Aug 18, 2011

Reasons for Using Layered Protocols

Layered protocols are specifically encountered in networking technology. The two main reasons for this are abstraction and specialization. A protocol creates a neutral standard from which rival companies can create compatible programs. The field requires so many protocols that they need to be organized and directed to those specialists whose work each protocol impacts. Using layered protocols, a software house can create a network program knowing that if it follows the guidelines of one layer, the services of lower layers will be provided by other companies. This enables them to specialize. Abstraction is the state of assuming lower services will be provided by another protocol.
  1. Multi-Disciplined Technology

    • Networking is a wide-ranging field that requires specialized skills from a variety of other fields, including electricians, programmers, electronics manufacturers, mathematicians and designers. People from such varying skill sets have little in common, and layering enables each group of specialists to assume that others are doing their part. Each layer provides services to the layer above and, in turn, expects services from the layer below. This is the process called abstraction, which is the fundamental premise of layering. Via abstraction the application programmer, for example, can follow protocols at his level, assuming that the network will exist; similarly the electrician follows her protocols and relies on others to provide a purpose for the network.

    Educational Benefits

    • The reason for specialization in networking technology starts at the university with the layered protocol "stack." Networking protocols have been represented in a stack since the beginning of network engineering and the representation of protocols in a stack with layers reinforces the division of specialization from the beginning; without this teaching aid the topic would be potentially overwhelming and unmanageable. Network specialists are educated into their area of expertise. After gaining a general overview of the entire protocol stack, specialists focus coursework on one specific layer to let them focus on the physical protocols of networks or for security specialists to understand all the details of transport protocols, to cite a couple examples.


    • The first protocols stack representing layers of specialization derives from the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, which is better known as TCP/IP. The numerous functions of TCP/IP were represented as layers to help better explain all the tasks that needed to be performed to get data from one computer to another. The TCP/IP protocol was first written in 1974 and began a number of conventions about the representation of protocol stacks.


    • It is standard practice to grade protocol layers by their proximity to humans or their relation to electronics with the lowest layer in protocol stacks in always the most technical and the highest layer always being the most accessible to humans. All intermediate layers gradually progress from one extreme to the other.


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