Chapter 1: Ethernet Basics

Cisco Press

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Example 1-1 shows the manual configuration of the speed and duplex on the link between Switch1 and Switch4 from Figure 1-3, and the results of having mismatched duplex settings. (The book refers to specific switch commands used on IOS-based switches, referred to as "Catalyst IOS" by the Cisco CCIE blueprint.)

Figure 1-3

Simple Switched Network with Trunk

Example 1-1 Manual Setting for Duplex and Speed, with Mismatched Duplex

switch1# show interface fa 0/13 FastEthernet0/13 is up, line protocol is up Hardware is Fast Ethernet, address is 000a.b7dc.b78d (bia 000a.b7dc.b78d) MTU 1500 bytes, BW 100000 Kbit, DLY 100 usec, reliability 255/255, txload 1/255, rxload 1/255 Encapsulation ARPA, loopback not set Keepalive set (10 sec) Full-duplex, 100Mb/s ! remaining lines omitted for brevity ! Below, Switch1's interface connecting to Switch4 is configured for 100 Mbps, ! HDX. Note that IOS rejects the first duplex command; you cannot set duplex until ! the speed is manually configured. switch1# conf t Enter configuration commands, one per line. End with CNTL/Z. switch1(config)# int fa 0/13 switch1(config-if)# duplex half Duplex will not be set until speed is set to non-auto value switch1(config-if)# speed 100 05:08:41: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface FastEthernet0/13, changed state to down 05:08:46: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface FastEthernet0/13, changed state to up switch1(config-if)# duplex half !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! NOT SHOWN: Configuration for 100/half on Switch4's int fa 0/13. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! Now with both switches manually configured for speed and duplex, neither will be ! using Ethernet auto-negotiation. As a result, below the duplex setting on Switch1 ! can be changed to FDX with Switch4 remaining configured to use HDX. switch1# conf t Enter configuration commands, one per line. End with CNTL/Z. switch1(config)# int fa 0/13 switch1(config-if)# duplex full 05:13:03: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface FastEthernet0/13, changed state to down 05:13:08: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface FastEthernet0/13, changed state

to up switch1(config-if)#^Z switch1# sh int fa 0/13 FastEthernet0/13 is up, line protocol is up ! Lines omitted for brevity Full-duplex, 100Mb/s ! remaining lines omitted for brevity ! Below, Switch4 is shown to be HDX. Note ! the collisions counters at the end of the show interface command. switch4# sh int fa 0/13 FastEthernet0/13 is up, line protocol is up (connected) Hardware is Fast Ethernet, address is 000f.2343.87cd (bia 000f.2343.87cd) MTU 1500 bytes, BW 100000 Kbit, DLY 1000 usec, reliability 255/255, txload 1/255, rxload 1/255 Encapsulation ARPA, loopback not set Keepalive set (10 sec) Half-duplex, 100Mb/s ! Lines omitted for brevity 5 minute output rate 583000 bits/sec, 117 packets/sec 25654 packets input, 19935915 bytes, 0 no buffer Received 173 broadcasts (0 multicast) 0 runts, 0 giants, 0 throttles 0 input errors, 0 CRC, 0 frame, 0 overrun, 0 ignored 0 watchdog, 173 multicast, 0 pause input 0 input packets with dribble condition detected 26151 packets output, 19608901 bytes, 0 underruns 54 output errors, 5 collisions, 0 interface resets 0 babbles, 54 late collision, 59 deferred 0 lost carrier, 0 no carrier, 0 PAUSE output 0 output buffer failures, 0 output buffers swapped out 02:40:49: %CDP-4-DUPLEX_MISMATCH: duplex mismatch discovered on FastEthernet0/13 (not full duplex), with Switch1 FastEthernet0/13 (full duplex). ! Above, CDP messages have been exchanged over the link between switches. CDP ! exchanges information about Duplex on the link, and can notice (but not fix) ! the mismatch.

