RFC 950 (rfc950) - Page 2 of 18

Internet Standard Subnetting Procedure

Alternative Format: Original Text Document

RFC 950                                                      August 1985
Internet Standard Subnetting Procedure

1.  Motivation

   The original view of the Internet universe was a two-level hierarchy:
   the top level the Internet as a whole, and the level below it
   individual networks, each with its own network number.  The Internet
   does not have a hierarchical topology, rather the interpretation of
   addresses is hierarchical.  In this two-level model, each host sees
   its network as a single entity; that is, the network may be treated
   as a "black box" to which a set of hosts is connected.

   While this view has proved simple and powerful, a number of
   organizations have found it inadequate, and have added a third level
   to the interpretation of Internet addresses.  In this view, a given
   Internet network is divided into a collection of subnets.

   The three-level model is useful in networks belonging to moderately
   large organizations (e.g., Universities or companies with more than
   one building), where it is often necessary to use more than one LAN
   cable to cover a "local area".  Each LAN may then be treated as a

   There are several reasons why an organization might use more than one
   cable to cover a campus:

      - Different technologies:  Especially in a research environment,
        there may be more than one kind of LAN in use; e.g., an
        organization may have some equipment that supports Ethernet, and
        some that supports a ring network.

      - Limits of technologies:  Most LAN technologies impose limits,
        based on electrical parameters, on the number of hosts
        connected, and on the total length of the cable.  It is easy to
        exceed these limits, especially those on cable length.

      - Network congestion:  It is possible for a small subset of the
        hosts on a LAN to monopolize most of the bandwidth.  A common
        solution to this problem is to divide the hosts into cliques of
        high mutual communication, and put these cliques on separate

      - Point-to-Point links:  Sometimes a "local area", such as a
        university campus, is split into two locations too far apart to
        connect using the preferred LAN technology.  In this case,
        high-speed point-to-point links might connect several LANs.

   An organization that has been forced to use more than one LAN has
   three choices for assigning Internet addresses:

Mogul & Postel