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10 Things Only Networking Pros Will Understand

  • Every profession has its jargon: terms and abbreviations that are meaningless to those outside the industry. Doctors say "stat" to direct staff in an urgent situation, chefs practice mise en place, and filmmakers end shootings with a "that's a wrap."

    Networking, of course, is no exception when it comes to insider knowledge. In fact, it probably has more of its own unique language than most professions. If there was a competition in lingo, networking would have a good chance of taking top honors.

    So with that, we thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of those words and terms that are the common lexicon for networking pros. As those in the industry know, words like ping and classless have a meaning all their own when it comes to networking. There are so many that this collection is a mere sample.

  • What a packet is

    To most folks, a packet isn't usually all that special; could just be gum or informational brochures. But in networking, packets are what it's all about: Units of data transmitted from one computer to another on a TCP/IP network.

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  • The true meaning of ping

    Ping has become a common term for touching base with someone online through email or a text. For networking pros, ping is an essential tool in the troubleshooting toolbox. The ping software utility enables networking pros to verify the reachability of devices on an IP network. It also provides valuable data on how long it took a packet to make a roundtrip between devices.

    (Image: Shahjehan/Shutterstock)

  • What the edge is

    The edge can mean different things in networking, depending on who you're talking to and what kind of network you're talking about. In general, the edge refers to the point at which the network delivers services to a user or device, collects data from a source, or interfaces with another network. In the LAN, the edge typically means access-layer switches that connect users, their workstations and other devices.

    (Image: Michal Moravec/Shutterstock)


  • What an RFC is

    Technical standards bodies tend to generate a lot of acronyms. In networking, the Internet Engineering Task Force, an open standards group, publishes Requests For Comments. RFCs cover protocols, procedures, meetings notes, and more.

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  • What fabric is

    In networking, fabric takes on a whole different meaning from what most people think, and sometimes multiple meanings. The term has a long history in networking, but in recent years, has become popular with the rise of cloud and virtualization to refer to a flattened network that provides better flexibility and scalability than a traditional tiered network architecture. In a blog post, networking expert Russ White highlighted the various definitions of fabric and provided his view on how fabrics differ from networks.

    (Image: Oleksandr Berezko/Shutterstock)

  • The story behind all that east-west traffic

    No, it's not drivers flocking from the East Bay to San Francisco. While that's often the case, in networking, we're generally talking about all that communication between servers within a data center. Client-server communications into and out of a data center are known as north-south traffic. Virtualization has helped drive up the amount of east-west traffic.

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  • Why classless isn't a bad thing

    A classless person isn't someone you want to be around, but classless networks are just networks that overcome the limitations of classful networking, which uses a fixed method of network addressing, by essentially enabling networking pros to divide IP addresses into smaller segments using a variable length subnet mask.

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  • The other DMZ

    While the demilitarized zone in the Korean peninsula is among the better known examples of neutral territories in the world, networking pros use DMZs to provide an extra layer of LAN security. The DMZ is generally a subnetwork where companies can put internet-facing services such as web servers to protect internal resources from unauthorized access.

    (Image: Profit_Image/Shutterstock)

  • What the control plane is

    With the advent of software-defined networking, networking pros heard a lot about the control plane, as well as the data or forwarding plane. In a George Tech instructional video, Nick Feamster described the control plane as logic that controls the forwarding behavior in a network, such as routing protocols. The data plane forwards traffic according to control plane logic; layer 2 switching is an example of a data plane, according to Feamstser. SDN separates the control and data planes to facilitate automation and flexibility.

    (Image: kentoh/Shutterstock)