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Understanding IP Addressing

Every computer that communicates over the Internet is assigned an IP address that uniquely identifies the device and distinguishes it from other computers on the Internet. An IP address consists of 32 bits, often shown as 4 octets of numbers from 0-255 represented in decimal form instead of binary form. For example, the IP address

168.212.226.204

in binary form is

10101000.11010100.11100010.11001100.

But it is easier for us to remember decimals than it is to remember binary numbers, so we use decimals to represent the IP addresses when describing them. However, the binary number is important because that will determine which class of network the IP address belongs to. An IP address consists of two parts, one identifying the network and one identifying the node, or host. The Class of the address determines which part belongs to the network address and which part belongs to the node address. All nodes on a given network share the same network prefix but must have a unique host number.

Class A Network -- binary address start with 0, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 1 to 126. The first 8 bits (the first octet) identify the network and the remaining 24 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class A IP address is 102.168.212.226, where "102" identifies the network and "168.212.226" identifies the host on that network.

Class B Network -- binary addresses start with 10, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 128 to 191. (The number 127 is reserved for loopback and is used for internal testing on the local machine.) The first 16 bits (the first two octets) identify the network and the remaining 16 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class B IP address is 168.212.226.204 where "168.212" identifies the network and "226.204" identifies the host on that network.

Class C Network -- binary addresses start with 110, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 192 to 223. The first 24 bits (the first three octets) identify the network and the remaining 8 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class C IP address is 200.168.212.226 where "200.168.212" identifies the network and "226" identifies the host on that network.

Class D Network -- binary addresses start with 1110, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 224 to 239. Class D networks are used to support multicasting.

Class E Network -- binary addresses start with 1111, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 240 to 255. Class E networks are used for experimentation. They have never been documented or utilized in a standard way.

For further information on IP addressing and subnetting, see:
Introduction to the TCP/IP LAN: A Hands-on How-to from Brass Cannon Consulting and the Brass Cannon Project
IP Addressing Architecture
IP Addressing Fundamentals




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