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Protocols: What Are They, Anyway?
(Page 2 of 2)
Different Uses of the Word Protocol
Despite the strict OSI definition,
the term protocol is often used colloquially to refer to
many different concepts in networking. Some of the more common alternative
uses of the word include the following:
- Protocol Suites: It is very common to
hear the word protocol used to refer to sets of protocols
that are more properly called protocol suites (or stacks,
in reference to a stack of layers). For example, TCP/IP is often called
just a protocol when it is really a (large) set of protocols.
Sometimes, the name of the technology itself leads to this confusion.
Protocol (PPP), for example, is not one
protocol; it contains many individual protocols that serve different
functions and even have distinct message formats. Thus, PPP is really
a protocol suite, or alternately, can be considered a protocol with
- Microsoft Windows Protocols: One important
example of the issue of referring to protocol suites as single protocols
is the networking software in Microsoft Windows. It usually calls a
full networking stack like TCP/IP
or IPX/SPX just a protocol. When you install one of these
protocols, however, you actually get a software module that
supports a full protocol suite.
- Other Technologies: Sometimes technologies
that are not protocols at all are called protocols, either out of convention
or perhaps because people think it sounds good. For example, TCP/IP
Network Monitoring (RMON) is often called
a protocol when it is really just an enhancement to the Simple
Network Management Protocol (SNMP)which
is a protocol!
So, does it really matter whether
a protocol is a true protocol or not? Well, the networking
hardware devices and software programs sure dont care. J
But hopefully having read about the term and what it means, you will
be able to better understand the word when you encounter it in your
studiesespecially in the places where it may not always be used
in a way entirely consistent with its formal definition.
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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