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Data Link Layer Standards


    The most commonly-used data link layer standards are a number of de facto standards established by major computer manufacturers (e.g., BSC by IBM and DDCMP by DEC) and others published by ISO, CCITT, and IEEE. Below we will look at two popular standards; one character-oriented and one bit-oriented.


BSC


    Binary Synchronous Control (BSC; also known as BISYNC) is a widely-used synchronous, character-oriented protocol devised by IBM in the 1960s for halfduplex communication.

    To synchronize, the transmitter repeatedly sends a SYN character which the receiver looks for. Once the receiver has detected the SYN character, the two stations handshake to confirm that they are synchronized and can start exchanging data. Information is exchanged in character blocks.

    A block starts with a SYN character. SOH marks the beginning of a header which contains additional control information, such as the block sequence number, the address of the transmitter, the address of the receiver, etc. STX and ETX mark the beginning and end of user data, which is an arbitrary sequence of characters. A redundancy check concludes the block.

    Since control characters may also occur in user data, another control character, DLE (Data Link Escape), is used to avoid their being interpreted as control codes. If a control character occurs in user data, it is simply preceded by a DLE character. A literal DLE itself appears as two consecutive DLEs. The receiver treats a DLE as meaning 'accept the next character as literal'.

    Error handling in BSC is fairly simple. If the receiver receives a corrupted block, it returns a NAK block which contains the sequence number of the offending block. The transmitter then retransmits that block. Parity checking is also used on individual characters.


HDLC


    The High-level Data Link Control (HDLC) is a more recent bit-oriented protocol which enjoys widespread acceptance throughout the world. It is specified by ISO 3309, ISO 4335, and ISO 7809 standards, and supports half- as well as full-duplex communication. Most vendors now tend to support this protocol (or one of its derivatives) in their networking products.

    HDLC offers a master-slave arrangement in which the master station (in charge of the link) issues command frames and the slave stations reply with response frames. It is also possible for a station to assume a hybrid identity (master and slave) so that it can both issue commands and send responses. HDLC offers three modes of operation:

* Normal Response Mode (NRM). In this mode, a slave station is unable toinitiate a transmission; it can only transmit in response to a command from the master station. The master station is responsible for managing the transmission. This mode is typically used for multipoint lines, where a central station (e.g., a host computer) polls a set of other stations (e.g., PCs, terminals, printers, etc.).

* Asynchronous Response Mode (ARM). In this mode, a slave station can initiate a transmission on its own accord. However, the master station is still responsible for managing the transmission. This mode is now largely obsolete.

* Asynchronous Balanced Mode (ABM). In this mode, all stations are of thehybrid form with equal status. Each station may transmit on its own accord. This mode is best-suited to point-to-point configurations.

    The Address field and the Control field are one or two octets each. The Checksum field is two octets and uses the CRC method. The Data field is of arbitrary length, and may be zero for some messages. Information frames are used for exchange of user data between two stations. They may also be used for acknowledging receipt of data in a piggyback fashion. Supervisory frames are used for control purposes such as ACK and NAK frames and flow control. Unnumbered frames are used for link control functions such as link connection and disconnection.

    The role of Send and Receive sequence numbers were discussed earlier in the chapter. The Poll/Final (P/F) bit is used in a HDLC master-slave arrangement. When set by the master station, it acts as a polling request to the slave station. When set by the slave station, it marks the last transmitted frame in response to a poll. The Supervisory code consists of two bits and determines the type of supervisory commands (maximum of four commands or four responses). The Unnumbered code consists of five bits and determines the type of unnumbered commands (maximum of 32 commands or 32 responses).

    There are a number of HDLC-related protocols, often referred to as HDLC subsets. These include:

* The Link Access Procedure (LAP) is based on the SARM command of HDLC. Under LAP, the transmitting station sends a SARM to the receiving station. The latter responds with a UA. At its discretion, the receiving station may interpret the receiving of a SARM command as a request for transmission in the opposite direction, in which case the roles are reversed.

* The Link Access Protocol Balanced (LAP-B) is an ABM subset of HDLC designed for use with X.25 (see Chapter 4). It is used for establishing a link between a DCE and a DTE. LAP-B does not support the SREJ command, and only supports a limited number of the unnumbered commands. div>
* The Link Access Protocol, D channel (LAP-D) is an HDLC subset designedfor use with ISDN.

* The Logical Link Control (LLC) is an HDLC subset designed as a part of theIEEE 802 series of standards for use with LANs.