What is Subnet Mask?
An IP address has two components, the network address and the host address. A subnet mask separates the IP address into the network and host addresses (<network><host>). Subnetting further divides the host part of an IP address into a subnet and host address (<network><subnet><host>). It is called a subnet mask because it is used to identify network address of an IP address by perfoming bitwise AND operation on the netmask.
A Subnet mask is a 32-bit number that masks an IP address, and divides the IP address into network address and host address. Subnet Mask is made by setting network bits to all "1"s and setting host bits to all "0"s. Within a given network, two host addresses are reserved for special purpose. The "0" address is assigned a network address and "255" is assigned to a broadcast address, and they cannot be assigned to a host.