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OSI Layers and Network Design

Susan J. Fager

August 26, 2005

Course: IT640-0503B-01 Telecommunications and Networking

Instructor: Khaled El-Zayyat
What is the OSI Model?
Networking within corporations is still a relatively new concept. It began in around 1980’s and as it became

more widely practiced, industry soon discovered that some standardization was needed. In 1985, the ISO

(International Organization for Standardization) came up with a networking model consisting of seven layers. It is

called the OSI (Open System Interconnection) model. The OSI defines the different functions of a network at

various stages, or layers, of the communication timeline. These seven layers define the different functions

involved when two devices communicate across the network. Reasons for layering the functions include the


1. Accelerates evolution - improvements can be made on a modular level, without affecting other

areas of the network.

2. Ensures interoperable technology – changing or upgrading a service on one layer can be done

without forcing change on another layer.

3. Reduces complexity - by breaking up network communication into smaller parts.

4. Standardizes interfaces – creates an “open environment” so that multiple vendors’ products can be

incorporated into a network.

5. Facilitates learning – by making the process easier to comprehend.

Seven Layers of the OSI

The seven layers are application, presentation, session, transport, network, data link, and physical. Some of

the layers address the types of hardware to be used at that level, as well as the software (protocols)

specifications. Each network can be custom designed with interoperable features from each level. The

functionality of each layer is as follows:

Application Issues - Layers 1-3

Application Layer: While the application layer does not provide any services to the other layers in the OSI

model, the application layer does provide application network services. This layer is the closest to the user.

(Examples: FTP, SMTP, Telnet)

Presentation Layer: This layer handles data representation. It serves as an interpreter, or translator, for the

application layer. (Example: Some of the data transmitted to a browser using HTTP needs to be converted to

.JPG format before the browser can show an image.)

Session Layer: The session layer provides inter-host communication. It regulates the sessions

(establishes, maintains and terminates sessions) between two hosts.

Data Transport Issues – Layers 4-7

Transport Layer: This layer facilitates end-to-end connections. The transport layer ensures reliability, as

well as fault detection and flow control. The data at this layer is divided into segments (manageable chucks of

data). (Example: protocols TCP and UDP)

Network Layer: The network layer ensures data delivery. It handles issues such as connectivity and path

selection. The segments have a header added with information specific to this layer and are now called packets.

(Example: protocols IP, ICMP, ARP – hardware includes routers)

Data Link Layer: This layer provides media access (as in the physical media, i.e. cables, used for

networking). Additional header/trailer added to form frames. (Example: protocols Frame Relay, RIP, IGRP, PPP,

HDLC – hardware includes NIC cards and switches)

Physical Layer: The physical layer handles binary transmission of data. This layer would include electrical

and mechanical specifications. Data converted to bits. (Example: specification RJ45, IEEE 802.3, Token Ring

Hardware – hardware includes cabling and hubs)

Data Encapsulation
As the data travels from the application layer down to the physical layer encapsulation occurs. Information

about each layer’s requirements, as defined by the application or the network administrator, is attached to the

data segment in the form of headers and trailers. When the packets of data reach the destination, the data is de-

encapsulated as it moves up the layers of the OSI model. The headers and trailers are stripped off as each layer

interprets and carries out the specifications of the PDUs (Protocol Data Unit), until the data reaches the

application layer of the receiver and is usable to the application. This process is called peer to peer

communication and is illustrated in the figure below:


Encapsulation Communication
Application Application

Presentation Presentation

Session Session

Transport ---------------Segments ------------- Transport

Network ---------------- Packets--------------- Network

Data Link -----------------Frames --------------- Data Link

Physical ------------------- Bits ----------------- Physical

How does this fit into the network plans for Notcom?
As we work towards building a network that is meets your requirements for performance, availability,

manageability, security, adaptability, and scalability, the OSI will serve as a guide. Some things to consider are

1.) How does the choice of the transport layer protocol (TCP, UDP) affect delivery of service to the upper level

layers? 2.) Where should our initial expenditures be made and what plans can be made for future growth of the

network as the company expands? 3.) What considerations could be made now for VoIP (digital delivered

telephony services), should we decide to incorporate it in the future? 4.) Considering your extensive use of the

Internet, and limited telephony services, would it be wise to convert to VoIP now, with plans to include IP/TV

services for video conferencing and webinars for customer service and training in the future? 5.) While we are in

the design phase, we should look at other issues, such as, network security through the implementation of a

firewall, virtual networks and subnetting the network, introducing QoS for prioritizing network services, and

building in some network redundancy for some of the vital components of the network.

