the context of computer networking, refers to the set of rules, algorithms, and decision-making processes that a network device (typically a router) uses to determine the path for forwarding data packets from their source to their destination within a network or across networks.

  1. Packet Inspection: When a router receives a data packet, it inspects the packet’s header to identify its destination IP address. The router does this by examining the packet’s Layer 3 (network layer) information, which includes the destination IP address.
  2. Decision Making: The routing logic within the router is responsible for making decisions about where to send the packet next. It does this by comparing the destination IP address with the information in its routing table.
  3. Routing Algorithms: Routers use routing algorithms to determine the best path for a packet to reach its destination. Common routing algorithms include RIP (Routing Information Protocol), OSPF (Open Shortest Path First), and BGP (Border Gateway Protocol). These algorithms consider factors like network topology, link status, and administrative preferences to select the most suitable path.
  4. Table Lookup: After the router’s routing logic decides on the appropriate path, it looks up the next hop for the destination IP address in its routing table. The routing table contains a list of network destinations and their associated next-hop routers.

Routing Table

A routing table is a data structure used in computer networking, specifically by routers, to make decisions about how to forward data packets within a network or between networks

  • Destination Network: This is the network or subnet to which the packet is trying to reach. It’s specified as an IP address and subnet mask.
  • Next Hop: The next-hop router’s IP address to which the packet should be forwarded. The next hop is the next intermediary router on the path to the destination.
  • Interface: The specific network interface (e.g., Ethernet, Wi-Fi) through which the router should send the packet to reach the next hop.
  • Metric: A metric is a value that indicates the cost or preference of a particular route. Lower metrics typically represent better or more preferred routes.
  • Flags: Flags in the routing table may provide additional information about the route, such as whether it’s a directly connected network or a dynamic route learned from a routing protocol.
  • Routing Protocol: The routing protocol used to populate the routing table entry, such as OSPF or BGP.
  • Administrative Distance: This is a value that represents the trustworthiness or preference of a routing source. When multiple routing sources provide route information for the same destination, the route with the lowest administrative distance is preferred.

A router’s routing logic and routing table work together to determine the most suitable path for forwarding data packets to their intended destinations. The routing table contains a list of available routes, and the routing logic uses this information to make real-time decisions on how to forward packets through the network based on the destination IP address and other relevant factors.

Routing with Subnets

Routing with subnets is a fundamental concept in computer networking that involves dividing a larger network into smaller, more manageable segments known as subnets. Subnetting is used to efficiently allocate IP addresses and improve network organization. Routing with subnets enables routers to direct data packets to the appropriate destination within these segmented networks. Here’s how routing with subnets works:

  1. Subnet Creation: Subnetting involves dividing a larger IP network into smaller subnetworks or subnets. This process requires allocating a portion of the IP address space to each subnet, typically by defining a subnet mask that designates the network and host portions of the IP addresses.
  2. IP Address Assignment: Each device on the network, including routers, is assigned an IP address that falls within one of the defined subnets. The IP address includes both the network portion (determined by the subnet mask) and the host portion (specific to each device).
  3. Routing Configuration: Routers are configured with knowledge of the various subnets within the network. This configuration includes the network address, subnet mask, and gateway information for each subnet.
  4. Packet Routing: When a data packet is sent from one device to another, the source device forwards the packet to its default gateway or router. The router examines the destination IP address and subnet mask to determine which subnet the destination device belongs to.
  5. Subnet Matching: The router compares the destination IP address with the subnet information in its routing table. If the destination IP address falls within a known subnet, the router forwards the packet to the appropriate outgoing interface or next-hop router for that subnet.
  6. Inter-Subnet Routing: If the destination IP address is in a different subnet, the router will forward the packet to the appropriate router (often the default gateway) for the target subnet. This router will then handle the routing within its subnet.
  7. Intra-Subnet Communication: Devices within the same subnet communicate directly with each other, as they share the same network address and subnet mask. There is no need for routing within the subnet, as the devices can communicate at the data link layer using their MAC addresses.

Subnetting is a common practice in IP-based networks, allowing for more precise control over network addressing and routing, which is crucial for modern networking environments.

