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SubjectRe: Client receives TCP packets but does not ACK

On Fri, 15 Jun 2001, Mike Black wrote:

> This is a very common misconception -- I worked a contract many years ago
> where I actually had to quote the author of TCP to convince a banking
> company I was working with that TCP is not a guaranteed protocol.
> Guaranteed delivery at layer 5 - yes -- but NOT a guaranteed protcol.
> Guaranteed means that there is absolutely NO way that data can be dropped by
> an application if either sender or receiver screws up.
> The only way to do this is at layer 7 of the OSI model -- even then you end
> up making assumptions.

You are mixing oranges (protocols) and apples (implementations and APIs)

The layer that is expected to provide reliable end to end communication is
layer 4 (transport layer). TCP, at least in theory, is as good as OSI
transport in providing reliable end to end communication.

> Here's some examples for layer 5 (which TCP operates at) but talking at
> Layer 7:
> #1 - You send() data -- meanwhile the receiver terminates the connection --
> what happened to the data? It's gone! Your app never receives feedback
> that it didn't send() correctly. You'll see the reset on the next read but
> you don't know what happened to the data.
> #2 - You send() data and overrun your IP queue -- nobody will ever know the
> difference without a layer 7 protocol (or int the case quoted in this
> subject it might lock up).
> #3 - You send() data and either machine has bad RAM and flips a bit -- guess
> what? -- data corruption.
> Even when you do layer 7 (with checksums and ack/nak) you make assumptions:
> #1 - You checksum the packet you just received -- what's to say a bit can't
> flip?
> TCP may be guaranteed at layer 5 but we don't typically program at layer
> 5 -- we program at layer 7 and then lots of people assume they're doing it
> at layer 5 -- ergo the problems.

Layers above layer 4 provide additionnal services for applications but
they assume that layer 4 is reliable. In other words, a broken transport
layer breaks all layers above it and thus the applications.

In fact, when you build your application above layer 4 and need services
normally provided by upper OSI layers, you have to implement equivalent
services in your application, using layered protocols or not.

> To look at it another way -- "Just 'cuz I told my C library to send a packet
> doesn't mean it's going to work".
> For example, if you're using non-blocking sockets you have to check to
> ensure there's room in your IP queue to transmit.

That's API semantic issue, not protocol issue.


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