The Transport Protocols

Application protocols do not communicate with IP directly, but instead talk to one of two transport protocols: TCP or UDP. In turn, these transport protocols pass data to IP, which encapsulates the data into IP datagrams that get sent over the network. In essence, the transport protocols hide the network from the application protocols so that they do not have to deal with packet-sizing and other issues, while also shielding the network from having to multiplex the application protocol traffic (a task that IP can leave to the transport protocols).

For example, both UDP and TCP provide a multiplexing service to application protocols by way of application-specific port numbers. Essentially, port numbers act as virtual post office boxes for messages to be delivered to within a single host, allowing multiple applications to run on a single host. When datagrams arrive at a destination system, they are handed off to the transport protocol specified in the datagram, which then delivers the transport-specific message data to the port number specified in the header of the message. In this manner, many different application protocols can run on the same host, using different port numbers to identify themselves to the transport protocols.

The transport protocol that an application protocol uses is determined by the kinds of network- and application-management services that are required. TCP is a reliable, connection-oriented transport protocol, providing error-correction ...

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