The TCP/IP protocol suite has become a staple of today’s international society and global economy. Continually evolving standards provide a wide and flexible foundation on which an entire infrastructure of applications are built. Through these we can seek entertainment, conduct business, make financial transactions, deliver services, and much, much more.
However, because TCP/IP continues to develop and grow in order to meet the changing needs of our communities, it might sometimes be hard to keep track of new functionality or identify new possibilities. For this reason, the TCP/IP Tutorial and Technical Overview provides not only an introduction to the TCP/IP protocol suite, but also serves as a reference for advanced users seeking to keep their TCP/IP skills aligned with current standards. It is our hope that both the novice and the expert will find useful information in this publication.
The Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite has become the industry-standard method of interconnecting hosts, networks, and the Internet. As such, it is seen as the engine behind the Internet and networks worldwide.
Although TCP/IP supports a host of applications, both standard and nonstandard, these applications could not exist without the foundation of a set of core protocols. Additionally, in order to understand the capability of TCP/IP applications, an understanding of these core protocols must be realized.
The main design goal of TCP/IP was to build an interconnection of networks, referred to as an internetwork, or internet, that provided universal communication services over heterogeneous physical networks. The clear benefit of such an internetwork is the enabling of communication between hosts on different networks, perhaps separated by a large geographical area.
The words internetwork and internet are simply a contraction of the phrase interconnected network. However, when written with a capital “I”, the Internet refers to the worldwide set of interconnected networks. Therefore, the Internet is an internet, but the reverse does not apply. The Internet is sometimes called the connected Internet.
In most cases, networks are limited in size by the number of users that can belong to the network, by the maximum geographical distance that the network can span, or by the applicability of the network to certain environments. For example, an Ethernet network is inherently limited in terms of geographical size. Therefore, the ability to interconnect a large number of networks in some hierarchical and organized fashion enables the communication of any two hosts belonging to this internetwork.
Another important aspect of TCP/IP internetworking is the creation of a standardized abstraction of the communication mechanisms provided by each type of network. Each physical network has its own technology-dependent communication interface, in the form of a programming interface that provides basic communication functions (primitives). TCP/IP provides communication services that run between the programming interface of a physical network and user applications. It enables a common interface for these applications, independent of the underlying physical network. The architecture of the physical network is therefore hidden from the user and from the developer of the application. The application need only code to the standardized communication abstraction to be able to function under any type of physical network and operating platform.
By Lydia Parziale, David T. Britt, Chuck Davis
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