Objective 4.1: The OSI Model
|Data||7. Application||Network process to application|
|6. Presentation||Data representation and encryption|
|5. Session||Interhost communication|
|Segment||4. Transport||End-to-end connections and reliability|
|Packet||3. Network||Path determination and logical addressing|
|Frame||2. Data Link||Physical addressing|
|Bit||1. Physical||Media, signal and binary transmission|
Objective 4.1: Explain the function of each layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model
The Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model (OSI Reference Model or OSI Model) is an abstract description for layered communications and computer network protocol design. In its most basic form, it divides network architecture into seven layers which, from top to bottom, are the Application, Presentation, Session, Transport, Network, Data Link, and Physical Layers. It is therefore often referred to as the OSI Seven Layer Model.
A layer is a collection of conceptually similar functions that provide services to the layer above it and receives service from the layer below it. For example, a layer that provides error-free communications across a network provides the path needed by applications above it, while it calls the next lower layer to send and receive packets that make up the contents of the path.
Reference Appendix A: Memory Aids to assist in the recall of the layers in the correct order.
The application layer is the OSI layer closest to the end user, which means that both the OSI application layer and the user interact directly with the software application. This layer interacts with software applications that implement a communicating component. Application layer functions typically include identifying communication partners, determining resource availability, and synchronizing communication. When identifying communication partners, the application layer determines the identity and availability of communication partners for an application with data to transmit. When determining resource availability, the application layer must decide whether sufficient network resources for the requested communication exist. In synchronizing communication, all communication between applications requires cooperation that is managed by the application layer.
The presentation layer establishes context between application-layer entities, in which the higher-layer entities may use different syntax and semantics if the presentation service provides a mapping between them. If a mapping is available, presentation service data units are encapsulated into session protocol data units, and passed down the stack.
This layer provides independence from data representation (e.g., encryption) by translating between application and network formats. The presentation layer transforms data into the form that the application accepts. This layer formats and encrypts data to be sent across a network. It is sometimes called the syntax layer.
The original presentation structure used the basic encoding rules of Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1), with capabilities such as converting an EBCDIC-coded text file to an ASCII-coded file, or serialization of objects and other data structures from and to XML.
The session layer controls the dialogues (connections) between computers. It establishes, manages and terminates the connections between the local and remote application. It provides for full-duplex, half-duplex, or simplex operation, and establishes checkpointing, adjournment, termination, and restart procedures. The OSI model made this layer responsible for graceful close of sessions, which is a property of the Transmission Control Protocol, and also for session checkpointing and recovery, which is not usually used in the Internet Protocol Suite. The session layer is commonly implemented explicitly in application environments that use remote procedure calls.
The transport layer provides transparent transfer of data between end users, providing reliable data transfer services to the upper layers. The transport layer controls the reliability of a given link through flow control, segmentation/desegmentation, and error control. Some protocols are state- and connection-oriented. This means that the transport layer can keep track of the segments and retransmit those that fail. The transport layer also provides the acknowledgement of the successful data transmission and sends the next data if no errors occurred.
OSI defines five classes of connection-mode transport protocols ranging from class 0 (which is also known as TP0 and provides the least features) to class 4 (TP4, designed for less reliable networks, similar to the Internet). Class 0 contains no error recovery, and was designed for use on network layers that provide error-free connections. Class 4 is closest to TCP, although TCP contains functions, such as the graceful close, which OSI assigns to the session layer. Also, all OSI TP connection-mode protocol classes provide expedited data and preservation of record boundaries. Detailed characteristics of TP0-4 classes are shown in the following table:
|Connection oriented network||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Concatenation and separation||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Segmentation and reassembly||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Reinitiate connection (if an excessive number of Protocol data unit PDUs are unacknowledged)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Multiplexing and demultiplexing over a single virtual circuit||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Explicit flow control||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Retransmission on timeout||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Reliable Transport Service||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
Perhaps an easy way to visualize the transport layer is to compare it with a Post Office, which deals with the dispatch and classification of mail and parcels sent. Do remember, however, that a post office manages the outer envelope of mail. Higher layers may have the equivalent of double envelopes, such as cryptographic presentation services that can be read by the addressee only. Roughly speaking, tunneling protocols operate at the transport layer, such as carrying non-IP protocols such as IBM's IBM Systems Network Architecture|SNA or Novell's Internetwork Packet Exchange|IPX over an IP network, or end-to-end encryption with IPsec. While Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) might seem to be a network-layer protocol, if the encapsulation of the payload takes place only at endpoint, GRE becomes closer to a transport protocol that uses IP headers but contains complete frames or packets to deliver to an endpoint. layer 2 Tunneling Protocol|L2TP carries Point-to-Point Protocol|PPP frames inside transport packet.
