Network topology describes how networks fit together. Routers are the entities that connect networks to each other. From a TCP/IP perspective, a router is any machine that has two or more network interfaces. However, the machine cannot function as a router until properly configured, as described in Configuring Routers.
Routers connect two or more networks to form larger internetworks. The routers must be configured to pass packets between two adjacent networks. The routers also should be able to pass packets to networks that lie beyond the adjacent networks.
The following figure shows the basic parts of a network topology. The first illustration shows a simple configuration of two networks that are connected by a single router. The second illustration shows a configuration of three networks, interconnected by two routers. In the first example, router R joins network 1 and network 2 into a larger internetwork. In the second example, router R1 connects networks 1 and 2. Router R2 connects networks 2 and 3. The connections form a network that includes networks 1, 2, and 3.
Routers join networks into internetworks. Routers also route packets between networks that are based on the addresses of the destination network. As internetworks grow more complex, each router must make more and more decisions about the packet destinations.
The following figure shows a more complex case. Router R3 directly connects networks 1 and 3. The redundancy improves reliability. If network 2 goes down, router R3 still provides a route between networks 1 and 3. You can interconnect many networks. However, the networks must use the same network protocols.