Types of Data Link Layer Protocols in .NET

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Types of Data Link Layer Protocols
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There are many different data link layer protocols that have been used in the history of networking; however, many of them are of historical interest only. The most common protocols in use today are Ethernet, PPP, ATM, and Frame-Relay. In this chapter, we discuss Ethernet, PPP, and ATM, but with particular attention paid to Ethernet. PPP and ATM are primarily wide area protocols, whereas Ethernet is by far the dominant protocol in the local and campus network. Note that although the specifications of the various data link layer protocols can be quite diverse, all of these protocols perform many of the same functions. Once you understand how a particular Data Link protocol performs its functions, you can use this information to assist you in understanding other Data Link protocols as well. Layer 2/Data Link networks can be classified broadly into three types: Point-to-Point Networks Point-to-point network protocols do not usually require source and destination addresses since they are established between two networking devices only. Circuit-Based Networks Circuit-based networks create virtual circuits between different devices over a shared infrastructure. Usually this involves manually mapping a path through network switches from one location to another. Shared Networks Shared networks provide each device with a share of the underlying network medium such as a physical cable or a switch. All devices can send and receive traffic to each other directly through the shared medium.
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3.1 O SI L AY E R 2 OV E RV I E W
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The three protocols we will discuss each represents an example of these diverse network types. The PPP protocol is used on point-to-point links between two sites, ATM uses virtual circuits, and Ethernet is used over a shared medium. Despite the diversity of these and other Data Link protocols, they all share common characteristics. In particular, they will all have a Layer 2 frame that identifies particular fields that are required for Layer 2 operations. These Layer 2 frames usually consist of: A circuit identifier in the case of circuit-based networks An address that directs the packet to the required destination in the case of shared media A fixed-length maximum size or maximum transmission unit (MTU) established between the source and receiving component. Data from higher layers is broken into fixed-length frames (covered later). An error check that is inserted by the source component and verified by the receiving component to verify data integrity on each data link segment The next section discusses how a data link layer performs the function of transferring a packet across a network and how this function integrates into the complex process of interconnecting networks of varying types.
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Scope of the Data Link Layer
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The scope of a Data Link frame is the network itself. For example, in a typical scenario of IP/Ethernet, each IP subnet is considered to be one network. The Data Link frame remains intact while it traverses the Layer 2 devices in a particular IP subnet. If the IP packet needs to be routed to another subnet via an IP router, the original Data Link frame will be removed after it ingresses the IP router. When forwarding the IP packet out from the appropriate port, the IP router constructs a new Data Link frame with correct headers and Data Link addresses. This new Data Link header is used as the frame traverses the next subnet. This process continues until the destination host is reached. The application data sent between two host stations can traverse several physically different networks. Each network has a different Data Link header and may even use different Data Link protocols that depend on the physical wire itself, for example, Ethernet, PPP, ATM, or Frame-Relay.
C h a p t e r 3 n Data Li n k Ov e rv i e w
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In Figure 3.1, the end-hosts on the Layer 2 network communicate with each other using the specific Layer 2 (L2) protocol. The PCs on the left side of the Ethernet network do not require anything other than Ethernet L2 framing to talk to each other. The PCs on the right side of the network similarly require only ATM L2 framing to talk to each other. The L2 networks are separated by routers, which are Layer 3 OSI devices. The PCs on the Ethernet network can only communicate with the PCs on the ATM network through Layer 3 addresses. Note that the devices in the ATM cloud represent ATM switches and the devices in the Ethernet cloud represent Ethernet switches. The device connecting the two clouds is a router. We will discuss all of these concepts in this and later chapters.
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Figure 3.1 Hosts on the Ethernet network communicate with each other using the Ethernet protocol, and hosts on the ATM network communicate using the ATM protocol. A router is required for hosts using different Layer 2 protocols to communicate with each other.
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