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Written by Baz8080   
Thursday, 16 January 2003 00:00

The IEEE Working Groups and what they do: An Introduction

 Welcome to the first in a series of many articles concerning the world of networking. Much like a lot of movies these days this article will have one or two prequels and tonnes of sequels. Unlike movies, the article prequels and sequels won't be crap. If you should encounter a cryptic acronym fear not as there is a mini jargon listing at the bottom. Don't be disappointed by the lack of detail here - This is an introduction and nothing else.

Now - Lets move on to the working groups of IEEE 802.x. Now, I do realise that pronouncing 'IEEE' can make you sound like a blabbing idiot, which is why we all pronounce it 'eye triple e', and not 'eye-eee....'.

What does IEEE stand for? The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE is a global technical professional society serving the public interest and members in electrical, electronics, computer, information & other technologies. (definition ripped from the IEEE Site.)

When I say 'working groups' I am describing collections of people who sit on various committees that develop standards, protocols and related practices that relate to networking hardware, media, topologies and network infrastructure - In short networking _full stop_

Why do we care? Briefly because it allows us to enjoy the use of the networking spectrum without having to care about what hardware, software or operating system we use. This is made possible though hardware and software vendors aceptance of the IEEE 802.x standards which allows for full interoperability.

If a hardware or software vendor develops products that are compliant with IEEE 802.x that means that you can be certain that the hardware or software will be compatible with other IEEE 802.x compliant products.

IEEE 802.1
This is a working group that looks into the inter-networking of LAN's and MAN's, the overall architecture of LAN's and MAN's, the overall managmenet of 802 networks and protocols above the MAC and LLC sublayers.
IEEE 802.1 Web-Page

IEEE 802.2
This is the working group that developed the standards for the LLC (Logical Link Layer) sublayer of the Data Link Layer. It's done now, so the group is currently inactive. As stated in the jargon buster the LLC is a sublayer of the data-link layer which handles traffic flow and error correction in the physical networking medium.
IEEE 802.2 Web-Page

Ok, what's all this about layers?? There is a thing called the OSI Reference Model for networking. How to explain? - Networking is a very complex process when you take into account that an innumerable amount of hardware devices need to converse accross various protocols through whatever media is being used.

The OSI model defines 7 Layers of communication, each of which has a well defined function. Data flows through the different layers, and in each layer the data is encapsulated in some form and passed along. Because the layer specifications and functions are well defined the same layer on both the originating and receiving systems are packaged in the same way.

This is not the time to go into the detailed mechanics of the OSI model. (Do not despair - it will be covered in articles to follow)


IEEE 802.3
The working groups that does ethernet based LAN's that use CSMA/CD. It includes support for different network media types, topologies and datarates. CSMA/CD is a mechanism that makes provision for the event that packets of information being trasmitted on a network may collide. Obviously it would not be satisfactory for packets to collide and disappear without trace into the ether. CSMA/CD tries to govern managed access to the network medium and in the event of a collision the computers/devices transmitting will continue to do so untill success is achieved.

The mechanism it uses is called exponential backoff. If a collision occurs the transmitting stations wait for 'x' amount of time before trying again, if resending the data produces another collision the stations will wait '2x' amount of time, and so on.
IEEE 802.3 Web-Page

IEEE 802.4
An inactive group, which oversaw the definition of a token-passing bus topology network that used 75-Ohm Coxial Cable or Fiber Optic cable. Token passing networks use, rather unsurprisingly, a token based access to the network. In a token based network a 'token', or a special packet is being constantly transmitted along the network medium.

When a computer or device wants to send information it waits untill the token passes to it, which signals that the device had permission to transmit its data. When the transmission has completed the token is placed back on the network, which signals that a new transmission is possible
IEEE 802.4 Web-Page

IEEE 802.5
The Token Ring group is active in the development of a Token passing Ringed topology. Token rings can consist of one or two physical rings, through which the devices are connected. This working group adopted IBM's original Token Ring network standard.

In a dual ring configuration the rings are concentric and the flow of network traffic travels in opposite directions to each other. This provides an element of single redundancy for the network in that if one ring fails the other will be able to carry the traffic. The links can operate at 1, 4 or 16Mbps speeds.
IEEE 802.5 Web-Page

IEEE 802.6
This group develops standards for MAN's (Metropolitan Area Networks)
They developed distributed queue dual bus, which allows synchronous and a synchronous voice/audio/data traffic on the network - currently inactive.

A MAN is an extended LAN, but which is not geographically diverse enough to be called a WAN.
IEEE 802.6 Web-Page

IEEE 802.7
An Advisory group on broadband lan's, this is inactive and is being maintained by IEEE 802.14
IEEE 802.7 Web-Page

IEEE 802.8
The people who sit on this group provide a technical advisory role on Fiber Optic communication.
IEEE 802.8 Web-Page

IEEE 802.9
Isynchronous Lan's are this groups concern. It focusses on the integration of voice and data transmissions that supports sporadic and patterened traffic - An integrated Voice and Data network.
IEEE 802.9 Web-Page

IEEE 802.10
Interoperable LAN/MAN security (SILS) It incorporates services, protocols, data formats and interfaces that use encryption mechanisms. The standards are independent of any physical media.
IEEE 802.10 Web-Page

IEEE 802.11
Resposible for the development of wireless local area networks (WLAN's), such as spread spectrum radio wave and infa red devices. There are a number of different interests represented here comprising of high and low power wireless communications and different signalling techniques.
IEEE 802.11 Web-Page

IEEE 802.12
Demand Priority Networks are ones in which access to the media can be monopolised by a particular device when the device needs it.
IEEE 802.12 Web-Page

IEEE 802.15
Wireless Personal Area Networks, for wee little low range networks for your ever increasing amount of cellular/mobile phones, pda's, headsets, pagers, bio-neural weapons etc....
IEEE 802.15 Web-Page

IEEE 802.16
Defines fixed broadband wireless access standards for MANs. This translates to the standards required for implementing broadband network access through wireless media.
IEEE 802.16 Web-Page

IEEE 802.17
RPR is not a big gun in quake, but a definition of a scaleable LAN, WAN and MAN protocols allowing for bandwidth of up to a few Gb/Sec.

There would be a fiber optic link in a ring configuration which would use switched packet technology rather than token passing technology. By using packet based transfers the maximum bandwidth available is drastically increased
IEEE 802.17 Web-Page

In this article you have learned about the IEEE 802.x working groups and a little of what they do, and why their work is important to us all. The next article will tell the story of networking before the IEEE 802.x working groups came along.

Then, after we dispense with the theory and evolution I'll get onto more practical topics such as network hardware, cabling, communications media, and a lot lot more.

Super Jargon Buster
MAC - Media Access Control
A sublayer of the Data Link Layer, which allows a number of computers to use the same network media (the cabling, in most instances)

LLC - Logical Link Control
The other sublayer of the data-link layer which handles traffic flow and error correction in the physical networking medium.

MAN - Metropolitan Area Network
Like a LAN (Local Area Network), only over greater distances really.

CSMA/CD - Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detect

Topology - The physical structure of the network - how the computers are connected and what hardware connects them.
 
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