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TCP/IP Overview and History
(Page 3 of 3)
Important Factors in the Success of TCP/IP
TCP/IP was at one time just one
of many different sets of protocols that could be used to provide
network-layer and transport-layer functionality. Today there are still
other options for internetworking protocol suites, but TCP/IP is the
universally-accepted world-wide standard. Its growth in popularity has
been due to a number of important factors. Some of these are historical,
such as the fact that it is tied to the Internet as described above,
while others are related to the characteristics of the protocol suite
itself. Chief among these are the following:
- Integrated Addressing System: TCP/IP includes
within it (as part of the Internet
Protocol, primarily) a system for
identifying and addressing devices on
both small and large networks. The addressing system is designed to
allow devices to be addressed regardless of the lower-level details
of how each constituent network is constructed. Over time, the mechanisms
for addressing in TCP/IP have improved, to meet the needs of growing
networks, especially the Internet. The addressing system also includes
administration capability for the Internet,
to ensure that each device has a unique address.
- Design For Routing: Unlike some network-layer
protocols, TCP/IP is specifically designed to facilitate
the routing of information over a network
of arbitrary complexity. In fact, TCP/IP is conceptually concerned more
with the connection of networks, than with the connection of devices.
TCP/IP routers enable data to be delivered between devices on different
networks by moving it one step at a time from one network to the next.
A number of support
protocols are also included in TCP/IP
to allow routers to exchange critical information and manage the efficient
flow of information from one network to another.
- Underlying Network Independence: TCP/IP
operates primarily at layers three and above, and includes provisions
to allow it to function on almost any lower-layer technology, including
LANs, wireless LANs and WANs of various sorts. This flexibility means
that one can mix and match a variety of different underlying networks
and connect them all using TCP/IP.
- Scalability: One of the most amazing characteristics
of TCP/IP is how scalable its protocols have proven to be. Over the
decades it has proven its mettle as the Internet has grown from a small
network with just a few machines to a huge internetwork with millions
of hosts. While some changes have been required periodically to support
this growth, these changes have taken place as part of the TCP/IP development
process, and the core of TCP/IP is basically the same as it was 25 years
- Open Standards and Development Process:
The TCP/IP standards are not proprietary, but open
standards freely available to the public.
Furthermore, the process used to develop TCP/IP standards is also completely
open. TCP/IP standards and protocols are developed and modified using
the unique, democratic RFC
process, with all interested parties invited
to participate. This ensures that anyone with an interest in the TCP/IP
protocols is given a chance to provide input into their development,
and also ensures the world-wide acceptance of the protocol suite.
- Universality: Everyone uses TCP/IP because
everyone uses it!
This last point is, perhaps ironically,
arguably the most important. Not only is TCP/IP the underlying
language of the Internet, it is also used in most private networks
today. Even former competitors to TCP/IP such as NetWare
now use TCP/IP to carry traffic. The Internet continues to grow, and
so do the capabilities and functions of TCP/IP. Preparation for the
future continues, with the move to the
new IP version 6 protocol in its early
stages. It is likely that TCP/IP will remain a big part of internetworking
for the foreseeable future.
Key Concept: While TCP/IP is not the only internetworking protocol suite, it is definitely the most important one. Its unparallaled success is due to a wide variety of factors. These include its technical features, such as its routing-friendly design and scalability, its historical role as the protocol suite of the Internet, and its open standards and development process, which reduce barriers to acceptance of TCP/IP protocols.
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The TCP/IP Guide (http://www.TCPIPGuide.com)
Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
© Copyright 2001-2005 Charles M. Kozierok. All Rights Reserved.
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