The statistics on switch4 near the end of the example show collisions (detected in the time during which the first 64 bytes were being transmitted) and late collisions (after the first 64 bytes were transmitted). In an Ethernet that follows cabling length restrictions, collisions should be detected while the first 64 bytes are being transmitted. In this case, Switch1 is using FDX logic, meaning it sends frames anytime—including when Switch4 is sending frames. As a result, Switch4 receives frames anytime, and if sending at the time, it believes a collision has occurred. Switch4 has deferred 59 frames, meaning that it chose to wait before sending frames because it was currently receiving a frame. Also, the retransmission of the frames that Switch4 thought were destroyed due to a collision, but may not have been, causes duplicate frames to be received, occasionally causing application connections to fail and routers to lose neighbor relationships.

Ethernet Layer 2: Framing and Addressing

In this book, as in many Cisco courses and documents, the word frame refers to the bits and bytes that include the Layer 2 header and trailer, along with the data encapsulated by that header and trailer. The term packet is most often used to describe the Layer 3 header and data, without a Layer 2 header or trailer. Ethernet's Layer 2 specifications relate to the creation, forwarding, reception, and interpretation of Ethernet frames.

The original Ethernet specifications were owned by the combination of Digital Equipment Corp., Intel, and Xerox—hence the name "Ethernet (DIX)." Later, in the early 1980s, the IEEE standardized Ethernet, defining parts (Layer 1 and some of Layer 2) in the 802.3 Media Access Control (MAC) standard, and other parts of Layer 2 in the 802.2 Logical Link Control (LLC) standard. Later, the IEEE realized that the 1-byte DSAP field in the 802.2 LLC header was too small. As a result, the IEEE introduced a new frame format with a Sub-Network Access Protocol (SNAP) header after the 802.2 header, as shown in the third style of header in Figure 1-4. Finally, in 1997, the IEEE added the original DIX V2 framing to the 802.3 standard as well as shown in the top frame in Figure 1-4.

Table 1-3 lists the header fields, along with a brief explanation. The more important fields are explained in more detail after the table.

Figure 1-4

Ethernet Framing Options

Table 1-3  Ethernet Header Fields



Preamble (DIX)

Provides synchronization and signal transitions to allow proper clocking of the transmitted signal. Consists of 62 alternating 1s and 0s, and ends with a pair of 1s.

Preamble and Start of Frame Delimiter (802.3)

Same purpose and binary value as DIX preamble; 802.3 simply renames the 8-byte DIX preamble as a 7-byte preamble and a 1-byte Start of Frame Delimiter (SFD).

Type (or Protocol Type) (DIX)

2-byte field that identifies the type of protocol or protocol header that follows the header. Allows the receiver of the frame to know how to process a received frame.

Length (802.3)

Describes the length, in bytes, of the data following the Length field, up to the Ethernet trailer. Allows an Ethernet receiver to predict the end of the received frame.

Destination Service Access Point (802.2)

DSAP; 1-byte protocol type field. The size limitations, along with other uses of the low-order bits, required the later addition of SNAP headers.

Source Service Access Point (802.2)

SSAP; 1-byte protocol type field that describes the upper-layer protocol that created the frame.

Control (802.2)

1- or 2-byte field that provides mechanisms for both connectionless and connection-oriented operation. Generally used only for connectionless operation by modern protocols, with a 1-byte value of 0x03.

Organizationally Unique Identifier (SNAP)

OUI; 3-byte field, generally unused today, providing a place for the sender of the frame to code the OUI representing the manufacturer of the Ethernet NIC.

Type (SNAP)

2-byte Type field, using same values as the DIX Type field, overcoming deficiencies with size and use of the DSAP field.

Types of Ethernet Addresses

Ethernet addresses, also frequently called MAC addresses, are 6 bytes in length, typically listed in hexadecimal form. There are three main types of Ethernet address, as listed in Table 1-4.

Table 1-4 Three Types of Ethernet/MAC Address

Type of Ethernet/MAC Address

Description and Notes


Fancy term for an address that represents a single LAN interface. The I/G bit, the most significant bit in the most significant byte, is set to 0.


An address that means "all devices that reside on this LAN right now." Always a value of hex FFFFFFFFFFFF.


A MAC address that implies some subset of all devices currently on the LAN. By definition, the I/G bit is set to 1.

