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Internetworking is the practice of interconnecting multiple computer networks, [1] :169 such that any pair of hosts in the connected networks can exchange messages irrespective of their hardware-level networking technology. The resulting system of interconnected networks are called an internetwork, or simply an internet.


The most notable example of internetworking is the Internet, a network of networks based on many underlying hardware technologies. The Internet is defined by a unified global addressing system, packet format, and routing methods provided by the Internet Protocol. [2] :103

The term internetworking is a combination of the components inter (between) and networking. An earlier term for an internetwork is catenet, [3] a short-form of (con)catenating networks.

Interconnection of networks

Internetworking started as a way to connect disparate types of networking technology, but it became widespread through the developing need to connect two or more local area networks via some sort of wide area network.

The first international resource sharing network was the 1973 interconnection of the ARPANET with early British academic networks through the computer science department at University College London (UCL). [4] [5] [6] In the ARPANET, the network elements used to connect individual networks were called gateways, but the term has been deprecated in this context, because of possible confusion with functionally different devices. By 1973-4, researchers in the United States, the United Kingdom and France had worked out an approach to internetworking where the differences between network protocols were hidden by using a common internetwork protocol, and instead of the network being responsible for reliability, as in the ARPANET, the hosts became responsible, as demonstrated in the CYCLADES network. [7] [8] [9] Research at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom confirmed establishing a common host protocol would be more reliable and efficient. [10] The ARPANET connection to UCL later evolved into SATNET. In 1977, ARPA demonstrated a three-way internetworking experiment, which linked a mobile vehicle in PRNET with nodes in the ARPANET, and via SATNET, to nodes at UCL. The X.25 protocol, on which public data networks were based in the 1970s and 1980s, was supplemented by the X.75 protocol which enabled internetworking.

Today the interconnecting gateways are called routers. The definition of an internetwork today includes the connection of other types of computer networks such as personal area networks.

To build an internetwork, the following are needed: [2] :103 A standardized scheme to address packets to any host on any participating network; a standardized protocol defining format and handling of transmitted packets; components interconnecting the participating networks by routing packets to their destinations based on standardized addresses.

Another type of interconnection of networks often occurs within enterprises at the link layer of the networking model, i.e. at the hardware-centric layer below the level of the TCP/IP logical interfaces. Such interconnection is accomplished with network bridges and network switches. This is sometimes incorrectly termed internetworking, but the resulting system is simply a larger, single subnetwork, and no internetworking protocol, such as Internet Protocol, is required to traverse these devices. However, a single computer network may be converted into an internetwork by dividing the network into segments and logically dividing the segment traffic with routers and having an internetworking software layer that applications employ.

The Internet Protocol is designed to provide an unreliable (not guaranteed) packet service across the network. The architecture avoids intermediate network elements maintaining any state of the network. Instead, this function is assigned to the endpoints of each communication session. To transfer data reliably, applications must utilize an appropriate transport layer protocol, such as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which provides a reliable stream. Some applications use a simpler, connection-less transport protocol, User Datagram Protocol (UDP), for tasks which do not require reliable delivery of data or that require real-time service, such as video streaming [11] or voice chat.


Catenet is an obsolete term for a system of packet-switched communication networks interconnected via gateways. [12]

The term was coined by Louis Pouzin in October 1973 in a note circulated to the International Networking Working Group, [13] later published in a 1974 paper "A Proposal for Interconnecting Packet Switching Networks". [14] Pouzin was a pioneer in packet-switching technology and founder of the CYCLADES network, at a time when network meant what is now called a local area network. Catenet was the concept of linking these networks into a network of networks with specifications for compatibility of addressing and routing. The term catenet was gradually displaced by the short-form of the term internetwork, internet (lower-case i), when the Internet Protocol replaced earlier protocols on the ARPANET.

Networking models

Two architectural models are commonly used to describe the protocols and methods used in internetworking. The Open System Interconnection (OSI) reference model was developed under the auspices of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and provides a rigorous description for layering protocol functions from the underlying hardware to the software interface concepts in user applications. Internetworking is implemented in the Network Layer (Layer 3) of the model.

The Internet Protocol Suite, also known as the TCP/IP model, was not designed to conform to the OSI model and does not refer to it in any of the normative specifications in Request for Comments and Internet standards. Despite similar appearance as a layered model, it has a much less rigorous, loosely defined architecture that concerns itself only with the aspects of the style of networking in its own historical provenance. It assumes the availability of any suitable hardware infrastructure, without discussing hardware-specific low-level interfaces, and that a host has access to this local network to which it is connected via a link layer interface.

For a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the network engineering community was polarized over the implementation of competing protocol suites, commonly known as the Protocol Wars. It was unclear which of the OSI model and the Internet protocol suite would result in the best and most robust computer networks. [15] [16] [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Internet Protocol (IP) is the network layer communications protocol in the Internet protocol suite for relaying datagrams across network boundaries. Its routing function enables internetworking, and essentially establishes the Internet.

