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Ring network

Ring network

(also ring topology)

Ring network definition

A ring network is a type of network where each device is connected to two others to form a ring — the last node is connected to the first to complete a loop. Data in a ring network travels in one direction only, passing through each connecting node until it reaches its destination.

See also: token ring network, token ring

How ring networks work

Ring network topology can be applied to both physical networks and virtual networks. In physical networks, each node is connected to its immediate neighbors using a physical medium (such as cables), while virtual ring networks use logical connections.

Data in a ring network can only flow in one direction — each node receives data from its predecessor, processes it, and passes it along to the next node. Data transmission is often regulated by a token passing mechanism — that is, only the node currently in possession of a token (a special control message circulated around the ring at all times) is allowed to transmit data.

Real examples of ring networks

  • Industrial control systems: Ring networks may be used in systems where fault-tolerance is critical, such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. In a ring network, data can be passed along even if a single node or link fails.
  • Mission-critical environments: Because of their increased fault-tolerance, ring networks are often used for systems that are required to be in continuous operation. Examples include military installations, power plants, or transportation systems.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security