Most engineers instinctively know how unicast and broadcast addresses are used in a typical network. When an Ethernet NIC needs to send a frame, it puts its own unicast address in the Source Address field of the header. If it wants to send the frame to a particular device on the LAN, the sender puts the other device's MAC address in the Ethernet header's Destination Address field. If the sender wants to send the frame to every device on the LAN, it sends the frame to the FFFF.FFFF.FFFF broadcast destination address. (A frame sent to the broadcast address is named a broadcast or broadcast frame, and frames sent to unicast MAC addresses are called unicasts or unicast frames.)

Multicast Ethernet frames are used to communicate with a possibly dynamic subset of the devices on a LAN. The most common use for Ethernet multicast addresses involves the use of IP multicast. For example, if only 3 of 100 users on a LAN want to watch the same video stream using an IP multicast–based video application, the application can send a single multicast frame. The three interested devices prepare by listening for frames sent to a particular multicast Ethernet address, processing frames destined for that address. Other devices may receive the frame, but they ignore its contents. Because the concept of Ethernet multicast is most often used today with IP multicast, most of the rest of the details of Ethernet multicast will be covered in Chapter 16, "Introduction to IP Multicasting."

Ethernet Address Formats

The IEEE intends for unicast addresses to be unique in the universe by administering the assignment of MAC addresses. The IEEE assigns each vendor a code to use as the first 3 bytes of its MAC addresses; that first half of the addresses is called the Organizationally Unique Identifier (OUI). The IEEE expects each manufacturer to use its OUI for the first 3 bytes of the MAC assigned to any Ethernet product created by that vendor. The vendor then assigns a unique value in the low-order 3 bytes for each Ethernet card that it manufactures—thereby ensuring global uniqueness of MAC addresses. Figure 1-5 shows the basic Ethernet address format, along with some additional details.

Figure 1-5

Ethernet Address Format

Note that Figure 1-5 shows the location of the most significant byte and most significant bit in each byte. IEEE documentation lists Ethernet addresses with the most significant byte on the left. However, inside each byte, the leftmost bit is the least significant bit, and the rightmost bit is the most significant bit. Many documents refer to the bit order as canonical; other documents refer to it as little-endian. Regardless of the term, the bit order inside each byte is important for understanding the meaning of the two most significant bits in an Ethernet address:

  • The Individual/Group (I/G) bit

  • The Universal/Local (U/L) bit

Table 1-5 summarizes the meaning of each bit.

Table 1-5 I/G and U/L Bits




Binary 0 means the address is a unicast; Binary 1 means the address is a multicast or broadcast.


Binary 0 means the address is vendor assigned; Binary 1 means the address has been administratively assigned, overriding the vendor-assigned address.

The I/G bit signifies whether the address represents an individual device or a group of devices, and the U/L bit identifies locally configured addresses. For instance, the Ethernet multicast addresses used by IP multicast implementations always start with 0x01005E. Hex 01 (the first byte of the address) converts to binary 00000001, with the most significant bit being 1, confirming the use of the I/G bit.

Note - Often, when overriding the MAC address to use a local address, the device or device driver does not enforce the setting of the U/L bit to a value of 1.

Protocol Types and the 802.3 Length Field

Each of the three types of Ethernet header shown in Figure 1-4 has a field identifying the format of the Data field in the frame. Generically called a Type field, these fields allow the receiver of an Ethernet frame to know how to interpret the data in the received frame. For instance, a router might want to know whether the frame contains an IP packet, an IPX packet, and so on.

DIX and the revised IEEE framing use the Type field, also called the Protocol Type field. The originally-defined IEEE framing uses those same 2 bytes as a Length field. To distinguish the style of Ethernet header, the Ethernet Type field values begin at 1536, and the length of the Data field in an IEEE frame is limited to decimal 1500 or less. That way, an Ethernet NIC can easily determine whether the frame follows the DIX or original IEEE format.

The original IEEE frame used a 1-byte Protocol Type field (DSAP) for the 802.2 LLC standard type field. It also reserved the high-order 2 bits for other uses, similar to the I/G and U/L bits in MAC addresses. As a result, there were not enough possible combinations in the DSAP field for the needs of the market—so the IEEE had to define yet another type field, this one inside an additional IEEE SNAP header. Table 1-6 summarizes the meaning of the three main Type field options with Ethernet.

Table 1-6 Ethernet Type Fields

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