What Is a Supernet and How Does It Work?

UTC by Ibukun Ogundare · 6 min read
What Is a Supernet and How Does It Work?
Photo: Depositphotos

The guide below discusses a supernet that combines networks or subnets into one network, creating a unified ecosystem that enables cross-communication and interoperability among multiple networks.

Same as the world is overpopulated with billions of inhabitants, the internet also has its population. But while the world is filled with human beings, the internet is filled with networks. And as different things bring people together to become one, networks can also be put together to become a single entity.

Before the introduction of a supernet, the distribution of IP addresses was in blocks according to the classes that determined how much of each address was attributed to an identifier. While a class A address allows just 127 network blocks, and the network identifier gives room for each network block to have more than 16 million hosts. In addition, class B supports up to 63,534 hosts and 15,384 networks, while class C permits 254 hosts and over two million networks.

Supernet addresses the challenges of the “classful” addressing system. While many institutions desired more than 254 hosts from a class C network block, the over 65,000 addresses in the class B block were too much for them. Hence, some companies resorted to using part of the 65,534 addresses in the Class B blocks, which caused a shortage of Class B addresses. With the emergence of new websites, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) endorsed the concept of supernet in 1993.

What Is a Supernet?

Supernet combines networks or subnets into one network, creating a unified ecosystem that enables cross-communication and interoperability among multiple networks. Supernet eradicates the idea of centralized intermediaries as it provides a decentralized platform for different blockchain platforms to interact. With a supernet, other networks with individual Internet gateways are reformed to have a single access point to the internet via a single address pool.

While each network has its own router, a master router coordinates all the routers on the system. It is just a group of subnetworks unified as a single entity.

A supernet’s success depends on the various technologies in its implementation. These technologies enable the integration of multiple blockchains, thereby facilitating communication and interactions among them. They include cross-chain communication protocols, atomic cross-chain trade, and sidechains.

Here are the features of the tools used in implementing supernets.

  • Cross-chain communication. Examples of cross-chain communication protocols are Polkadot and Cosmos, employed for communication and interactions across different blockchain networks. With these protocols, assets and information are easily communicated on the networks.
  • Atomic cross-chain trade or atomic swaps facilitates the trading of crypto assets without the interference of centralized exchanges.
  • Supernet is another technology employed in a supernet. This is a separate blockchain from the main one, and the movement of assets between the two is permitted. Assets can easily be transported between the main blockchain and the additional blockchain, which is the sidechain.

How Does Supernet Function?

Supernet saves storage space in the routing table by aggregating routes to various smaller networks. Supernet functions by implementing multiple protocols and technologies like cross-chain communication protocols, atomic swaps, and sidechains for communication and interaction.

Supernetting vs Subnetting

Supernetting is the process of uniting networks into a whole, referred to as a supernet, supernetwork, or metanet. On the other hand, subnetting is the procedure of dividing a single network into smaller subnetworks. In supernetting, router summarization takes place, meaning that routes to different networks with the same network prefixes are united into a single routing entry directed to a supernetwork.

Additionally, network addresses’ bits are increased in subnetting. On the other hand, the host address’ bit increases in supernetting.

Creating a Supernet

Before creating a supernet, it is advisable to bear in mind that there may be a need for more routers to boost the added load. External tools like SolarWinds IP Address Management Software or a supernet calculator may be useful. Other requirements include CIDR value, network ID, the broadcast ID of each router, subnet mask, and block size.

In creating a supernet, it is imperative to ensure that the networks are contiguous, or sequential. Also, the proposed networks should be of the same sizes and in the power of two. At the same time, the networks that are being merged must be able to divide the first network ID. Using a supernet calculator facilitates the process, leaving a minimal chance for error. Additionally, the value of the non-common octet in the first IP block is zero or a multiple of the number of networks to be aggregated. The route can be converted into a CIRD notion. The step-by-step process for creating a supernet is as follows:

  • Identifying networks to be merged. The networks must have similar protocols and objectives.
  • Deploying atomic swaps to facilitate asset transfer among blockchains.
  • Creating cross-chain communications protocols for communication and interactions among blockchains.
  • Developing sidechains.
  • With the infrastructure in place, the testing phase should kick in before deploying the supernetwork. This will help identify any errors or bugs.

Advantages and Limitations

There are many benefits associated with a supernet, and they include the following:

  • Interoperability enables users to communicate, trade, and manage assets on multiple blockchains. Atomic cross-chain trade and side chains help seamless interoperability.
  • As a supernet enables interoperability and cross-communication amid diverse blockchain networks, it increases the transaction speed and communications among the network.
  • It takes power away from centralized intermediaries and supports decentralized apps or platforms that are able to take on multiple blockchain networks.
  • With the help of cross-chain, chains can easily connect and conduct transactions. Hence, contributing to increased value for users.
  • Supernetting improves the effectiveness of using IP addresses and helps routers manage network traffic easily as the process reduces the number of routes in the routing table.
  • Supernetting contributes to more effective use of IP addresses. Hence, the combination of several networks into a supernet can result in the conservation of IP addresses, thereby preventing them from being exhausted.
  • Efficient management. Since multiple networks have been combined into a single supernet, management, and configuration becomes easier.
  • Enhanced security is also promised as there are fewer networks to manage. This means that there are slimmer chances of hackers attacking the supernet.
  • Supernetting also helps to reduce network traffic.

As much as supernetting is an advancement in technology and brings some kind of organization to the network ecosystem, there are still some shortcomings that we can regard as limitations to this seamless development. They are the following:

  • Complexity. Due to the technical process of supernetting, it must be handled by knowledgeable talents. Not just knowledgeable in blockchain networks, handlers must have a solid understanding of the specialized software and hardware required in supernetting.
  • Cost. Another major limiting factor for subnetting is money. It requires more expenses due to software, hardware, and more.
  • Security threats: As earlier said, that expertise is needed for supernetting.This is because a minor error can result in great security problems. Already, merging diverse networks into a supernet exposes the single supernet to security risks.
  • Compatibility. Not all network devices or software are CIDR compatible. Hence, compatibility challenges may arise with such networks during supernetting.

Bottom Line

Supernet eradicates the idea of centralized intermediaries as it provides a decentralized platform for different blockchain platforms to interact. It contributes to less traffic on the network over the internet, but as much as a supernet is an answer to so many hitches, it also has its shortcomings.



What is a supernet?

Supernet aggregates IP networks to form a larger network using classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) notation. A supernet joins multiple autonomous networks to become one. 

How does a supernet work?

Supernet improves scalability and efficiency by combining multiple smaller networks into a single and larger one. The process supports contiguous networks and addresses routing issues.

How to identify a supernet address?

To identify a supernet address, the first step is to determine the specific network to be unified as a whole to create a supernet. After this, the new network mask is determined, and the supernet address is created. The largest network mask must be found to include the two networks. The supernet can then be used instead of individual networks. At the same time, all the IP addresses will be diverted to the correct destination network.

How to create a supernet?

To create a supernet, one needs to identify the networks that would be unified, ensuring that they are of the same protocols. Then, atomic swaps and cross-chain communication protocols are developed alongside sidechains to provide privacy, scalability, and support for specific assets. 

What are the benefits offered by a supernet?

The benefits offered by a supernet include efficiency in the use of IP addresses, seamless network management, enhanced security, interoperability, scalability, and so on.

What are the challenges of a supernet?

A major challenge of a supernet is its complexity. Other challenges of a supernet are exposure to security risks, compatibility errors, limited scalability, etc.