Network topology is the layout pattern of interconnections of the various elements (links, nodes, etc.) of a computer network. Network topologies may be physical or logical. Physical topology means the physical design of a network including the devices, location and cable installation. Logical topology refers to how data is actually transferred in a network as opposed to its physical design. In general physical topology relates to a core network whereas logical topology relates to basic network.
Topology can be considered as a virtual shape or structure of a network. This shape does not correspond to the actual physical design of the devices on the computer network. The computers on a home network can be arranged in a circle but it does not necessarily mean that it represents a ring topology.
Any particular network topology is determined only by the graphical mapping of the configuration of physical and/or logical connections between nodes. The study of network topology uses graph theory. Distances between nodes, physical interconnections, transmission rates, and/or signal types may differ in two networks and yet their topologies may be identical.
A local area network (LAN) is one example of a network that exhibits both a physical topology and a logical topology. Any given node in the LAN has one or more links to one or more nodes in the network and the mapping of these links and nodes in a graph results in a geometric shape that may be used to describe the physical topology of the network. Likewise, the mapping of the data flow between the nodes in the network determines the logical topology of the network. The physical and logical topologies may or may not be identical in any particular network.
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