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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Overview Of The Transport Layer

The transport layer is the key to understanding layered protocols. It provides various services, the most important of which is an end-to-end, reliable, connection-oriented byte stream from sender to receiver. It is accessed through service primitives that permit the establishment, use and release of connection.
Transport protocols must be able to do connection management over unreliable networks. Connection establishment is complicated by the existence of delayed duplicate packets that can reappear at inopportune moments. To deal with them, three-way handshakes are needed to establish connections. Releasing a connection is easier than establishing one, but is still far from trivial due to the two-army problem.
Even when the network layer is completely reliable, the transport layer has plenty of work to do. It must handle all the service primitives, manage connections and timers, and allocate and utilize credits.
The main Internet transport protocol is TCP. It uses a 20-byte header on all segments. Segments can be fragmented by routers within the Internet, so hosts must be prepared to do reassembly. A great deal of work has gone into optimizing TCP performance, using algorithms from Nagle, Clark, Jacobson, Karn and others.
ATM has four protocols in the AAL layer. All of them break messages into cells at the source and reassemble the cells into messages at the destination. The CS and SAR sublayers add their own headers and trailers in various ways, leaving from 44 to 48 bytes of cell payload.
Network performance is typically dominated by protocol and TPDU processing overhead, and the situation gets worse at higher speeds. Protocols should be designed to minimize the number of TPDUs, context switches, and times each TPDU is copied. For gigabit networks, simple protocols using rate, rather than credit, flow control are called for.

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