15.1. Xerox, Novell, and History

First, let's look at where the protocols came from and what they look like. In the late 1970s, the Xerox Corporation developed and published an open standard called the Xerox Network Specification (XNS). The Xerox Network Specification described a series of protocols designed for general purpose internetworking, with a strong emphasis on the use of local area networks. There were two primary networking protocols involved: the Internet Datagram Protocol (IDP), which provided a connectionless and unreliable transport of datagrams from one host to another, and the Sequenced Packet Protocol (SPP), which was a modified form of IDP that was connection-based and reliable. The datagrams of an XNS network were individually addressed. The addressing scheme used a combination of a 4-byte IDP network address (which was uniquely assigned to each Ethernet LAN segment), and the 6-byte node address (the address of the NIC card). Routers were devices that switched datagrams between two or more separate IDP networks. IDP has no notion of subnetworks; any new collection of hosts requires another network address to be assigned. Network addresses are chosen such that they are unique on the internetwork in question. Sometimes administrators develop conventions by having each byte encode some other information, such as geographic location, so that network addresses are allocated in a systemic way; it isn't a protocol requirement, however.

The Novell Corporation chose to base their own networking suite on the XNS suite. Novell made small enhancements to IDP and SPP and renamed them IPX (Internet Packet eXchange) and SPX (Sequenced Packet eXchange). Novell added new protocols, such as the NetWare Core Protocol (NCP), which provided file and printer sharing features that ran over IPX, and the Service Advertisement Protocol (SAP), which enabled hosts on a Novell network to know which hosts provided which services.

Table 15-1 maps the relationship between the XNS, Novell, and TCP/IP suites in terms of function. The relationships are an approximation only, but should help you understand what is happening when we refer to these protocols later on.

Table 15-1. XNS, Novell, and TCP/IP Protocol Relationships

XNS Novell TCP/IP Features
IDP IPX UDP/IP Connectionless, unreliable transport
SPP SPX TCP Connection-based, reliable transport
  NCP NFS File services
  RIP RIP Routing information exchange
  SAP   Service availability information exchange