Subnet Design Considerations

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The deployment of an addressing plan requires careful thought on the part of the network administrator. There are four key questions that must be answered before any design should be undertaken:

1)      How many total subnets does the organization need today?

2)      How many total subnets will the organization need in the future?

3)      How many hosts are there on the organization’s largest subnet today?

4)      How many hosts will there on the organization’s largest subnet in the future?

The first step in the planning process is to take the maximum number of subnets required and round up   to the nearest power of two. For example, if a organization needs 9 subnets.23 (or 8)will not provide enough subnet addressing space. So the network administrator will need to round up to 24 (or 16).When performing this assessment, it is critical that the network administrator always allow adequate room for future growth. For example ,if 14 subnets are required today ,then 16 subnets might not be enough in two years when the 17th subnets needs to be deployed. In this case, it might be wise to allow for more growth and select 25 (or 32) as the maximum number of subnets.

The second step is to make sure that there are enough host addresses for the organization’s largest subnet. If the largest subnet needs to support 50 host addresses today,25 (or 32) will not provide enough host address space so the network administrator will need to round up to 26 (or 64).

The final step is to make sure that the organization’s address allocation provides enough bits to deploy the required subnet addressing plan. For example, if the organization has a single /16, it could easily deploy 4-bits for the subnet-number and 6-bits for the host number. However , if the organization has several /24s and it needs to deploy 9 subnets, it may be required to subnet each of its /24s into four subnets (using 2 bits) and then build the internet by combining the subnets of 3 different /24 network numbers. An alternative solution would be to deploy network numbers from the private address space (RFC 1918) for internal connectivity and use a Network Address Translator (NAT) to provide external Internet access.

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