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Ethernet Addressing

The IEEE defines the format and assignment of LAN addresses. To ensure a unique MAC address, the first half of the address identifies the manufacturer of the card. This code is called the organizationally unique identifier (OUI). Each manufacturer assigns a MAC address with its own OUI as the first half of the address. The second half of the address is assigned by the manufacturer and is never used on another card or network interface with the same OUI. Figure 28-5 shows the structure of a unicast Ethernet address.

Figure 28-5

Figure 28-5 Structure of Unicast Ethernet Address

Ethernet also has group addresses, which identify more than one NIC or network interface. The IEEE defines two general categories of group addresses for Ethernet:

  • Broadcast addresses: The broadcast address implies that all devices on the LAN should process the frame and has a value of FFFF.FFFF.FFFF.
  • Multicast addresses: Multicast addresses are used to allow a subset of devices on a LAN to communicate. When IP multicasts over an Ethernet, the multicast MAC addresses used by IP follow this format: 0100.5exx.xxxx, where any value can be used in the last half of the address.
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