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Classification by Network layer

Classification by Network layer

Computer networks may be classified according to the network layer at which they operate according to some basic reference models that are considered to be standards in the industry such as the seven layer OSI reference model and the five layer TCP/IP model.
The Open Systems Interconnection Basic Reference Model (OSI Reference Model or OSI Model for short) is a layered, abstract description for communications and computer network protocol design, developed as part of the Open Systems Interconnection initiative.
Description of OSI layers
Layer 7: Application layer

OSI Model

Data unit






Network process to application


Data representation and encryption


Interhost communication



End-to-end connections and reliability (TCP)




Path determination and logical addressing (IP)


Data link

Physical addressing (MAC & LLC)



Media, signal and binary transmission

The Application layer provides a means for the user to access information on the network through an application.
This layer is the main interface for the user(s) to interact with the application and therefore the network.
Some examples of application layer protocols include Telnet, applications which use File Transfer Protocol (FTP), applications which use Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and applications which use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
Applications built to use a protocol, such as FTP, should not be confused with the protocols themselves, which often reside at the session layer.
Layer 6: Presentation layer
The Presentation layer transforms data to provide a standard interface for the Application layer.
MIME encoding, data compression, data encryption and similar manipulation of the presentation is done at this layer to present the data as a service or protocol developer sees fit.
Examples: converting an EBCDIC-coded text file to an ASCII-coded file, or serializing objects and other data structures into and out of, e.g., XML.
Layer 5: Session layer
The Session layer controls the dialogues/connections (sessions) between computers
It establishes, manages and terminates the connections between the local and remote application.
It provides for either full-duplex or half-duplex operation, and establishes checkpointing, adjournment, termination, and restart procedures.
The OSI model made this layer responsible for “graceful close” of sessions, which is a property of TCP, and also for session checkpointing and recovery, which is not usually used in the Internet protocols suite.
Layer 4: Transport layer
The Transport layer provides transparent transfer of data between end users, thus relieving the upper layers from any concern while providing reliable data transfer.
The transport layer controls the reliability of a given link through flow control, segmentation/desegmentation, and error control.
Some protocols are state and connection oriented. This means that the transport layer can keep track of the packets and retransmit those that fail.
The best known example of a layer 4 protocol is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).
The transport layer is the layer that converts messages into TCP segments or User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP), etc. packets.
Perhaps an easy way to visualize the Transport Layer is to compare it with a Post Office, which deals with the dispatching and classification of mail and parcels sent.
Layer 3: Network layer
The Network layer provides the functional and procedural means of transferring variable length data sequences from a source to a destination via one or more networks while maintaining the quality of service requested by the Transport layer.
The Network layer performs network routing functions, and might also perform segmentation/desegmentation, and report delivery errors.
Routers operate at this layer—sending data throughout the extended network and making the Internet possible (also existing at layer 3 (or IP) are routers).
This is a logical addressing scheme – values are chosen by the network engineer.
The addressing scheme is hierarchical. The best known example of a layer 3 protocol is the Internet Protocol (IP).
Perhaps it’s easier to visualize this layer as the actual Air Mail or Consolidated Carrier that transfers the mail from Point A to Point B.
Layer 2: Data link layer
The Data Link layer provides the functional and procedural means to transfer data between network entities and to detect and possibly correct errors that may occur in the Physical layer.
. The best known example of this is Ethernet. Other examples of data link protocols are HDLC and ADCCP for point-to-point or packet-switched networks and Aloha for local area networks.
On IEEE 802 local area networks, and some non-IEEE 802 networks such as FDDI, this layer may be split into a Media Access Control (MAC) layer and the IEEE 802.2 Logical Link Control (LLC) layer.
It arranges bits from physical layer into logical chunks of data, known as frames.
This is the layer at which the bridges and switches operate.
Connectivity is provided only among locally attached network nodes forming layer 2 domains for unicast or broadcast forwarding.
Other protocols may be imposed on the data frames to create tunnels and logically separated layer 2 forwarding domain.
Layer 1: Physical layer
The Physical layer defines all the electrical and physical specifications for devices. This includes the layout of pins, voltages, and cable specifications.
Hubs, repeaters, network adapters and Host Bus Adapters (HBAs used in Storage Area Networks) are physical-layer devices.
The major functions and services performed by the physical layer are:
• Establishment and termination of a connection to a communications medium.
• Participation in the process whereby the communication resources are effectively shared among multiple users. For example, contention resolution and flow control.
• Modulation, or conversion between the representation of digital data in user equipment and the corresponding signals transmitted over a communications channel. These are signals operating over the physical cabling (such as copper and fiber optic) or over a radio link.
Parallel SCSI buses operate in this layer. Various physical-layer Ethernet standards are also in this layer; Ethernet incorporates both this layer and the data-link layer.
The same applies to other local-area networks, such as Token ring, FDDI, and IEEE 802.11, as well as personal area networks such as Bluetooth and IEEE 802.15.4.
Internet protocol
The Internet protocol suite is the set of communications protocols that implements the protocol stack on which the Internet and many commercial networks run.
It is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite, which is named after the two most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which were also the first two networking protocols defined.
A review of TCP/IP is given under that heading. Note that todays TCP/IP networking represents a synthesis of two developments that began in the 1970’s, namely LAN’s (Local Area Networks) and the Internet, that revolutionalised computing.
The Internet protocol suite — like many protocol suites — can be viewed as a set of layers.
Each layer solves a set of problems involving the transmission of data, and provides a well-defined service to the upper layer protocols based on using services from some lower layers.
Upper layers are logically closer to the user and deal with more abstract data, relying on lower layer protocols to translate data into forms that can eventually be physically transmitted.
The original TCP/IP reference model consisted of four layers, but has evolved into a five-layer model.