Router Hardware Architecture

Router hardware architecture refers to the physical components and design of a network router, which is a critical device in computer networking responsible for routing data packets between different networks. A typical router’s hardware architecture includes several key components:

  1. Central Processing Unit (CPU): The CPU is the router’s brain, responsible for executing routing protocols, managing the routing table, and making forwarding decisions. More advanced routers may use multiple CPU cores for efficient processing.
  2. Memory (RAM): Random Access Memory (RAM) in a router is used for storing routing tables, cached data, and temporary information. Sufficient RAM is crucial for the router’s performance and ability to handle a large number of routes.
  3. Flash Memory: Flash memory stores the router’s operating system (firmware) and configuration files. It’s non-volatile memory, so the router can retain its software and settings even after a reboot.
  4. Network Interfaces: Routers have various network interfaces, including Ethernet ports (e.g., RJ45) for connecting to local area networks and WAN interfaces (e.g., DSL, fiber, or cable connections) for connecting to the wider internet.
  5. Switching Fabric: In some routers, especially in enterprise-grade devices, a switching fabric is used to handle the high-speed data transfer between interfaces and facilitate data forwarding.
  6. Network Processors: High-performance routers may include network processors designed to accelerate packet processing and routing tasks, ensuring efficient data transfer.
  7. Routing Table: The routing table is stored in memory and is a crucial component of router architecture. It contains information about network destinations, next-hop routers, and routing metrics. The router uses this table to make forwarding decisions.
  8. Power Supply: A reliable power supply is essential to ensure uninterrupted router operation. Some routers have redundant power supplies for added reliability.
  9. Cooling Systems: Routers generate heat, and cooling systems such as fans or heatsinks help dissipate this heat to prevent overheating and ensure the router’s longevity.
  10. Management Interfaces: Routers often have management interfaces, including a web-based user interface, command-line interface (CLI), and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) for configuration and monitoring.
  11. Security Features: Hardware security components, such as encryption accelerators and hardware-based firewall capabilities, may be integrated into router architecture to enhance network security.

The specific hardware components and architecture of a router can vary significantly depending on the router’s intended use, whether it’s for a home network, a small office, or a large enterprise network. Enterprise-grade routers, for instance, have more advanced and robust hardware components to handle the demands of complex networks with high data throughput and advanced features.

Dynamic Learning Routing Tables

Dynamically learning routing tables refers to the process by which network routers automatically and continuously update their routing tables based on real-time information received from neighbouring routers and routing protocols. This dynamic approach to routing allows routers to adapt to changes in network topology, link conditions, and network availability. Here’s how dynamically learning routing tables works:

  1. Neighbour Discovery: Routers use routing protocols like RIP (Routing Information Protocol), OSPF (Open Shortest Path First), BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), or EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol) to communicate with neighbouring routers. These routers are often directly connected and share information about the routes they know.
  2. Route Advertisement: Routers periodically exchange routing information with their neighbours. They advertise the routes they know, including the destination network, next-hop router, and routing metrics (such as hop count or bandwidth).
  3. Route Updates: When a change occurs in the network, such as a new router being added, a link going down, or a network segment becoming unreachable, routers inform their neighbors by sending route updates.
  4. Routing Table Updates: Routers use the received routing information to update their routing tables. They may add, modify, or remove entries based on the information shared by neighboring routers.
  5. Convergence: The process of dynamically learning routing tables continues, and routers converge to a stable state where all routers in the network have consistent and up-to-date routing information. This state ensures that routers can efficiently forward data packets to their intended destinations.
  6. Load Balancing: In some cases, routers may use dynamic routing to implement load balancing, where traffic is distributed across multiple paths to optimize network performance.

Dynamic routing has several advantages

  • Adaptability: Routers can respond to changes in network conditions, such as link failures or network growth, without manual intervention.
  • Redundancy: Dynamic routing can provide redundancy and failover mechanisms, ensuring data traffic can be rerouted if a primary path becomes unavailable.
  • Scalability: It is well-suited for large and complex networks, where manual routing configuration could be impractical.
  • Efficiency: Dynamic routing protocols consider various metrics when making routing decisions, which can lead to efficient data path selection.

However, dynamic routing also requires careful network design and configuration to ensure that the routing protocols operate as intended and do not introduce instability or security vulnerabilities. It is commonly used in enterprise networks, data centres, and the broader internet to manage the complex task of routing data packets efficiently.

