Linking involves two types of paths through the network: physical and virtual. Paths are created through the network when physical links are connected in series between two terminal sites. A receive path output from equipment in a terminal is connected to transmit path input on another facility. For a full-duplex or two-way path, the receive path from the opposite direction must be connected to the transmit path in the opposite direction. This type of linking process in digital networks can be extended many times without undue service impairment, except for the accumulation of transmission delay and errors. The latter can be mitigated by good link engineering practice common in radio and optical link budgeting.
Add a note hereWhen any network is made up of three or more sites, another term comes in to play called meshing. Networks are either fully meshed or partially meshed. The four-site network depicted in Figure 1 is classified as partially meshed because there is no direct path or link between sites 1 and 3 or between sites 2 and 4. Figure 2 shows a fully meshed four-site network.

Figure 1: Four-Site Fully Meshed Network
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Add a note hereThe difference in meshing has implications in terms of economics, reliability, and robustness. Economically, the partially meshed network connected in a round-robin fashion requires four links. A fully meshed network would require six links. The two additional links might increase the monthly charges for leased private line facilities by 50% when comparing a fully meshed, four-site network to a partially meshed network. Such a choice or decision is the eternal dilemma of network architects and designers. The way out of the woods requires economic analysis and judgment to resolve. For now, simply note that two-site networks need not be concerned about meshing issues. Three-site networks require four links to be fully meshed, four-site networks require six links to fully mesh, and a five-site network requires 10 links. Figure 2 shows a five-site fully meshed network.

Figure 2: Five-Site Fully Meshed Network
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Add a note hereAs the number of sites in a network increase, the number of links soars, dramatically increasing complexity. The more complex network architecture becomes, the greater the need for more detailed documentation required to manage cost, reliability, robustness, and network performance. Another factor mitigating the need for fully meshed networks is use. For example, consider that when one site connects to another, it is for the purpose of passing traffic. That traffic may be flow only one way or both ways, and if the equipment or people at the site are busy or engaged with one site, it may not be possible to connect to a third site simultaneously. From a slightly different perspective, if two sites are busy, then the likelihood of either of them becoming engaged with a third site is limited. Therefore, use of the other possible links is significantly less likely, so why spend money on all that capacity. However, without a fully meshed network, ways to communicate between all the sites must be established, and the answer is switching. The carrier might provide the switching function, or it can be done with premises equipment.
Add a note hereOne last point is that meshing might occur at any one of the communications layers, all the way from the physical layer through and including layer 4 of the OSI stack.
Add a note hereVirtual paths at layer 1 are created in the electrical domain, across disparate physical facilities. Linking of virtual paths involves a combination of several factors such as physical aspects of the connector, a match between transmit and receive pins or pairs, signal polarity, and clocking. For example, digital cross connect switching systems are used to create a virtual path through the transmission network when provisioning private line services. POTS/ISDN switches and their signaling systems create virtual paths through the same transmission network to support voice grade connections enabling telephone calls, facsimile, and modem transmission. The mechanics of the connection involve connecting a transmit/receive pair on one side of the switching system to a receive/transmit pair on another facility.
Add a note hereATM network architecture includes a virtual path layer, inside which virtual channels or circuits are created and placed. Routing and switching are performed according to information in the virtual path identifier and virtual circuit identifier sections of the ATM cell header.
Add a note hereThe linking term is also applied to a process or protocol to create a path for data or information between disparate media. A link created with IEEE 802.2 logical link control (LLC) at layer 2 is at the highest layer of LAN architecture. It defines a set of protocols that support services between the media access layer and the transport layer. LLC is functionally equivalent to the telephone hook-switch and DTMF keypad used to control setup and teardown of a voice connection or link. Most LAN cards, and many other devices supporting LAN connections, have a green indicator light. If the light is illuminated, it indicates physical connectivity between two devices. Many telephones, especially those with two or more lines, have an indicator to show off-hook, active line, or in use. Most equipment with a wide area physical connection is equipped with some kind of indicator as well as alarm to indicate status of the link.

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