Although not developed under the OSI Reference Model and not strictly conforming to the OSI definition of the transport layer, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) of the Internet Protocol Suite are commonly categorized as layer-4 protocols within OSI.
The network layer provides the functional and procedural means of transferring variable length data sequences from a source host on one network to a destination host on a different network, while maintaining the quality of service requested by the transport layer (in contrast to the data link layer which connects hosts within the same network). The network layer performs network routing functions, and might also perform fragmentation and reassembly, and report delivery errors. Routers operate at this layer, sending data throughout the extended network and making the Internet possible. This is a logical addressing scheme – values are chosen by the network engineer. The addressing scheme is not hierarchical.
The network layer may be divided into three sublayers:
- Subnetwork access – that considers protocols that deal with the interface to networks, such as X.25;
- Subnetwork-dependent convergence – when it is necessary to bring the level of a transit network up to the level of networks on either side
- Subnetwork-independent convergence – handles transfer across multiple networks.
An example of this latter case is CLNP, or IPv7 ISO 8473. It manages the connectionless transfer of data one hop at a time, from end system to ingress router, router to router, and from egress router to destination end system. It is not responsible for reliable delivery to a next hop, but only for the detection of erroneous packets so they may be discarded. In this scheme, IPv4 and IPv6 would have to be classed with X.25 as subnet access protocols because they carry interface addresses rather than node addresses.
A number of layer-management protocols, a function defined in the Management Annex, ISO 7498/4, belong to the network layer. These include routing protocols, multicast group management, network-layer information and error, and network-layer address assignment. It is the function of the payload that makes these belong to the network layer, not the protocol that carries them.
The data link layer provides the functional and procedural means to transfer data between network entities and to detect and possibly correct errors that may occur in the physical layer. Originally, this layer was intended for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint media, characteristic of wide area media in the telephone system. Local area network architecture, which included broadcast-capable multiaccess media, was developed independently of the ISO work in IEEE Project 802. IEEE work assumed sublayering and management functions not required for WAN use. In modern practice, only error detection, not flow control using sliding window, is present in data link protocols such as Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), and, on local area networks, the IEEE 802.2 LLC layer is not used for most protocols on the Ethernet, and on other local area networks, its flow control and acknowledgment mechanisms are rarely used. Sliding window flow control and acknowledgment is used at the transport layer by protocols such as TCP, but is still used in niches where X.25 offers performance advantages.
The ITU-T G.hn standard, which provides high-speed local area networking over existing wires (power lines, phone lines and coaxial cables), includes a complete data link layer which provides both error correction and flow control by means of a selective repeat Sliding Window Protocol.
Both WAN and LAN service arrange bits, from the physical layer, into logical sequences called frames. Not all physical layer bits necessarily go into frames, as some of these bits are purely intended for physical layer functions. For example, every fifth bit of the FDDI bit stream is not used by the layer.
The physical layer defines electrical and physical specifications for devices. In particular, it defines the relationship between a device and a transmission medium, such as a copper or optical cable. This includes the layout of pins, voltages, cable specifications, hubs, repeaters, network adapters, host bus adapters (HBA used in storage area networks) and more.
The major functions and services performed by the physical layer are:
- Establishment and termination of a connection to a communications medium.
- Participation in the process whereby the communication resources are effectively shared among multiple users. For example, contention resolution and flow control.
- Modulation, or conversion between the representation of digital data in user equipment and the corresponding signals transmitted over a communications channel. These are signals operating over the physical cabling (such as copper and optical fiber) or over a radio link.
Parallel SCSI buses operate in this layer, although it must be remembered that the logical SCSI protocol is a transport layer protocol that runs over this bus. Various physical-layer Ethernet standards are also in this layer; Ethernet incorporates both this layer and the data link layer. The same applies to other local-area networks, such as token ring, FDDI, ITU-T G.hn and IEEE 802.11, as well as personal area networks such as Bluetooth and IEEE 802.15.4.