The critical nature of protocols demands that you spend a few minutes studying the protocols that can make or break your network.

Windows 2000 Diplomacy: Key Protocols

The critical nature of protocols demands that you spend a few minutes studying the protocols that can make or break your network.

Where else in the world of Windows 2000 could you speak about world politics? Huh? Hear me out on this one. When I'm wearing my trainer's hat, I often have to resort to odd examples to convey complex technical points. Protocols, our subject this month, fit this bill.

Close your eyes and think about world peace for a minute. The way we achieve world peace is via diplomacy. In the world of diplomacy, there are behaviors known as diplomatic protocols that allow people from different lands to communicate and negotiate. In fact, diplomatic protocols dictate how messages are delivered between governments. This is analogous to networks: Networking protocols dictate how messages are delivered.

Computers of different makes, operating systems, and geographical locations communicate effectively when they use an agreed-upon protocol. That's why a Macintosh running MacTCP can communicate with a Unix workstation running TCP/IP. It's why a NetWare server running IPX/SPX can communicate with a Win2K Server running NWLink IPX/SPX.

Back to the geopolitical real world. What happens when two nations don't have diplomatic relations, such as the U.S. and Iraq? Typically, a third country has to act as an intermediary to facilitate communications. The same thing occurs in Win2K networks. If two hosts are running separate protocols, communications won't occur. However, introduce a third-party intermediary known as a gateway and good things happen. An example of this in the Microsoft BackOffice family is SNA Server, which runs on Win2K Server. SNA Server facilitates communications between Win2K and IBM mid-range and mainframe computers.

Why Learn Protocols?

Networking protocols are an exciting aspect of Win2K because it's an area where you can really develop some mastery and add value to the networks you manage. For example, it seems like the default protocol, TCP/IP, is infinitely configurable. At times TCP/IP also seems to be infinitely bedeviling and thus part of the excitement. NT 4.0 MCSEs will remember all too well the emphasis placed on TCP/IP with its own certification exam (something that's been eliminated in the Win2K MCSE track). I've found networking protocol installation, administration, and troubleshooting to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of managing networks. And Win2K networks are proving to be no exception.

And don't you remember that twinge of excitement the first time you learned about the middle layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model? Of course, you do. I've also observed MCSEs, fascinated by the whole protocol area, go on to study Cisco routers and pursue Cisco certifications in addition to their MCSE interests.

Networking protocols are fundamental to the understanding of Win2K. If a protocol is missing, corrupt, or misconfigured, you've come to the end of the line on your Win2K network. The critical nature of protocols demands that we spend a few moments looking at some protocols that will make or break your network.

Said protocols are best exemplified by looking at Network Monitor in Win2K. Network Monitor is a tool traditionally known as a sniffer, which is used to observe network activity and troubleshoot problems. The key to using Network Monitor is to know protocols because it indexes everything by protocol type. In a future month I'll focus on Network Monitor; but for now Figure 1 provides a glimpse of this tool.

Figure 1. Network Monitor showing packets identified by protocol (TCP and SMB in this case).

What Ships with Win2K

Win2K ships with a variety of protocols, including the following from Microsoft:

  • TCP/IP (the default protocol in Win2K)
  • NetBEUI
  • NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS Compatible Transport Protocol
  • DLC
  • AppleTalk Protocol

Note that Win2K uses other protocols for very specific purposes. An example of this is the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which includes agents that monitor the activity of network devices and report this information to an SNMP-enabled application.

TCP/IP

Ah, TCP/IP, the underlying protocol of modern networks everywhere, including the Internet. Officially known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, TCP/IP's strengths include its routability, and configurability. Because TCP/IP is routable, which means it can link one local network to another network, it has been well accepted as the standard protocol for internetworking. TCP/IP is also highly configurable, allowing it to be implemented according to your specific needs. I'll discuss this point using the next several screen shots.

First, you need to display the properties for the TCP/IP protocol within Win2K. To do this:

  1. Right-click on My Network Places on the desktop to display the secondary menu.
  2. Select Properties from the secondary menu.
  3. The Network and Dial-up Connections window will be displayed. Right-click on the Local Area Connection icon.
  4. Select Properties from the secondary menu.
  5. The Local Area Connection Properties menu appears. Highlight Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click the Properties button.
  6. The Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. The default settings for the TCP/IP protocol in Win2K.

