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Introduction to Network Graph and Network Topology

  • Soumyaa Rawat
  • Apr 30, 2021
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What is a Network Graph?


A network graph or simply a network is a connection of objects that are linked together through a series of nodes representing those objects. 


In the field of technological sciences, a network graph is a visual representation or a diagram that indicates the connection of a number of systems or gadgets that are indicated in the network graph by the help of nodes. 


The connection between these nodes is termed as an edge or a link that signifies the connection of two objects. The relationship between these nodes is signified by lines that connect these nodes or edges. Network graphs can be understood in light of the functioning of the internet. 


One can see the internet as a network graph wherein a number of devices are connected through a physical or a wireless connection that enables the flow of the internet throughout. 


Network graphs are based on the functioning of a network that involves numerous elements and so, it is highly important for us to understand the functioning of a network graph or simply a network. 


Furthermore, network graphs can also be understood in terms of the edges and the direction of connection flow. This particular concept of Network edges, as it is known, defines the flow of information that can be categorized into the following categories:-


  1. Directed Edges: Directed Edges have a directed and defined flow of connection that flows through the various nodes or edges in a hierarchical flow.

  2. Undirected Edges: Undirected edges have an undirected or undefined flow of connection that may flow from one edge to another in an unorganized form. 

  3. Weighted Edges: The placing of an edge can also determine the flow of connection. Perhaps some edges have more value/weight than other edges and this is what defines weighted edges in a network graph.


To know more about network graphs and their functioning, let us know move on to the next segment. 


(Related blog: What is a knowledge graph?)



How does a Network Graph function


According to theoretical physician Markus Schirmer, network theory involves the study of the way elements in a network interact. “A simple way of understanding a network is by assuming that a set of objects are connected by some sort of link,” he explains. “


As a network graph is a connection taking place between different elements joined by nodes/edges, the flow of connection goes from one node to another determining the flow of connection. 


For instance, when a group of devices have the flow of the internet keeping them in a network graph, several devices (nodes/edges) enable the flow of the internet (connection) from one edge to another. 


In this case, an internet router can facilitate a weighted edge network graph that makes the internet router more valuable and the one device that provides the connection to other devices (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) 


The working of networks is a crucial concept to study as it helps scholars from various fields to study the applications of network graphs. Yet, in terms of technology, the concept of network graph facilitates the flow of connection and thus, enables various devices or elements to work simultaneously. 


(Also check: What is group theory?)



Importance of Network Graph in Technology 


As the concept of network graph lets us draw correlation between various elements in a network, the importance of network graph is immense and it is due to the essence of such a concept that even a Network Graph Theory has been formulated. 


Apart from its use in the technological realm, network in Graph Theory is highly useful in other fields like medicine, journalism, social studies, mathematics, etc. 


Enabling professionals to correlate between different network node components, network graphs are also helpful in establishing connections between various elements that might otherwise be alienated from each other.


In terms of technology, network graphs have supported the creation of many useful networks like LAN, MAN, and WAN.


  • LAN- Termed as Local Area Network, LAN is a network of different edges (devices) that share a common switch and are placed in the vicinity of each other. Data sharing, common programming, and sharing of tools can take place in such a LAN connection. For instance, the network graph of an organization is a LAN.


  • MAN- Named as Metropolitan Area Network, MAN encompasses an area larger than that of WAN but smaller than that of WAN. Enabling connection of a network of 2 or more computers that are placed apart but within a city, MAN is a slightly more complex network graph. For instance, the network graph of an Internet Service Provider is a MAN. 


  • WAN- WAN stands for Wide Area Network. WAN covers a larger area than both, LAN and MAN.  Restricted to the territory of a state or a country, WAN  covers a vast geographical territory. The speed of connection of a WAN is much slower than that of a LAN due to its vast geographical coverage. 


Such functions of the network graph have only helped the field of technology to excel and advance. We shall now look at the concept of Network Topologies and various types of it. 



Network Topology 


In Network Graph Theory, a network topology is a schematic diagram of the arrangement of various nodes and connecting rays that together make a network graph. 


A visual representation of network graph theory, network topologies are of different types, depending on the arrangement of nodes and connecting lines and the overall structure of a network graph. Here are the following types of network topologies that we know so far:

Network Topologies types

Types of Network Topologies


  1. Ring Topology


A ring topology, as one might have already visualized, is a schematic diagram of various edges being placed in the shape of a ring with all the nodes connected to one another. 


In such a format, unidirectional flow of data is carried out since it is an endless ring full of edges. However, a network graph tool like a repeater that enables data repetition is placed in between the ring topology to ensure that the data is received by the required edge and that no data is lost in between the process. 


A monitor station that is placed in the network has the responsibility to carry out the function of ring topology. The advantage of this type of topology is that it is suitable for network expansion in the future. 


  1. Bus Topology


Placed in the form of a bus, the bus topology explains the working of a network graph wherein all the nodes or edges are connected to a parallel link that disseminates data from there on. 


A topology that supports multiple devices to be connected to one single channel, bus topology is comparatively cheaper to install. However, the failure of the main cable can result in the failure of the whole network, which means that it is quite risky. 


Among the features of bus topology, it should be noted that the flow of data is unidirectional and so, the main cable is responsible for carrying out this task as and when required. 


  1. Star Topology


Aligned in the form of a star, nodes in the star network topology are attached to the main node that is responsible for the flow of data and other essential processes. 


Much like the Tree network topology, star topology too places weight on one single node more than any other edge that is placed in between. Around this particular node, other edges revolve functioning and continuing the connection well. 


The advantage of the star topology is that it does not leave way for data to collide. Rather, it lets only one edge to send data that ensures that data is not hampered with and the receivers of the data (other nodes) also work efficiently.  


  1. Mesh Topology


As the name itself suggests, a Mesh Network Topology indicates a network graph that has various nodes attached to each other through numerous channels of connection. 


One can visually think of this structure as a mesh, where one edge is in contact with the other one through a connecting line. Herein, no node is alienated from the other, and all the edges are in constant connection throughout the maintenance of this network graph. 


The advantage of such a topology is that the flow of data is rapid and constant. No one edge is responsible for the dissemination of data but all the edges are connected to each other so that they can share data among themselves without even occlusions. 


  1. Tree Topology


A visual representation of a family tree where hierarchy plays a crucial role, tree topology network graph is also likewise. It places weight on one central edge that disseminates data to other sub-central edges through the flow of connection in a branched format. 


Characteristics of tree topology involve a main-point connection where all the edges are dependent on one central edge that is responsible for the flow of data throughput. 


The advantage of this network topology is that it allows more number of nodes to become a part of the network graph that enables a larger network to exist. 




To conclude, network graphs are an eminent concept in the technological realm and can open up more avenues for technological advancement in the future ahead. 


Explained by the Network Graph Theory that works with the concept of Network Topology, various network topologies can be taken into account to facilitate the flow of data in an organized and useful manner. 

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