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Core Network

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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

A core network is a backbone network, usually with a mesh topology, that provides any-to-any connections among devices on the network. While the Internet could be considered a giant core network, it really consists of many service providers that run their own core networks, and those core networks are interconnected. A core network may consist of multiple ATM switches configured in a multilinked mesh topology, or it may consist of IP routers.

Significant to core networks is "the edge," where networks and users exist. The edge may perform intelligent functions that are not performed inside the core network. For example, if the core network is using MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), an edge switch may examine packets and select a path through the network based on various properties of the packet. The core network then switches the packets (as opposed to doing hop-by-hop routing of the packets), which significantly improves performance. In this case, the core network is considered relatively "dumb" while the edge is considered "smart" because the path selection through the core is determined by the edge.

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