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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  Name Systems and TCP/IP Name Registration and Name Resolution
           9  Name System Issues, Concepts and Techniques

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Name System Overview and Motivation
(Page 1 of 3)

In the introduction to this section on name systems I mentioned one of several important differences between humans and computers: how we prefer to deal with information. Computers work with numbers, while very few of us humans like to do so. This distinction becomes particularly important when we look at how identifiers or addresses are assigned to network devices.

Symbolic Names for Addressing

To a computer, there is no problem with simply assigning a number to each device on the network and using those numbers to move information around. Your computer would be perfectly happy if you assigned a number like 341,481,178,295 to it and all the other machines on your network, and then issued commands such as “send this file to machine 56,712,489,901”. However, most humans don't want to use a network in this manner. These long cryptic numbers don't mean anything to them. They want to tell their machine “send this file to Joe's computer”; “print this on the color laser in the Sales department”, or “check CNN’s Web site to see what the latest headlines are”.

It is this disconnect that led to the development of name systems. These technologies allow computers on a network to be given both a conventional numeric address and also a more “user-friendly” human-readable name. This name is comprised of letters, numbers and other special symbols, and is sometimes called a symbolic name; it can be used as an alternative form of addressing for devices. The name system takes care of the functions necessary to manage this system, including ensuring that names are unique, translating from names to numbers, and managing the list of names and numbers.


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