Internet Protocol Suite - Layers in The Internet Protocol Suite - OSI and TCP/IP Layering Differences

OSI and TCP/IP Layering Differences

The three top layers in the OSI model—the application layer, the presentation layer and the session layer—are not distinguished separately in the TCP/IP model where it is just the application layer. While some pure OSI protocol applications, such as X.400, also combined them, there is no requirement that a TCP/IP protocol stack must impose monolithic architecture above the transport layer. For example, the NFS application protocol runs over the eXternal Data Representation (XDR) presentation protocol, which, in turn, runs over a protocol called Remote Procedure Call (RPC). RPC provides reliable record transmission, so it can run safely over the best-effort UDP transport.

Different authors have interpreted the RFCs differently, about whether the link layer (and the TCP/IP model) covers OSI model layer 1 (physical layer) issues, or if a hardware layer is assumed below the link layer.

Several authors have attempted to incorporate the OSI model's layers 1 and 2 into the TCP/IP model, since these are commonly referred to in modern standards (for example, by IEEE and ITU). This often results in a model with five layers, where the link layer or network access layer is split into the OSI model's layers 1 and 2.

The session layer roughly corresponds to the Telnet virtual terminal functionality, which is part of text based protocols such as the HTTP and SMTP TCP/IP model application layer protocols. It also corresponds to TCP and UDP port numbering, which is considered as part of the transport layer in the TCP/IP model. Some functions that would have been performed by an OSI presentation layer are realized at the Internet application layer using the MIME standard, which is used in application layer protocols such as HTTP and SMTP.

The IETF protocol development effort is not concerned with strict layering. Some of its protocols may not fit cleanly into the OSI model, although RFCs sometimes refer to it and often use the old OSI layer numbers. The IETF has repeatedly stated that Internet protocol and architecture development is not intended to be OSI-compliant. RFC 3439, addressing Internet architecture, contains a section entitled: "Layering Considered Harmful".

Conflicts are apparent also in the original OSI model, ISO 7498, when not considering the annexes to this model (e.g., ISO 7498/4 Management Framework), or the ISO 8648 Internal Organization of the Network layer (IONL). When the IONL and Management Framework documents are considered, the ICMP and IGMP are neatly defined as layer management protocols for the network layer. In like manner, the IONL provides a structure for "subnetwork dependent convergence facilities" such as ARP and RARP.

IETF protocols can be encapsulated recursively, as demonstrated by tunneling protocols such as Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE). GRE uses the same mechanism that OSI uses for tunneling at the network layer.

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