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IP Addressing

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique identifier for a node or host connection on an IP network. An IP address is a 32 bit binary number usually represented as 4 decimal values, each representing 8 bits, in the range 0 to 255 (known as octets) separated by decimal points. This is known as "dotted decimal" notation.



It is sometimes useful to view the values in their binary form.
140 .179 .220 .200


Every IP address consists of two parts, one identifying the network and one identifying the node. The Class of the address and the subnet mask determine which part belongs to the network address and which part belongs to the node address.

Address Classes

There are 5 different address classes. You can determine which class any IP address is in by examining the first 4 bits of the IP address.

Class A addresses begin with 0xxx, or 1 to 126 decimal.
Class B addresses begin with 10xx, or 128 to 191 decimal.
Class C addresses begin with 110x, or 192 to 223 decimal.
Class D addresses begin with 1110, or 224 to 239 decimal.
Class E addresses begin with 1111, or 240 to 254 decimal.


Addresses beginning with 01111111, or 127 decimal, are reserved for loopback and for internal testing on a local machine. [You can test this: you should always be able to ping, which points to yourself] Class D addresses are reserved for multicasting. Class E addresses are reserved for future use. They should not be used for host addresses.

Now we can see how the Class determines, by default, which part of the IP address belongs to the network (N) and which part belongs to the node (n)

Class A -- NNNNNNNN.nnnnnnnn.nnnnnnn.nnnnnnn

Class B -- NNNNNNNN.NNNNNNNN.nnnnnnnn.nnnnnnnn




In the example, is a Class B address so by default the Network part of the address (also known as the Network Address) is defined by the first two octets (140.179.x.x) and the node part is defined by the last 2 octets (x.x.220.200).

In order to specify the network address for a given IP address, the node section is set to all "0"s. In our example, specifies the network address for When the node section is set to all "1"s, it specifies a broadcast that is sent to all hosts on the network. specifies the example broadcast address. Note that this is true regardless of the length of the node section.

Private Subnets

There are three IP network addresses reserved for private networks. The addresses are,, and They can be used by anyone setting up internal IP networks, such as a lab or home LAN behind a NAT or proxy server or a router. It is always safe to use these because routers on the Internet will never forward packets coming from these addresses

Subnetting an IP Network can be done for a variety of reasons, including organization, use of different physical media (such as Ethernet, FDDI, WAN, etc.), preservation of address space, and security. The most common reason is to control network traffic. In an Ethernet network, all nodes on a segment see all the packets transmitted by all the other nodes on that segment. Performance can be adversely affected under heavy traffic loads, due to collisions and the resulting retransmissions. A router is used to connect IP networks to minimize the amount of traffic each segment must receive.

Subnet Masking

Applying a subnet mask to an IP address allows you to identify the network and node parts of the address. The network bits are represented by the 1s in the mask, and the node bits are represented by the 0s. Performing a bitwise logical AND operation between the IP address and the subnet mask results in the Network Address or Number.

For example, using our test IP address and the default Class B subnet mask, we get:


10001100.10110011.11110000.11001000 Class B IP Address

11111111.11111111.00000000.00000000 Default Class B Subnet Mask

10001100.10110011.00000000.00000000 Network Address



Default subnet masks

Class A - - 11111111.00000000.00000000.00000000
Class B - - 11111111.11111111.00000000.00000000
Class C - - 11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000



CIDR -- Classless InterDomain Routing.

CIDR was invented several years ago to keep the internet from running out of IP addresses. The "classful" system of allocating IP addresses can be very wasteful; anyone who could reasonably show a need for more that 254 host addresses was given a Class B address block of 65533 host addresses. Even more wasteful were companies and organizations that were allocated Class A address blocks, which contain over 16 Million host addresses! Only a tiny percentage of the allocated Class A and Class B address space has ever been actually assigned to a host computer on the Internet.

People realized that addresses could be conserved if the class system was eliminated. By accurately allocating only the amount of address space that was actually needed, the address space crisis could be avoided for many years. This was first proposed in 1992 as a scheme called Supernetting.

The use of a CIDR notated address is the same as for a Classful address. Classful addresses can easily be written in CIDR notation (Class A = /8, Class B = /16, and Class C = /24)

It is currently almost impossible for an individual or company to be allocated their own IP address blocks. You will simply be told to get them from your ISP. The reason for this is the ever-growing size of the internet routing table. Just 5 years ago, there were less than 5000 network routes in the entire Internet. Today, there are over 90,000. Using CIDR, the biggest ISPs are allocated large chunks of address space (usually with a subnet mask of /19 or even smaller); the ISP's customers (often other, smaller ISPs) are then allocated networks from the big ISP's pool. That way, all the big ISP's customers (and their customers, and so on) are accessible via 1 network route on the Internet.

It is expected that CIDR will keep the Internet happily in IP addresses for the next few years at least. After that, IPv6, with 128 bit addresses, will be needed. Under IPv6, even sloppy address allocation would comfortably allow a billion unique IP addresses for every person on earth

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