Legacy Ethernet - Using Hubs

Legacy Ethernet - Using Hubs

In previous sections, we have seen how classic Ethernet uses shared media and contention-based media access control. Classic Ethernet uses hubs to interconnect nodes on the LAN segment. Hubs do not perform any type of traffic filtering. Instead, the hub forwards all the bits to every device connected to the hub. This forces all the devices in the LAN to share the bandwidth of the media.

Additionally, this classic Ethernet implementation often results in high levels of collisions on the LAN. Because of these performance issues, this type of Ethernet LAN has limited use in today's networks. Ethernet implementations using hubs are now typically used only in small LANs or in LANs with low bandwidth requirements.

Sharing media among devices creates significant issues as the network grows. The figure illustrates some of the issues presented here.


In a hub network, there is a limit to the amount of bandwidth that devices can share. With each device added to the shared media, the average bandwidth available to each device decreases. With each increase in the number of devices on the media, performance is degraded.


Network latency is the amount of time it takes a signal to reach all destinations on the media. Each node in a hub-based network has to wait for an opportunity to transmit in order to avoid collisions. Latency can increase significantly as the distance between nodes is extended. Latency is also affected by a delay of the signal across the media as well as the delay added by the processing of the signals through hubs and repeaters. Increasing the length of media or the number of hubs and repeaters connected to a segment results in increased latency. With greater latency, it is more likely that nodes will not receive initial signals, thereby increasing the collisions present in the network.

Network Failure

Because classic Ethernet shares the media, any device in the network could potentially cause problems for other devices. If any device connected to the hub generates detrimental traffic, the communication for all devices on the media could be impeded. This harmful traffic could be due to incorrect speed or full-duplex settings on a NIC.


According to CSMA/CD, a node should not send a packet unless the network is clear of traffic. If two nodes send packets at the same time, a collision occurs and the packets are lost. Then both nodes send a jam signal, wait for a random amount of time, and retransmit their packets. Any part of the network where packets from two or more nodes can interfere with each other is considered a collision domain. A network with a larger number of nodes on the same segment has a larger collision domain and typically has more traffic. As the amount of traffic in the network increases, the likelihood of collisions increases.

Switches provide an alternative to the contention-based environment of classic Ethernet.

In the last few years, switches have quickly become a fundamental part of most networks. Switches allow the segmentation of the LAN into separate collision domains. Each port of the switch represents a separate collision domain and provides the full media bandwidth to the node or nodes connected on that port. With fewer nodes in each collision domain, there is an increase in the average bandwidth available to each node, and collisions are reduced.

A LAN may have a centralized switch connecting to hubs that still provide the connectivity to nodes. Or, a LAN may have all nodes connected directly to a switch. Theses topologies are shown in the figure.

In a LAN where a hub is connected to a switch port, there is still shared bandwidth, which may result in collisions within the shared environment of the hub. However, the switch will isolate the segment and limit collisions to traffic between the hub's ports.

Legacy Ethernet - Using Hubs
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