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TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols by W. Richard Stevens

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Chapter 3. IP: Internet Protocol

Introduction

IP is the workhorse protocol of the TCP/IP protocol suite. All TCP, UDP, ICMP, and IGMP data gets transmitted as IP datagrams (Figure 1.4). A fact that amazes many newcomers to TCP/IP, especially those from an X.25 or SNA background, is that IP provides an unreliable, connectionless datagram delivery service.

By unreliable we mean there are no guarantees that an IP datagram successfully gets to its destination. IP provides a best effort service. When something goes wrong, such as a router temporarily running out of buffers, IP has a simple error handling algorithm: throw away the datagram and try to send an ICMP message back to the source. Any required reliability must be provided by the upper layers ...

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