VoIP can be implemented using serial lines supporting Ethernet and Token Ring technologies (Layer 1). It

uses the Layer 3 protocol, IP, to achieve connectivity and Layer 4 protocol, UDP, for data transfer (to ensure

speed). RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) is also a transport protocol that runs on top of UDP. VoIP can also

use ATM technology, which supports QoS. (

Appendix A
The following definitions are provided by

ATM: Short for Asynchronous Transfer Mode, a network technology based on transferring data in cells or packets of
a fixed size. The cell used with ATM is relatively small compared to units used with older technologies. The small,
constant cell size allows ATM equipment to transmit video, audio, and computer data over the same network, and
assure that no single type of data hogs the line.

Some people think that ATM holds the answer to the Internet bandwidth problem, but others are skeptical. ATM
creates a fixed channel, or route, between two points whenever data transfer begins. This differs from TCP/IP, in
which messages are divided into packets and each packet can take a different route from source to destination. This
difference makes it easier to track and bill data usage across an ATM network, but it makes it less adaptable to
sudden surges in network traffic.

IPTV: Internet protocol television, or IPTV, uses a two-way digital broadcast signal that is sent through a switched
telephone or cable network by way of a broadband connection, along with a set top box programmed with software
that can handle viewer requests to access media sources. A television is connected to the set top box that handles the
task of decoding the IP video and converts it into standard television signals. The Switched Video Service (SVS)
system allows viewers to access broadcast network channels, subscription services, and movies on demand.

IP: IP specifies the format of packets, also called datagrams, and the addressing scheme. Most networks combine IP
with a higher-level protocol called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which establishes a virtual connection
between a destination and a source.
IP by itself is something like the postal system. It allows you to address a package and drop it in the system, but
there’s no direct link between you and the recipient. TCP/IP, on the other hand, establishes a connection between two
hosts so that they can send messages back and forth for a period of time.

QoS: Short for Quality of Service, a networking term that specifies a guaranteed throughput level. One of the biggest
advantages of ATM over competing technologies such as Frame Relay and Fast Ethernet, is that it supports QoS
levels. This allows ATM providers to guarantee to their customers that end-to-end latency will not exceed a specified

RTP: Short for Real-Time Transport Protocol, an Internet protocol for transmitting real-time data such as audio and
video. RTP itself does not guarantee real-time delivery of data, but it does provide mechanisms for the sending and
receiving applications to support streaming data. Typically, RTP runs on top of the UDP protocol, although the
specification is general enough to support other transport protocols.

RTP has received wide industry support. Netscape intends to base its LiveMedia technology on RTP, and Microsoft
claims that its NetMeeting product support RTP.

TCP: Abbreviation of Transmission Control Protocol, and pronounced as separate letters. TCP is one of the main
protocols in TCP/IP networks. Whereas the IP protocol deals only with packets, TCP enables two hosts to establish a
connection and exchange streams of data. TCP guarantees delivery of data and also guarantees that packets will be
delivered in the same order in which they were sent.

UDP: User Datagram Protocol, abbreviated UDP, is a connectionless protocol that, like TCP, runs on top of IP
networks. Unlike TCP/IP, UDP/IP provides very few error recovery services, offering instead a direct way to send and
receive datagrams over an IP network. It’s used primarily for broadcasting messages over a network.

VoIP: Short for Voice over Internet Protocol, a category of hardware and software that enables people to use the
Internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls by sending voice data in packets using IP rather than by
traditional circuit transmissions of the PSTN. One advantage of VoIP is that the telephone calls over the Internet do
not incur a surcharge beyond what the user is paying for Internet access, much in the same way that the user doesn’t
pay for sending individual e-mails over the Internet.

There are many Internet telephony applications available. Some, like CoolTalk and NetMeeting, come bundled with
popular Web browsers. Others are stand-alone products. VoIP also is referred to as Internet telephony, IP telephony,
or Voice over the Internet (VOI)

Terms: viewed August 26, 2005.

Westbay Engineers Limited. Voice over IP Protocols. viewed August 26, 2005.

Examining Cisco Customer Requirements and Existing Network Topology

Methodologies. Skill Port Courseware.
0design Viewed August 26, 2005.

Building a Simple Network. Skill Port Courseware.
26surl%3D219381_eng/summary.htm%26active%3D1%26isSpcsf%3D1%26ses Viewed
August 24, 2005