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Computer Networks, Fourth Edition by Andrew S. Tanenbaum

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Chapter 5. The Network Layer

The network layer is concerned with getting packets from the source all the way to the destination. Getting to the destination may require making many hops at intermediate routers along the way. This function clearly contrasts with that of the data link layer, which has the more modest goal of just moving frames from one end of a wire to the other. Thus, the network layer is the lowest layer that deals with end-to-end transmission.

To achieve its goals, the network layer must know about the topology of the communication subnet (i.e., the set of all routers) and choose appropriate paths through it. It must also take care to choose routes to avoid overloading some of the communication lines and routers while leaving others ...

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