The Internet protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, is a framework for organizing the set of communication protocols used in the Internet and similar computer networks according to functional criteria. The foundational protocols in the suite are the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), and the Internet Protocol (IP). In the development of this networking model, early versions of it were known as the Department of Defense (DoD) model because the research and development were funded by the United States Department of Defense through DARPA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">OSI model</span> Model of communication of seven abstraction layers

The Open Systems Interconnection model is a conceptual model that 'provides a common basis for the coordination of [ISO] standards development for the purpose of systems interconnection'. In the OSI reference model, the communications between a computing system are split into seven different abstraction layers: Physical, Data Link, Network, Transport, Session, Presentation, and Application.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Protocol stack</span> Comprehensive computer networking implementation

The protocol stack or network stack is an implementation of a computer networking protocol suite or protocol family. Some of these terms are used interchangeably but strictly speaking, the suite is the definition of the communication protocols, and the stack is the software implementation of them.

A datagram is a basic transfer unit associated with a packet-switched network. Datagrams are typically structured in header and payload sections. Datagrams provide a connectionless communication service across a packet-switched network. The delivery, arrival time, and order of arrival of datagrams need not be guaranteed by the network.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ARPANET</span> Early packet switching network (1969–1990), one of the first to implement TCP/IP

The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switched network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical foundation of the Internet. The ARPANET was established by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defense.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bob Kahn</span> American Internet pioneer, computer scientist

Robert Elliot Kahn is an American electrical engineer who, along with Vint Cerf, first proposed the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), the fundamental communication protocols at the heart of the Internet.

The CYCLADES computer network was a French research network created in the early 1970s. It was one of the pioneering networks experimenting with the concept of packet switching and, unlike the ARPANET, was explicitly designed to facilitate internetworking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interface Message Processor</span> Computer network device

The Interface Message Processor (IMP) was the packet switching node used to interconnect participant networks to the ARPANET from the late 1960s to 1989. It was the first generation of gateways, which are known today as routers. An IMP was a ruggedized Honeywell DDP-516 minicomputer with special-purpose interfaces and software. In later years the IMPs were made from the non-ruggedized Honeywell 316 which could handle two-thirds of the communication traffic at approximately one-half the cost. An IMP requires the connection to a host computer via a special bit-serial interface, defined in BBN Report 1822. The IMP software and the ARPA network communications protocol running on the IMPs was discussed in RFC 1, the first of a series of standardization documents published by what later became the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis Pouzin</span> French computer scientist (born 1931)

Louis Pouzin is a French computer scientist. He designed an early packet communications network, CYCLADES.

Hubert Zimmermann was a French software engineer and a pioneer of computer networking.

Peter Thomas Kirstein was a British computer scientist who played a role in the creation of the Internet. He put the first computer on the ARPANET outside of the US and was instrumental in defining and implementing TCP/IP alongside Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.

A communication protocol is a system of rules that allows two or more entities of a communications system to transmit information via any kind of variation of a physical quantity. The protocol defines the rules, syntax, semantics and synchronization of communication and possible error recovery methods. Protocols may be implemented by hardware, software, or a combination of both.

In computer networking, the link layer is the lowest layer in the Internet protocol suite, the networking architecture of the Internet. The link layer is the group of methods and communications protocols confined to the link that a host is physically connected to. The link is the physical and logical network component used to interconnect hosts or nodes in the network and a link protocol is a suite of methods and standards that operate only between adjacent network nodes of a network segment.

In digital communications networks, packet processing refers to the wide variety of algorithms that are applied to a packet of data or information as it moves through the various network elements of a communications network. With the increased performance of network interfaces, there is a corresponding need for faster packet processing.

The Recursive InterNetwork Architecture (RINA) is a new computer network architecture proposed as an alternative to the architecture of the currently mainstream Internet protocol suite. RINA's fundamental principles are that computer networking is just Inter-Process Communication or IPC, and that layering should be done based on scope/scale, with a single recurring set of protocols, rather than based on function, with specialized protocols. The protocol instances in one layer interface with the protocol instances on higher and lower layers via new concepts and entities that effectively reify networking functions currently specific to protocols like BGP, OSPF and ARP. In this way, RINA claims to support features like mobility, multihoming and quality of service without the need for additional specialized protocols like RTP and UDP, as well as to allow simplified network administration without the need for concepts like autonomous systems and NAT.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SATNET</span> Early computer network that used satellite communication

SATNET, also known as the Atlantic Packet Satellite Network, was an early satellite network that formed an initial segment of the Internet. It was implemented by BBN Technologies under the direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The International Networking Working Group (INWG) was a group of prominent computer science researchers in the 1970s who studied and developed standards and protocols for computer networking. Set up in 1972 as an informal group to consider the technical issues involved in connecting different networks, its charter was to develop international standard protocols for internetworking. INWG became a subcommittee of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) two years later. Concepts developed by members of the group contributed to the original "Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication" proposed by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in 1974 and the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) that emerged later.

A long-running debate in computer science known as the Protocol Wars occurred from the 1970s to the 1990s when engineers, organizations and nations became polarized over the issue of which communication protocol would result in the best and most robust computer networks. This culminated in the Internet–OSI Standards War in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which was ultimately "won" by the Internet protocol suite ("TCP/IP") by the mid-1990s and has since resulted in most other protocols disappearing.


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