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Routers Exercise

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Research Question

The scenario for this task explores a network’s fault tolerance issue. The scavengers’ group has no advantages over other groups in case of any router’s failure. However, the access to the outside world for the scavengers’ group is critical for the company operations. The goal is to strengthen the network reliability for this particular group, enhancing the fault tolerance in case of various disasters.

There are number of possible solutions in this scenario. The scavengers’ group switch could be reconnected to the Rimmer router instead of Lister. It will exclude one router from the possible failure chain, improving the network reliability. The only configuration necessary in this case would be to change the default gateway on all scavengers’ PC’s. However, the failure of the Rimmer router will effectively cut the access to the outside world for all groups. There is also a possibility to install the additional router that will connect the scavengers’ group directly to ISP. Still, the failure of this newly added router will cut the access while the rest of the network will remain operational.

The most fail-proof solution would be to add an extra router “Scaver” to the scheme, configuring it to operate with the Rimmer router using HSRP (Hot Standby Router Protocol). Assuming that the company accesses ISP using the Ethernet connection, the Switch 3 should be positioned between the Scaver/Rimmer pair and ISP. Alternatively, two isolated VLANs could be configured on any switch for that purpose. The HSRP solution will guarantee the Internet connectivity for the scavengers’ group (and officers’ group as a side effect) in case of the failure of either Rimmer or Scaver routers. The only downsides of this solution are an extra cost for the additional router and the HSRP configuration activities.

Reflection

There were a number of useful activities with regard to the theory and labs in this module. The main challenge was using the real network equipment to gain the hands-on experience in the networking. The basic console and network connectivity topics have led to the router configuration and IP addressing schemes. The practical IP addressing exercises have helped to understand the theoretical principles explained during the lectures. In particular, the VLSM (Variable Length Subnet Masking) mechanism has become much clearer when applied during the practical router configuration. As mentioned earlier in this paper, there are several administrative modes appropriate for the different operations with the router. Configuring the router’s interfaces and routing protocols was important in order to understand how the network nodes communicate with each other and how different routing protocols can facilitate the network operations.

The concept of the routers’ interfaces being administratively shut down seemed strange at firs. However, as the labs went on, the purpose of such an approach became clear. After configuring the router’s interface with the IP address (and other parameters such as a clock rate for serial connections), the “no shutdown” command brings the interface up in a full readiness to communicate with other network devices. The use of the “ping” and “traceroute” commands from the router’s console helps to identify the potential connectivity issues and determine the route parameters. There is a difference between executing these commands from a router’s console and PC as the router has much more network visibility. Apart from learning new commands, it was important to remember saving the updated configuration before reloading the router. Apparently, there is a useful shortcut in a form of the “write memory” command instead of typing the “copy running-config startup-config” string even in a shortened variant.

The network routing topic was most interesting among all others. At first, it seemed enough to apply the static routes concept, building the routing tables manually. In essence, it does not differ too much from configuring the default gateway parameters on a PC. While this approach might be sufficient for the small networks, it would be far too complicated in a complex network environment. Apart from the complexity, static routes cannot satisfy the reliability requirements. In case of any link’s or router’s failure, the manual reconfiguring of all routes can lead to errors and will take much longer than it is acceptable in an operational environment. Even the simplest RIP (Routing Information Protocol) mechanism offers much more reliability to the network. However, it also has disadvantages as the number of network hops cannot exceed 15. In addition, the routers using RIP must regularly communicate the whole routing table to all the neighbor routers regardless of the failures, creating the heavy unnecessary traffic. The EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol) is free from such flaws as the routing information is updated only if some topology changes occur.

Overall, the module was very interesting and informative with regard to the various networking concepts. All exercises were well thought off and carefully planned to cover the most important areas of the routers’ configuration. During the labs, all the explanations were explicit and comprehensive. There are no easily identifiable improvements to this course that could be proposed.

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