We started a TCP/IP introductory course at work today, and learned about the different classes of network addresses:

Class A addresses are from thru 127.x.x.x
Class B addresses are from thru 191.x.x.x
Class C addresses are from thru 223.x.x.x
Class D addresses are from thru 239.x.x.x
Class E addresses are from thru 255.x.x.x

I'm not clear on the possible subnet sizes for the different classes of networks. For example, what is the largest subnet mask possible for a Class C network? Is it, or could you also have and

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    Did they tell you there haven't been classes since the mid-1990s and that what you're learning is almost 20 years obsolete? – Michael Hampton Nov 1 '12 at 2:57
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    Please, inform your teacher than they are teaching a concept that nobody uses any more. This is shocking that they are teaching this in todays day and age. Yes there might be edge cases where you will need to know this, but... they're few and far between. – Mark Henderson Nov 1 '12 at 3:04

There are no classes, they were deprecated in 1994 (seriously, that was 18 years ago as of writing this). Your teacher should be fired for even mentioning them (outside a history class) as it will only confuse you when you learn how networks actually work.

Networks are subnetted using CIDR (and expressed in CIDR notation). While the old class system maps to particular CIDR subnets, it's a terrible concept. In short, try to forget what you've already learned and dive into How does IPv4 Subnetting Work?

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    Actually the current Cisco curriculum puts a LOT of emphasis on classes, which is bizarre. – Simon Sheehan Nov 1 '12 at 3:09
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    Unfortunately that is true, and the people who write those Cisco books are impressively out of touch with modern networks and networking. They also explicitly define "datagram" as both a Ethernet Payload and a User Payload in a IP/UDP packet. – Chris S Nov 1 '12 at 3:12
  • the course itself is a bit of a joke.. Especially the starter one. – Simon Sheehan Nov 1 '12 at 3:13

For a bit of perspective, classful network types are still used as a common terminology for internal and private (RFC1918) networks.

It's true that since BPG4, CIDR has made classful Internet boundaries meaningless, but when talking about interior networks and classful routing protocols, it's still useful to know the differences in the classes.

To answer your question, classful boundaries are fixed in size. The subnet masks for each are as follows:

CLASS A: (/8)
CLASS B: (/16)
CLASS C: (/24)
CLASS D: N/A (These are used for multicast traffic and are routed internally using PIM or DVMRP and do not correspond to traditional subnet masks)
CLASS E: N/A (There are experimental and/or reserved addresses)

A larger collection of classful networks is called a supernet and a sub-divided classful network is called a subnet. When you talk about the largest possible subnet mask, you are generally referring to the largest possible network portion and smallest usable host portion. For routing subnet purposes, the largest subnet mask is (/30). This is typically used for point-to-point links and transit networks that only need two hosts/gateways on a subnet.

There is no limit to the maximum size a supernet can be, up to a subnet mask of (/0), which would indicate that every address is local and not routed. Note that this is different than a default route of, which is the least specific route and routes all traffic not defined by a more specific route.

If you are looking for the largest possible subnet mask to define all Class A networks and so on, here is the list based upon the first octet:

CLASS A:   0 - 127 = (/1) = 128 /8 networks
CLASS B: 128 - 191 = (/2) =  64 /8 networks or 16,384 /16 networks
CLASS C: 192 - 223 = (/3) =  32 /8 networks or 2,097,152 /24 networks
CLASS D: 224 - 239 = (/4) =  16 /8 networks or 268,435,456 multicast addresses
CLASS E: 240 - 255 = (/5) =   8 /8 networks or ??? (I haven't a clue lol)

Hope that helps!!

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