Unlike the other protocols discussed shortly, you must configure TCP/IP addresses, called IP addresses for short. You can do this in three ways: with a real Internet address, with a private network address, and through DHCP. Today, it's common to implement Win2K using real, Internet-registered IP addresses. I show this in Figure 3.

Figure 3. An actual IP address (Internet-registered) is used to configure the General tab sheet on the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties dialog box.

You'll receive the IP address information you need from another network administrator within your company or from your Internet service provider (ISP). You'll typically complete each field on the General tab sheet:

  • IP address. Where you enter the IP address. This is a required field.
  • Subnet Mask. Where you enter the Subnet Mask, which really defines the network class you're participating in. Figure 3 shows a Class C address. This is an optional field.
  • Default Gateway. Typically the address of a router or a server located at your ISP's location. This is an optional field on the one hand (when you're running the computer on a LAN) and a required entry when you're running the computer on a WAN or the Internet.
  • Preferred and Alternate DNS server. Typically required fields to facilitate name resolution. This information is either a DNS server on your network or the Internet. I discuss DNS in my July 2000 column.

The second way to implement TCP/IP in Win2K is to use private IP addresses. These addresses aren't registered on the Internet and look similar to Figure 4.

Figure 4. Private IP addressing using the common 10.0.0.x addressing scheme.

The third means of obtaining an IP address-the default setting in Win2K-is to acquire it from a DHCP server. You can see in Figure 4 the "Obtain an IP address automatically" radio button. I discuss DHCP servers in my column next month-as well as a few tab sheets exposed by the Advanced button (DNS and WINS) you see in Figure 4.

NetBEUI

Back in the days when knight were bold and kings owned all the Microsoft stock options, the preferred protocol for Microsoft-based networks was NetBEUI. This protocol is leaner than TCP/IP, not requiring as much in the way of acknowledgement traffic (and so it was considered faster); but it couldn't be routed. That wasn't a problem when the prevailing networking paradigm was the LAN-with an emphasis on the word "local." However, the world changed quickly; today's emphasis is now Wide Area Networks (WANs). And thus came the fall of the NetBEUI kingdom.

Note that NetBEUI isn't a configurable protocol.

So why is NetBEUI still part of Win2K? I can think of a couple of reasons.

First, there are crafty server farm scenarios whereby NetBEUI is used for fast communications between some hosts (say, Win2K servers) on one side of a router. Why? To take advantage of the fact that NetBEUI is small and efficient and doesn't have the additional header entries associated with routing. Because it's in effect faster than TCP/IP under the right conditions, its use is one way that network engineers can shave a nano-second here and there.

A second use of NetBEUI in Win2K, quite frankly, is to use it when nothing else works. For example, if TCP/IP has gone south on you, try good old NetBEUI to establish basic connectivity. I did this once at a charity auction where I set up a small network in a hotel lobby.

NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS Compatible Transport Protocol

To accommodate the red heads amongst us (NetWare-types), Microsoft has continued to include its version of IPX/SPX in order to participate on NetWare networks. To be honest, it's rare to see homogenous Win2K networks that use NWLink IPX/SPX (these networks are typically TCP/IP).

DLC

I've used this protocol, which has a way of sneaking into multiple-choice questions on the MCSE certification exams, to connect to HP JetDirect cards attached to HP laser printers. My heavy metal friends from the legacy community also tell me it's used for mainframe connectivity (I wouldn't know).

AppleTalk Protocol

Proving the Apple-Microsoft chasm was never so wide it couldn't support network connectivity, the AppleTalk protocol is used to support Macs on a Win2K network. For certain users, including my clients in the printing and advertising industries, this is a critical need. Win2K networks support Mac clients in a secure and stable way. The support primarily exists for network authentication, file storage, and printer usage. You can't run a native Mac application on a Win2K Server.

More To Come!

Next month, DNS, DHCP and WINS!

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