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Protocol stack

(also network stack)

Protocol stack definition

A protocol stack is a group of protocols that functions like a rulebook for devices to talk to each other in a network. It helps a network function properly. The protocol stack divides communication into different parts (i.e., layers). Each layer has a special function to perform (like finding errors in the data, routing data packets, considering traffic, etc.). These layers work together to ensure everything runs smoothly in the network.

See also: autonomic network

What does a protocol stack do?

  • The protocol stack splits up the communication process into several different layers, each with a specific role to play.
  • As the data travels through the layers, each layer adds information to the original data. This process is called data encapsulation.
  • The data continues to travel through the protocol stack from the top layer (application layer) to the bottom layer (physical layer) before being sent over the network medium.
  • Each layer performs its specific tasks on the data it receives. The physical layer takes the encapsulated data and transmits it as electrical signals, light pulses, or radio waves, depending on the chosen network medium. The physical layer takes care of making signals understandable, preparing them for transmission, and dealing with the way they travel through cables or wireless connections.
  • When the data reaches the receiving device, it goes through the reverse process. Each layer of the protocol stack removes the corresponding layer information it added during data encapsulation. This is called data de-encapsulation.
  • The data continues to move up the protocol stack, passing through each layer. There may be additional processing at this stage (e.g., fixing errors, flow control, or routing).
  • Once the data reaches the top layer of the protocol stack on the receiving device, it's ready to be used by the app it was intended for.