Network Standards

Network Standards

Here we need to side step a little. We need to first talk about what goes into making a standard. Without standards, it makes communication between computers of different type very difficult. Just like you have bus standards like ISA and PCI so hardware can communicate with the CPU, you need some kind of standard.

In the Internet community, standards are both suggested and established through Request for Comments or RFCs. To some extent this is the “law”. If one product claims to comply with a particular RFC, you know that any other application that does so should be able to communicate with it. However, RFCs include other things such as lists of previous RFCs and basic introductions to things like TCP.

Becoming a standard is a three step process. Usually, the first few paragraphs of an RFC will tell you to what stage it applies. Assuming of course, that the RFC is part of a standards proposal. At the first stage, the standard is proposed. Organizations then decide to implement the proposed standard. It requires three separate implementations before the proposal becomes a standard. (Finally, it becomes a standard. This is an oversimplication of the process, since there will also be a lot of discussion about the proposed standard.)

If you need information about a specific network standard, the first place to look is the most current RFC index, which is also published as an RFC. Not only does this list all the RFCs, but will also tell you if one RFC has been replaced and by which one.

Originally I had planned to include a list of the more commonly used and significant RFCs. I eventually realized that this was an unending task. When I started this, there were just over 1800 RFCs. The last time I checked before I originally completed this section, there are well over 2000. Instead I will simply tell you where to get them.

The first place is from the “central repository.” These are obtainable using ftp from There is an rfc directory, which contains the RFCs in ASCII as well as many in postscript format. If you know what RFC you want, this can be obtained by sending an email message to List each RFC you want in the format:

document-by-name rfcXXXX

where XXXX is the number of the RFC. You can obtain the index by including the entry:

document-by-name rfc-index

In addition, the RFCS are available from archives all over the Internet. However, rather than tying up the Internet bandwidth with a lot of copy of files you may not need.

For Linux systems running TCP/IP one of the most important standards deals with Ethernet. The encapsulation (packaging) of IP datagrams is defined for Ethernet in RFC 894. Developed in 1982 by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Intel and Xerox. Ethernet (spelled with a capital) is a standard, rather than a physical entity. Several years later, the 802 Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE or I-triple E), published standards of its own that differed in many ways from the original Ethernet standard. Collectively, these are referred to as the 802 IEEE standards. The 802.3 standard covers networks similar to Ethernet. The IEEE 802 encapsulation was defined in RFC 1042. Both of these use an access method called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection or CSMA/CD.

Both of these framing types (RFC 894 and RFC 1042) use a 48-bit addressing scheme. These are generally referred to as the MAC or hardware address. The six bytes of both the destination and source machine are included in the header of both framing types. however, the remainder of the frame is different. As we talked about earlier, this layer is responsible for sending and receiving the IP datagrams. It is also responsible for sending and receiving other kinds of packets as well. These are packets from the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) and the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP). We’ll talk about both later on.