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IP Addresses

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the addresses understood by the IP-networking protocol are 32-bit numbers. Every machine must be assigned a number unique to the networking environment. If you are running a local network that does not have TCP/IP traffic with other networks, you may assign these numbers according to your personal preferences. However, for sites on the Internet, numbers are assigned by a central authority, the Network Information Center, or NIC.gif

For easier reading, IP addresses are split up into four 8-bit numbers called octets. For example, has an IP-address of 0x954C0C04, which is written as This format is often referred to as the dotted quad notation.

Another reason for this notation is that IP-addresses are split into a network number, which is contained in the leading octets, and a host number, which is the remainder. When applying to the NIC for IP-addresses, you are not assigned an address for each single host you plan to use. Instead, you are given a network number, and are allowed to assign all valid IP-addresses within this range to hosts on your network according to your preferences.

Depending on the size of the network, the host part may need to be smaller or larger. To accommodate different needs, there are several classes of networks, defining different splits of IP-addresses.

        Class A Class A comprises networks  through   The
                network number is contained in the first octet.  This provides
                for a 24 bit host part, allowing roughly 1.6 million hosts.

        Class B Class B contains networks through;  the
                network  number  is  in the first two octets.  This allows for
                16320 nets with 65024 hosts each.

        Class C Class C networks range from  through,
                with  the  network  number  being contained in the first three
                octets. This allows for nearly 2 million networks with  up  to
                254 hosts.

      Classes D, E, and F Addresses   falling  into  the  range  of
                through are either experimental, or are reserved for
                future use and don't specify any network.

If we go back to the example in the previous chapter, we find that, the address of quark, refers to host 12.4 on the class-B network

You may have noticed that in the above list not all possible values were allowed for each octet in the host part. This is because host numbers with octets all 0 or all 255 are reserved for special purposes. An address where all host part bits are zero refers to the network, and one where all bits of the host part are 1 is called a broadcast address. This refers to all hosts on the specified network simultaneously. Thus, is not a valid host address, but refers to all hosts on network

There are also two network addresses that are reserved, and The first is called the default route, the latter the loopback address. The default route has something to do with the way IP routes datagrams, which will be dealt with below.

Network is reserved for IP traffic local to your host. Usually, address will be assigned to a special interface on your host, the so-called loopback interface, which acts like a closed circuit. Any IP packet handed to it from TCP or UDP will be returned to them as if it had just arrived from some network. This allows you to develop and test networking software without ever using a ``real'' network. Another useful application is when you want to use networking software on a standalone host. This may not be as uncommon as it sounds; for instance, many UUCP sites don't have IP connectivity at all, but still want to run the INN news system nevertheless. For proper operation on , INN requires the loopback interface.

Next: Address Resolution Up: Issues of TCP/IP Networking Previous: Networking Interfaces

Andrew Anderson
Thu Mar 7 23:22:06 EST 1996