A network-to-network interface, or “NNI” for short, refers to a physical interface that connects two or more networks. It also defines how the connected networks should signal or communicate with each other and how they are managed.

NNIs are typically used in telecommunications and enable Signaling System 7 (SS7), Internet Protocol (IP), and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network interconnection. SS7 defines and manages network connections in the global Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). IP, meanwhile, defines and manages Internet connections. Finally, ATM efficiently and flexibly organizes information into cells for transmission.

You can thus think of an NNI as a mediator that facilitates communication between two or more parties.

Read More about a Network-to-Network Interface

An NNI is also known as a “network node interface.” But how, exactly, does an NNI work?

What Are the Components of a Network-to-Network Interface?

The same components you would need to enable basic computer networking are required to configure an NNI. We enumerated and discussed each in greater detail below.

1. Servers

Servers are computers that store shared files, programs, and the network operating system (OS). They give all network users access to shared resources. Several kinds of servers exist, and each performs multiple functions. Examples include file, print, mail, communication, database, fax, and web servers. Without servers, users can’t share files and data with others.

2. Clients

Clients are computers that let users access and use shared network resources. Think of them as network customers who request and receive services from servers. Their use, however, is not limited to network applications.

3. Transmission Media

Transmission media refer to the facilities that connect all the computers in a network. Examples include twisted-pair wires, coaxial cables, and optical fiber cables. They are thus sometimes called “transmission medium channels,” “transmission links,” or “transmission lines.”

4. Shared Data

Shared data refers to the information file servers provide to clients. These include data files, printer access programs, and emails.

5. Shared Printers and Other Peripherals

Shared printers and peripherals refer to hardware resources network users can access and use. These resources include data files, printers, software, or other items clients need to perform tasks.

6. Network Interface Cards

Network interface cards (NICs) are special expansion cards all computers meant to be connected to a network require. NICs prepare or format and send data; receive information; and control the data flow between a computer and a network. The sender’s NIC passes data frames onto the physical layer to transmit information to the physical link. The receiver’s NIC, on the other hand, processes the bits received from the physical layer to process the message’s content.

7. Local OS

A local OS lets computers access files, print via local printers, and use one or more built-in disks or drives. Examples include MS-DOS, Unix, Linux, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows XP.

8. Network OS

A network OS serves the same purpose as a local OS on a standalone computer. It allows computers to communicate over a network.

9. Hub

A hub splits a network connection into multiple computers. Think of it as a distribution center. When a computer requests information from a network or another computer, the request gets sent to the hub through a cable. The hub then transmits the request to the entire network. The computers should then figure out if they should fulfill the request. Once the intended recipient is found, that computer sends the response to the hub, which transmits that to the request sender.

10. Switch

A switch is a telecommunication device that can be likened to a hub. Unlike the latter, though, it has more advanced features. It uses physical device addresses seen in incoming messages to deliver them to the correct destinations or ports.

Unlike hubs, switches don’t need to broadcast requests to the entire network. Instead, it already knows which computer the recipient is. In short, switches connect the source and destination directly, increasing the network transmission speed.

11. Router

A router connects a local area network (LAN) to the Internet. All the computers in the LAN, therefore, use the same router to access the Web. Two types of routers exist—wired and wireless.

12. LAN Cables

A LAN cable, also known as a “data cable” or an “Ethernet cable,” is a wire that connects a device to the Internet or other devices like computers and printers in a network.

The only difference between creating a basic network and connecting two or more networks through an NNI is that you need more than one of each component above. Take a look at how a basic network compares to NNI-connected networks below.

basic network
NNI-connected networks

NNIs are a must in enabling international telephony. Without them, we can’t communicate with people outside our homes, communities, or countries.

Key Takeaways

  • A network-to-network interface (NNI) is a physical interface that connects two or more networks.
  • An NNI defines how two or more connected networks should signal or communicate with each other and how they are managed.
  • The same components used in basic networking are required when interconnecting two or more networks via NNIs.