Why Network Components Need Addresses

February 5, 2021

Before we dive in to answer the question of why network components need addresses, let’s have a look at network components.

A computer network is usually comprised of physical components which are also referred to as hardware components and software components.

Examples of network components are servers, peers, clients, transmission, client, peer, transmission medium, etc.

The software network components are the operating systems and the protocols.

Now, back to the question of why network components need addresses.

I am sure we all use mobile phones and have phone numbers. If you have a brand new mobile phone without a phone number, it will be challenging for you to be able to call someone and also for someone to call you on a phone call. Following that approach; devices on a network called network components also need address so that they can be identified and be able to communicate. If a packet is sent over a network, the packet contains information about its source and its destination. If the destination doesn’t have any address, it can not be reached hence cannot receive the packet.

A device on a network has 2 Addresses which are the MAC address and the IP Address

The MAC (Media Access Control) address is a physical address given by a device’s Network Interface Card’s manufacture. This is unique to the device. On the other hand, an IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a logical address assigned to a device on a given network. The IP address is subject to change on different networks even on the same network.

There are two (2) types of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6

An IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) address is 32-bits long and has four groups of decimal numbers separated with dots. An example of IPv4 address: 192.168.10.2. There are in all 4 294 967 296 addresses available but running out due to the increasing number of network devices. This is where the IPv6 address comes in.

An IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) address is 128-bits long and has eight groups of hexadecimal values separated with colons. IPv6 came out as solution to the small number of IPv4 address because of the rapid growth of the number of networked computers. IPv6 has in all 2128 addresses which is a lot.

IP addresses can be assigned to devices manually or dynamically with the help of DHCP. DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is used to assign unique IP address to network hosts from a pool based on a configuration. The use of DHCP prevents IP address conflicts and facilitates the task of network administrators. In case your network is large, assigning IP addresses manually may cause serious IP address conflicts on the network. DHCP will ensure that no two computers have the same IP address across your entire network.

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