Data Link Layer Details

Posted On 2008-04-08 by FortyPoundHead
Keywords: OSI Model
Tags: Networking Tutorial 
Views: 3486

The data link layer is layer two of the seven-layer OSI model as well as of the five-layer TCP/IP reference model. It responds to service requests from the network layer and issues service requests to the physical layer.

This is the layer which transfers data between adjacent network nodes in a wide area network or between nodes on the same local area network segment. The data link layer provides the functional and procedural means to transfer data between network entities and might provide the means to detect and possibly correct errors that may occur in the Physical layer. Examples of data link protocols are Ethernet for local area networks and PPP, HDLC and ADCCP for point-to-point connections.

The data link is all about getting information from one place to a selection of other places. At this layer one does not need to be able to go everywhere, just able to go somewhere else. It is analogous to social interaction in that one needs to be able to talk to Bob to get a message to Fred or James.

The data link provides data transfer across the physical link. That transfer might or might not be reliable; many data link protocols do not have acknowledgments of successful frame reception and acceptance, and some data link protocols might not even have any form of checksum to check for transmission errors. In those cases, higher-level protocols must provide flow control, error checking, and acknowledgments and retransmission.

In some networks, such as IEEE 802 local area networks, the data link layer is split into MAC and LLC sublayers; this means that the IEEE 802.2 LLC protocol can be used with all of the IEEE 802 MAC layers, such as Ethernet, token ring, IEEE 802.11, etc., as well as with some non-802 MAC layers such as FDDI. Other data link layer protocols, such as HDLC, are specified to include both sublayers, although some other protocols, such as Cisco HDLC, use HDLC''s low-level framing as a MAC layer in combination with a different LLC layer

Logical Link Control Sublayer
The uppermost sublayer is Logical Link Control (LLC). This sublayer multiplexes protocols running atop the data link layer, and optionally provides flow control, acknowledgment, and error recovery. The LLC provides addressing and control of the data link. It specifies which mechanisms are to be used for addressing stations over the transmission medium and for controlling the data exchanged between the originator and recipient machines.

Media Access Control Sublayer
The sublayer below it is Media Access Control (MAC). Sometimes this refers to the sublayer that determines who is allowed to access the media at any one time (usually CSMA/CD). Other times it refers to a frame structure with MAC addresses inside. There are generally two forms of media access control: distributed and centralized. Both of these may be compared to communication between people:

In a network made up of people speaking, i.e. a conversation, we look for clues from our fellow talkers to see if any of them appear to be about to speak. If two people speak at the same time, they will back off and begin a long and elaborate game of saying "no, you first".
The Media Access Control sublayer also determines where one frame of data ends and the next one starts. In a snail-mail network, each letter is one frame of data, and one can tell where it begins and ends because it is inside an envelope. One might also specify that a letter will begin with a phrase like "Dear Sir", and ends with a phrase like "Yours faithfully".

List of Data link layer services

  • Error detection, in addition to one provided on physical layer

  • Flow control, in addition to one provided on physical layer

  • ARCnet

  • ATM

  • Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP)

  • Controller Area Network (CAN)

  • Econet

  • Ethernet

  • Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI)

  • Frame Relay

  • High-Level Data Link Control (HDLC)

  • IEEE 802.2 (provides LLC functions to IEEE 802 MAC layers)

  • IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN

  • LocalTalk

  • Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)

  • Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)

  • Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) (obsolete)

  • Spanning tree protocol

  • StarLan

  • Token ring

  • and most forms of serial communication.

The data link layer is often implemented in software as a "network card driver". The operating system will have a defined software interface between the data link and the network transport stack above. This interface is not a layer itself, but rather a definition for interfacing between layers. Examples include:
  • ODI

  • NDIS

  • SANA II - Standard Amiga Networking Architecture, version 2

About the Author

FortyPoundHead has posted a total of 1974 articles.

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