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OSI Seven-Layer Model PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 May 2010 16:56

In the 1980s, the European-dominated International Standards Organization (ISO), began to develop its Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) networking suite. OSI has two major components: an abstract model of networking (the Basic Reference Model, or seven-layer model), and a set of concrete protocols. The standard documents that describe OSI are for sale and not currently available online.

Parts of OSI have influenced Internet protocol development, but none more than the abstract model itself, documented in OSI 7498 and its various addenda. In this model, a networking system is divided into layers. Within each layer, one or more entities implement its functionality. Each entity interacts directly only with the layer immediately beneath it, and provides facilities for use by the layer above it. Protocols enable an entity in one host to interact with a corresponding entity at the same layer in a remote host.


The seven layers of the OSI Basic Reference Model are (from bottom to top):


  1. The Physical Layer describes the physical properties of the various communications media, as well as the electrical properties and interpretation of the exchanged signals. Ex: this layer defines the size of Ethernet coaxial cable, the type of BNC connector used, and the termination method.


  2. The Data Link Layer describes the logical organization of data bits transmitted on a particular medium. Ex: this layer defines the framing, addressing and checksumming of Ethernet packets.


  3. The Network Layer describes how a series of exchanges over various data links can deliver data between any two nodes in a network. Ex: this layer defines the addressing and routing structure of the Internet.


  4. The Transport Layer describes the quality and nature of the data delivery. Ex: this layer defines if and how retransmissions will be used to ensure data delivery.


  5. The Session Layer describes the organization of data sequences larger than the packets handled by lower layers. Ex: this layer describes how request and reply packets are paired in a remote procedure call.


  6. The Presentation Layer describes the syntax of data being transferred. Ex: this layer describes how floating point numbers can be exchanged between hosts with different math formats.


  7. The Application Layer describes how real work actually gets done. Ex: this layer would implement file system operations.

The original Internet protocol specifications defined a four-level model, and protocols designed around it (like TCP) have difficulty fitting neatly into the seven-layer model. Most newer designs use the seven-layer model.

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