Chapter 1. Overview of TCP/IP
All of us who use a Unix desktop system -- engineers, educators, scientists, and business people -- have second careers as Unix system administrators. Networking these computers gives us new tasks as network administrators.
Network administration and system administration are two different jobs. System administration tasks such as adding users and doing backups are isolated to one independent computer system. Not so with network administration. Once you place your computer on a network, it interacts with many other systems. The way you do network administration tasks has effects, good and bad, not only on your system but on other systems on the network. A sound understanding of basic network administration benefits everyone.
Networking your computers dramatically enhances their ability to communicate -- and most computers are used more for communication than computation. Many mainframes and supercomputers are busy crunching the numbers for business and science, but the number of these systems in use pales in comparison to the millions of systems busy moving mail to a remote colleague or retrieving information from a remote repository. Further, when you think of the hundreds of millions of desktop systems that are used primarily for preparing documents to communicate ideas from one person to another, it is easy to see why most computers can be viewed as communications devices.
The positive impact of computer communications increases with the number and type of computers that participate in the network. One of the great benefits of TCP/IP is that it provides interoperable communications between all types of hardware and all kinds of operating systems.
The name "TCP/IP" refers to an entire suite of data communications protocols. The suite gets its name from two of the protocols that belong to it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP). TCP/IP is the traditional name for this protocol suite and it is the name used in this book. The TCP/IP protocol suite is also called the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS). Both names are acceptable.
This book is a practical, step-by-step guide to configuring and managing TCP/IP networking software on Unix computer systems. TCP/IP is the leading communications software for local area networks and enterprise intranets, and it is the foundation of the worldwide Internet. TCP/IP is the most important networking software available to a Unix network administrator.
The first part of this book discusses the basics of TCP/IP and how it moves data across a network. The second part explains how to configure and run TCP/IP on a Unix system. Let's start with a little history.
1.1. TCP/IP and the Internet
In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funded a research and development project to create an experimental packet-switching network. This network, called the ARPAnet, was built to study techniques for providing robust, reliable, vendor-independent data communications. Many techniques of modern data communications were developed in the ARPAnet.
The experimental network was so successful that many of the organizations attached to it began to use it for daily data communications. In 1975 the ARPAnet was converted from an experimental network to an operational network, and the responsibility for administering the network was given to the Defense Communications Agency (DCA). However, development of the ARPAnet did not stop just because it was being used as an operational network; the basic TCP/IP protocols were developed after the network was operational.
The TCP/IP protocols were adopted as Military Standards (MIL STD) in 1983, and all hosts connected to the network were required to convert to the new protocols. To ease this conversion, DARPA funded Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN) to implement TCP/IP in Berkeley (BSD) Unix. Thus began the marriage of Unix and TCP/IP.
About the time that TCP/IP was adopted as a standard, the term Internet came into common usage. In 1983 the old ARPAnet was divided into MILNET, the unclassified part of the Defense Data Network (DDN), and a new, smaller ARPAnet. "Internet" was used to refer to the entire network: MILNET plus ARPAnet.
In 1985 the National Science Foundation (NSF) created NSFNet and connected it to the then-existing Internet. The original NSFNet linked together the five NSF supercomputer centers. It was smaller than the ARPAnet and no faster: 56Kbps. Still, the creation of the NSFNet was a significant event in the history of the Internet because NSF brought with it a new vision of the use of the Internet. NSF wanted to extend the network to every scientist and engineer in the United States. To accomplish this, in 1987 NSF created a new, faster backbone and a three-tiered network topology that included the backbone, regional networks, and local networks. In 1990 the ARPAnet formally passed out of existence, and in 1995 the NSFNet ceased its role as a primary Internet backbone network.
Today the Internet is larger than ever and encompasses hundreds of thousands of networks worldwide. It is no longer dependent on a core (or backbone) network or on governmental support. Today's Internet is built by commercial providers. National network providers, called tier-one providers, and regional network providers create the infrastructure. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide local access and user services. This network of networks is linked together in the United States at several major interconnection points called Network Access Points (NAPs).
The Internet has grown far beyond its original scope. The original networks and agencies that built the Internet no longer play an essential role for the current network. The Internet has evolved from a simple backbone network, through a three-tiered hierarchical structure, to a huge network of interconnected, distributed network hubs. It has grown exponentially since 1983 -- doubling in size every year. Through all of this incredible change one thing has remained constant: the Internet is built on the TCP/IP protocol suite.