How the Router Select The Best Route

Routers determine the best route for forwarding data packets based on a variety of factors and metrics to ensure efficient and reliable data transmission. The process of selecting the best route is governed by routing protocols and routing logic. Here’s how routers pick the best route:

  1. Routing Protocol Selection: Routers use routing protocols such as RIP (Routing Information Protocol), OSPF (Open Shortest Path First), BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), and others. Each protocol employs its criteria for selecting the best route. The router must first determine which routing protocol to use based on the network’s requirements and configurations.
  2. Metric or Cost Calculation: Each routing protocol assigns a metric or cost to each route it learns. This metric can be based on various factors, such as hop count, bandwidth, delay, reliability, and path cost. The router considers these metrics to evaluate the quality of each route. In general, lower metric values indicate better routes.
  3. Administrative Distance: When multiple routing protocols are used, the router must compare the routes learned from each protocol. To do this, it assigns an administrative distance to each routing source. The route with the lowest administrative distance is preferred.
  4. Route Advertisement: Routers exchange routing information with neighbouring routers using routing protocol messages. These messages contain information about available routes, including the destination network and the associated metrics. The router evaluates the received routes to identify the best paths to each destination.
  5. Route Selection: The router maintains a routing table that includes information about all known routes. It selects the best route for each destination based on the metric, administrative distance, and any policy or route preferences configured by the network administrator.
  6. Static vs. Dynamic Routes: Routers can have both static routes, manually configured by the network administrator, and dynamic routes learned through routing protocols. When selecting the best route, the router considers both static and dynamic routes and may prioritize one over the other based on configuration.
  7. Load Balancing: In some cases, routers may implement load balancing, distributing traffic across multiple routes to optimize network performance. Load balancing can be based on round-robin, equal-cost multipath (ECMP), or other algorithms.
  8. Redundancy: Routers are often configured with redundancy in mind. Redundant routes are used as backup paths in case the primary route becomes unavailable. Routers monitor the status of routes and can automatically switch to a backup route if needed.

The specific criteria and methods for selecting the best route may vary depending on the routing protocol and the network’s configuration. Network administrators play a crucial role in configuring routers to ensure that the routing decisions align with the network’s goals for performance, redundancy, and reliability.

Interior & Exterior Routing Protocols

Interior and exterior routing protocols are two categories of routing protocols used in computer networking to facilitate the exchange of routing information and the determination of the best paths for forwarding data packets within and between different networks. Here’s an explanation of these two types of routing protocols:

Interior Routing Protocols (Intra-Domain Protocols)

Interior routing protocols, also known as intra-domain protocols, are used within a single autonomous system (AS) or administrative domain. An autonomous system is a collection of networks and routers that are under the control of a single organization or entity, and it operates as a single, cohesive unit. Interior routing protocols are responsible for determining the best paths for routing data packets within that autonomous system. Some common interior routing protocols include:

  1. RIP (Routing Information Protocol): RIP is a distance-vector routing protocol that uses hop count as its metric. It is often used in smaller networks.
  2. OSPF (Open Shortest Path First): OSPF is a link-state routing protocol that calculates the best path based on a complex metric that takes into account factors like link bandwidth, cost, and network topology. It is commonly used in large and complex networks.
  3. EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol): EIGRP is a Cisco proprietary routing protocol that combines features of both distance-vector and link-state protocols. It uses a composite metric that considers bandwidth, delay, reliability, and load.

Exterior Routing Protocols (Inter-Domain Protocols):

Exterior routing protocols, also known as inter-domain protocols, are used for routing data packets between different autonomous systems. These protocols are essential for connecting networks operated by different organizations and for routing data across the global internet. The most widely used exterior routing protocol is:

  1. BGP (Border Gateway Protocol): BGP is the protocol that interconnects different autonomous systems on the internet. It is a path vector routing protocol that makes routing decisions based on policy rules, routing paths, and autonomous system paths. BGP is highly flexible and allows organizations to define routing policies to influence route selection.

Key Differences:

  • Scope: Interior routing protocols operate within a single autonomous system, optimizing routing within that domain. Exterior routing protocols handle routing between different autonomous systems, allowing for global internet connectivity.
  • Metrics: Interior routing protocols use metrics like hop count, bandwidth, and link state information to determine routes. Exterior routing protocols may consider factors like policies, AS paths, and preferences set by network administrators.
  • Complexity: Exterior routing protocols, especially BGP, tend to be more complex due to the need for policy-based route selection and to handle the diverse nature of internet routes. Interior routing protocols are typically simpler and more standardized within the AS.
  • Control: Organizations have more control over the choice of interior routing protocols within their network, while BGP route selection can be influenced by policies but is also subject to agreements and constraints set by external networks.

The interior routing protocols are used within autonomous systems to determine the best paths for local network routing, while exterior routing protocols like BGP are employed to exchange routing information and determine routes between different autonomous systems, enabling global network connectivity.

Self Assessment

  • Explain the functionalities of the router.
  • What is the gateway? and what is the purpose of the default gateway?
  • What is the routing table?
  • Explain the routing protocol.

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