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Routing is a relay system by which packets are forwarded from one device to another. Each device in the network as well as the network itself has a logical address so it can be identified and reached individually or as part of a larger group of devices. For a router to act as an effective relay device, it must be able to understand the logical topology of the network and to communicate with its neighboring devices.

The router understands several different logical addressing schemes and regularly exchanges topology information with other devices in the network. The mechanism of learning and maintaining awareness of the network topology is considered to be the routing function while the movement of traffic through the router is a separate function and is considered to be the switching function. Routing devices must perform both a routing and a switching function to be an effective relay device. A router receiving a packet from a host, the router will need to make a routing decision based on the protocol in use; the existence of the destination network address in its routing table; and the interface that is connected to the destination network. After the decision has been made the router will switch the packet to the appropriate interface on the router to forward
it out. If the destination logical network does not exist in the routing table, routing devices will discard the packet and to generate an Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) message to notify the sender of the event.

Routing Table

A routing table is a database repository that holds the router's routing information that represents each possible logical destination network that is known to the router. The entries for major networks are listed in ascending order and, most commonly, within each major network the sub networks are listed in descending
order. If the routing table entry points to an IP address, the router will perform a recursive lookup on that next-hop address until the router finds an interface to use. The router will switch the packet to the outbound interfaces buffer. The router will then determine the Layer 2 address that maps to the Layer 3 address. The packet will then be encapsulated in a Layer 2 frame appropriate for the type of encapsulation used by the outbound interface. The outbound interface will then place the packet on the medium and forward it to the next hop. The packet will continue this process until it reaches its destination. There are two ways in which a routing table can be populated: a route can be entered manually, this is called static routing, or routers can dynamically learning a route. Once a router learns a route, it is added to its route table.

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