Network Basics: Other Network Protocols

While the most popular network protocols are IP and IPX, there are others like NetBIOS, NetBEUI, IPX/SPX, AppleTalk and SNA. These other types are worth knowing about:

  • NetBIOS: Short for Network Basic Input/Output System, this is the basic application-programming interface for network services on Windows computers. It’s installed automatically when you install TCP/IP, but doesn’t show up as a separate protocol when you view the network connection properties. NetBIOS is a Session layer protocol that can work with Transport layer protocols such as TCP, SPX, or NetBEUI.

  • NetBEUI: Short for Network BIOS Extended User Interface, this is a Transport layer protocol that was designed for early IBM and Microsoft networks. NetBEUI is now considered obsolete.

  • IPX/SPX: A protocol suite that was made popular in the 1980s by Novell for use with their NetWare servers. TCP/IP has become so dominant that IPX/SPX is now only rarely used.

  • AppleTalk: Apple computers have their own suite of network protocols known as AppleTalk. The AppleTalk suite includes a Physical and Data Link layer protocol called LocalTalk, but can also work with standard lower-level protocols, including Ethernet and Token Ring.

  • SNA: Systems Network Architecture is an IBM networking architecture that dates back to the 1970s, when mainframe computers roamed the earth and PCs had barely emerged from the primordial computer soup.

    SNA was designed primarily to support huge terminals such as airline reservation and banking systems, with tens of thousands of terminals attached to central host computers. Now that IBM mainframes support TCP/IP and terminal systems have all but vanished, SNA is beginning to fade away. Still, many networks that incorporate mainframe computers have to contend with SNA.