Network Basics: User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a connectionless Transport layer protocol. For some applications, speed and efficiency are more important than reliability. In such cases, a connectionless protocol can be used. A connectionless protocol doesn’t go to the trouble of establishing a connection before sending a packet. Instead, it simply sends the packet.

After UDP has placed a packet on the network (via the IP protocol), it forgets about it. UDP doesn’t guarantee that the packet actually arrives at its destination. Most applications that use UDP simply wait for any replies expected as a result of packets sent via UDP. If a reply doesn’t arrive within a certain period of time, the application either sends the packet again or gives up.

UDP uses a simple transmission model without implicit handshaking dialogues for providing reliability, ordering, or data integrity. Thus, UDP provides an unreliable service and datagrams (packets) may arrive out of order, appear duplicated, or go missing without notice.

Probably the best-known Application layer protocol that uses UDP is DNS, the Domain Name System. When an application needs to access a domain name such as www.wiley.com, DNS sends a UDP packet to a DNS server to look up the domain. When the server finds the domain, it returns the domain’s IP address in another UDP packet.