IP Subnetting
 


A Class A, B, or C TCP/IP network can be further divided, or subnetted, by a system administrator. This becomes necessary as you reconcile the logical address scheme of the Internet (the abstract world of IP addresses and subnets) with the physical networks in use by the real world.

A system administrator who is allocated a block of IP addresses may be administering networks that are not organized in a way that easily fits these addresses. For example, you have a wide area network with 150 hosts on three networks (in different cities) that are connected by a TCP/IP router. Each of these three networks has 50 hosts. You are allocated the class C network 192.168.123.0. (For illustration, this address is actually from a range that is not allocated on the Internet.) This means that you can use the addresses 192.168.123.1 to 192.168.123.254 for your 150 hosts.

Two addresses that cannot be used in your example are 192.168.123.0 and 192.168.123.255 because binary addresses with a host portion of all ones and all zeros are invalid. The zero address is invalid because it is used to specify a network without specifying a host. The 255 address (in binary notation, a host address of all ones) is used to broadcast a message to every host on a network. Just remember that the first and last address in any network or subnet cannot be assigned to any individual host.

You should now be able to give IP addresses to 254 hosts. This works fine if all 150 computers are on a single network. However, your 150 computers are on three separate physical networks. Instead of requesting more address blocks for each network, you divide your network into subnets that enable you to use one block of addresses on multiple physical networks.

In this case, you divide your network into four subnets by using a subnet mask that makes the network address larger and the possible range of host addresses smaller. In other words, you are 'borrowing' some of the bits usually used for the host address, and using them for the network portion of the address. The subnet mask 255.255.255.192 gives you four networks of 62 hosts each. This works because in binary notation, 255.255.255.192 is the same as 1111111.11111111.1111111.11000000. The first two digits of the last octet become network addresses, so you get the additional networks 00000000 (0), 01000000 (64), 10000000 (128) and 11000000 (192). (Some administrators will only use two of the subnetworks using 255.255.255.192 as a subnet mask. For more information on this topic, see RFC 1878.) In these four networks, the last 6 binary digits can be used for host addresses.

Using a subnet mask of 255.255.255.192, your 192.168.123.0 network then becomes the four networks 192.168.123.0, 192.168.123.64, 192.168.123.128 and 192.168.123.192. These four networks would have as valid host addresses:

   192.168.123.1-62
   192.168.123.65-126
   192.168.123.129-190
   192.168.123.193-254
				

Remember, again, that binary host addresses with all ones or all zeros are invalid, so you cannot use addresses with the last octet of 0, 63, 64, 127, 128, 191, 192, or 255.

You can see how this works by looking at two host addresses, 192.168.123.71 and 192.168.123.133. If you used the default Class C subnet mask of 255.255.255.0, both addresses are on the 192.168.123.0 network. However, if you use the subnet mask of 255.255.255.192, they are on different networks; 192.168.123.71 is on the 192.168.123.64 network, 192.168.123.133 is on the 192.168.123.128 network.

 


 

Subnetting allows you to create multiple logical networks that exist within a single Class A, B, or C network. If you do not subnet, you are only able to use one network from your Class A, B, or C network, which is unrealistic.

Each data link on a network must have a unique network ID, with every node on that link being a member of the same network. If you break a major network (Class A, B, or C) into smaller subnetworks, it allows you to create a network of interconnecting subnetworks. Each data link on this network would then have a unique network/subnetwork ID. Any device, or gateway, connecting n networks/subnetworks has n distinct IP addresses, one for each network / subnetwork that it interconnects.

In order to subnet a network, extend the natural mask using some of the bits from the host ID portion of the address to create a subnetwork ID. For example, given a Class C network of 204.17.5.0 which has a natural mask of 255.255.255.0, you can create subnets in this manner:

204.17.5.0 -      11001100.00010001.00000101.00000000
255.255.255.224 - 11111111.11111111.11111111.11100000
                  --------------------------|sub|----

By extending the mask to be 255.255.255.224, you have taken three bits (indicated by "sub") from the original host portion of the address and used them to make subnets. With these three bits, it is possible to create eight subnets. With the remaining five host ID bits, each subnet can have up to 32 host addresses, 30 of which can actually be assigned to a device since host ids of all zeros or all ones are not allowed (it is very important to remember this). So, with this in mind, these subnets have been created.

204.17.5.0 255.255.255.224     host address range 1 to 30
204.17.5.32 255.255.255.224    host address range 33 to 62
204.17.5.64 255.255.255.224    host address range 65 to 94
204.17.5.96 255.255.255.224    host address range 97 to 126
204.17.5.128 255.255.255.224   host address range 129 to 158
204.17.5.160 255.255.255.224   host address range 161 to 190
204.17.5.192 255.255.255.224   host address range 193 to 222
204.17.5.224 255.255.255.224   host address range 225 to 254

Note: There are two ways to denote these masks. First, since you are using three bits more than the "natural" Class C mask, you can denote these addresses as having a 3-bit subnet mask. Or, secondly, the mask of 255.255.255.224 can also be denoted as /27 as there are 27 bits that are set in the mask. This second method is used with CIDR. With this method, one of these networks can be described with the notation prefix/length. For example, 204.17.5.32/27 denotes the network 204.17.5.32 255.255.255.224. When appropriate the prefix/length notation is used to denote the mask throughout the rest of this document.