A sign of the network's success is the confusion that surrounds the term internet. Originally it was used only as the name of the network built upon IP. Now internet is a generic term used to refer to an entire class of networks. An internet (lowercase "i") is any collection of separate physical networks, interconnected by a common protocol, to form a single logical network. The Internet (uppercase "I") is the worldwide collection of interconnected networks, which grew out of the original ARPAnet, that uses IP to link the various physical networks into a single logical network. In this book, both "internet" and "Internet" refer to networks that are interconnected by TCP/IP.
Because TCP/IP is required for Internet connection, the growth of the Internet spurred interest in TCP/IP. As more organizations became familiar with TCP/IP, they saw that its power can be applied in other network applications as well. The Internet protocols are often used for local area networking even when the local network is not connected to the Internet. TCP/IP is also widely used to build enterprise networks. TCP/IP-based enterprise networks that use Internet techniques and web tools to disseminate internal corporate information are called intranets. TCP/IP is the foundation of all of these varied networks.
1.1.1. TCP/IP Features
The popularity of the TCP/IP protocols did not grow rapidly just because the protocols were there, or because connecting to the Internet mandated their use. They met an important need (worldwide data communication) at the right time, and they had several important features that allowed them to meet this need. These features are:
1.1.2. Protocol Standards
Protocols are formal rules of behavior. In international relations, protocols minimize the problems caused by cultural differences when various nations work together. By agreeing to a common set of rules that are widely known and independent of any nation's customs, diplomatic protocols minimize misunderstandings; everyone knows how to act and how to interpret the actions of others. Similarly, when computers communicate, it is necessary to define a set of rules to govern their communications.
In data communications, these sets of rules are also called protocols. In homogeneous networks, a single computer vendor specifies a set of communications rules designed to use the strengths of the vendor's operating system and hardware architecture. But homogeneous networks are like the culture of a single country -- only the natives are truly at home in it. TCP/IP creates a heterogeneous network with open protocols that are independent of operating system and architectural differences. TCP/IP protocols are available to everyone and are developed and changed by consensus, not by the fiat of one manufacturer. Everyone is free to develop products to meet these open protocol specifications.
The open nature of TCP/IP protocols requires an open standards development process and publicly available standards documents. Internet standards are developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in open, public meetings. The protocols developed in this process are published as Requests for Comments (RFCs). As the title "Request for Comments" implies, the style and content of these documents are much less rigid than in most standards documents. RFCs contain a wide range of interesting and useful information, and are not limited to the formal specification of data communications protocols. There are three basic types of RFCs: standards (STD), best current practices (BCP), and informational (FYI).
RFCs that define official protocol standards are STDs and are given an STD number in addition to an RFC number. Creating an official Internet standard is a rigorous process. Standards track RFCs pass through three maturity levels before becoming standards:
There are two categories of standards. A Technical Specification (TS) defines a protocol. An Applicability Statement (AS) defines when the protocol is to be used. There are three requirement levels that define the applicability of a standard:
Two other requirements levels (limited use and not recommended) apply to RFCs that are not part of the standards track. A "limited use" protocol is used only in special circumstances, such as during an experiment. A protocol is "not recommended " when it has limited functionality or is outdated. There are three types of non-standards track RFCs:
A subset of the informational RFCs is called the FYI (For Your Information) notes. An FYI document is given an FYI number in addition to an RFC number. FYI documents provide introductory and background material about the Internet and TCP/IP networks. FYI documents are not mentioned in RFC 2026 and are not included in the Internet standards process. But there are several interesting FYI documents available.
Another group of RFCs that go beyond documenting protocols are the Best Current Practices (BCP) RFCs. BCPs formally document techniques and procedures. Some of these document the way that the IETF conducts itself; RFC 2026 is an example of this type of BCP. Others provide guidelines for the operation of a network or service; RFC 1918, Address Allocation for Private Internets, is an example of this type of BCP. BCPs that provide operational guidelines are often of great interest to network administrators.
There are now more than 3,000 RFCs. As a network system administrator, you will no doubt read several. It is as important to know which ones to read as it is to understand them when you do read them. Use the RFC categories and the requirements levels to help you determine which RFCs are applicable to your situation. (A good starting point is to focus on those RFCs that also have an STD number.) To understand what you read, you need to understand the language of data communications. RFCs contain protocol implementation specifications defined in terminology that is unique to data communications.
Copyright © 2002 O'Reilly & Associates. All rights reserved.