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A Mac address, before Media Access Control address, serves as a distinctive identifier allocated to a network interface controller (NIC) for communication within a network segment. This address is prevalent across various IEEE 802 networking technologies such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Within the OSI network model, MAC addresses are integral to the medium access control protocol within the data link layer.
Typically depicted as six groups of two hexadecimal digits, Mac addresses can be separated by hyphens, colons, or left without a separator. These addresses are primarily assigned by device manufacturers and are commonly referred to as hardware addresses, physical addresses, or Burned-In Addresses (BIAs).
Each Mac address is unique to a device and is used as a network address during communication within a network segment. Unlike IP addresses, which can change dynamically, Mac addresses are usually fixed and stored in hardware, often in a device’s read-only memory or through firmware mechanisms.
The structure of Mac addresses adheres to standards governed by the Organization of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), operating under two numbering spaces: EUI-48 (formerly known as MAC-48) and EUI-64. EUI-48 provides a pool of approximately 281 trillion possible addresses, managed by the IEEE to ensure unique identification.
Devices with multiple network interfaces, such as routers and multilayer switches, require distinct Mac addresses for each NIC within the same network. However, NICs connected to different networks might share the same MAC address.
The IEEE manages Mac address allocation, originally stemming from the Xerox Network Systems Ethernet addressing scheme. It encourages the use of EUI-64 for non-Ethernet applications due to its increased availability.
An Individual Address Block (IAB) is an inactive registry replaced by the MA-S (previously known as OUI-36) registry as of January 1, 2014. IABs were used for assigning up to 4096 individual devices. The IEEE Registration Authority, responsible for managing Mac addresses, oversees these allocations.
Additionally, there are other registries like MA-S (MAC Address Block Small) and MA-M (MAC Address Block Medium), each with distinct roles in assigning EUI-48 and EUI-64 identifiers and managing OUIs (Organizationally Unique Identifiers) within the IEEE framework.
Mac address, serving as a hardware-level identifier, plays a critical role in allowing communication and ensuring the unique identification of devices within a network segment, operating under IEEE standards and allocation guidelines set for network devices and interfaces.
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