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The Benefits of Networking Models
In my introduction
to this Guide, I said that networking
was complicatedin fact, I probably said it too often. J
Well, I wouldn't lie to youit is. And in fact, it is for that
exact reason that special pains must be taken to try to simplify
it. One of the ways in which networking technology is made easier to
understand is by splitting it into pieces, each of which plays a particular
role, or is responsible for a specific job or function.
However, if this is to be done, we
must have a way of ensuring that these various pieces can interoperate;
that is, each must know what is expected of it, and also what it can
expect from the other pieces. This is one of the important roles of
networking models. They split the multitude of tasks required to implement
modern networks, into smaller chunks that can be more easily managed.
Just as importantly, they establish walls between those
pieces, and rules for passing information over those walls.
A good analogy of a networking model
is to that of an assembly line at a manufacturer. No company attempts
to have one person build an entire car; even if they did, they wouldn't
expect that individual to be able to learn how to do it all at once.
The division of labor offers several advantages to a company that builds
a complex product, such as an automobile. Generally speaking, these
include the following:
- Training and Documentation: It is easier
to explain how to build a complex system by breaking the process into
smaller parts. Training can be done for a specific job without everyone
needing to know how everything else works.
- Specialization: If everyone is responsible
for doing every job, nobody gets enough experience to become an expert
at anything. Through specialization, certain individuals develop expertise
at particular jobs.
- Easier Design Modification and Enhancement:
Separating the automobile into systems, and particular jobs required
to build those systems, makes it easier to make changes in the future.
Without such divisions, it would be much more difficult to determine
what the impact might be of a change, which would serve as a disincentive
- Modularity: This is related to each of
the items above. If the automobile's systems and manufacturing steps
are broken down according to a sensible architecture or model, it becomes
easier to interchange parts and procedures between vehicles. This saves
time and money.
Networking models yield very similar
benefits to the networking world. They represent a framework for dividing
up the tasks needed to implement a network, by splitting the work into
different levels, or layers. Hardware and software running at
each layer is responsible for interacting with its corresponding hardware
and software running on other devices at the same layer. The responsibilities
of each hardware or software element are defined in part by specifically
delineating lines that exist between the layers.
The result is that you get all of
the benefits listed in the bullet points above: easier training, specialized
capabilities at each layer, improved capabilities for modification,
and modularity. Modularity is particularly important, as it allows you
to interchange technologies that run at different layers. While nobody
would try to build a vehicle that is partly a compact sedan, partly
an SUV and partly a motorcycle, there are situations in networking where
you may want to do something surprisingly similar to this. Networking
models help make this possible.
Key Concept: Networking models such as the OSI Reference Model provide a framework for breaking down complex internetworks into components that can more easily be understood and utilized. The model defines networking functions not as a large, complicated whole, but as a set of layered, modular components, each of which is responsible for a particular function. The result is better comprehension of network operations, improved performance and functionality, easier design and development, and the ability to combine different components in the way best suited to the needs of the network.
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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