Friday, December 27, 2013

TCP/IP Ports and Addresses

Each machine in the network shown below, has one or more network cards. The part of the network that does the job of transporting and managing the data across the network is called TCP/IP which stands for Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). There are other alternative mechanisms for managing network traffic, but most, such as IPX/SPX for Netware, will not be described here in much detail. The IP layer requires a 4 (IPv4) or 6 (IPv6) byte address to be assigned to each network interface card on each computer. This can be done automatically using network software such as dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) or by manually entering static addresses into the computer.


The TCP layer requires what is called a port number to be assigned to each message. This way it can determine the type of service being provided. Please be aware here, that when we are talking about "ports" we are not talking about ports that are used for serial and parallel devices, or ports used for computer hardware control. These ports are merely reference numbers used to define a service. For instance, port 23 is used for telnet services, and HTTP uses port 80 for providing web browsing service. There is a group called the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) that controls the assigning of ports for specific services. There are some ports that are assigned, some reserved and many unassigned which may be utilized by application programs. Port numbers are straight unsigned integer values which range up to a value of 65535.


Addresses are used to locate computers. It works almost like a house address. There is a numbering system to help the mailman locate the proper house to deliver customer's mail to. Without an IP numbering system, it would not be possible to determine where network data packets should go.

IPv4, which means internet protocol version 4, is described here. Each IP address is denoted by what is called dotted decimal notation. This means there are four numbers, each separated by a dot. Each number represents a one byte value with a possible mathematical range of 0-255. Briefly, the first one or two bytes, depending on the class of network, generally will indicate the number of the network, the third byte indicates the number of the subnet, and the fourth number indicates the host number. This numbering scheme will vary depending on the network and the numbering method used such as Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) which is described later. The host number cannot be 0 or 255. None of the numbers can be 255 and the first number cannot be 0. This is because broadcasting is done with all bits set in some bytes. Broadcasting is a form of communication that all hosts on a network can read, and is normally used for performing various network queries. An address of all 0's is not used, because when a machine is booted that does not have a hardware address assigned, it provides as its address until it receives its assignment. This would occur for machines that are remote booted or those that boot using the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP). The part of the IP address that defines the network is referred to as the network ID, and the latter part of the IP address that defines the host address is referred to as the host ID. IPv6 is an enhancement to the IPv4 standard due to the shortage of internet addresses. The dotted notation values are increased to 12 bit values rather than byte (8 bit) values. This increases the effective range of each possible decimal value to 4095. Of course the values of 0 and 4095 (all bits set) are generally reserved the same as with the IPv4

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