The Application Layer

The Application layer of the OSI model marks the spot where users actually communicate or interact with the computer. Technically, users communicate with the network stack through application processes, interfaces, or APIs that connect the application in use to the operating system of the computer. The Application layer chooses and determines the availability of communicating partners along with the resources necessary to make their required connections. It coordinates partnering applications and forms a consensus on procedures for controlling data integrity and error recovery. The Application layer comes into play only when it’s apparent that access to the network will be needed soon. Take the case of Internet Explorer (IE). You could uninstall every trace of networking components from a system, such as TCP/IP, the network card, and so on, and you could still use IE to view a local HTML document without a problem. But things would definitely get messy if you tried to do something like view an HTML document that had to be retrieved using HTTP or nab a file with FTP or TFTP because IE responds to requests like those by attempting to access the Application layer. So what’s happening is that the Application layer acts as an interface between the application program—which isn’t part of the layered structure— and the next layer down by providing ways for the application to send information down through the protocol stack. In other words, IE doesn’t reside within the Application layer— it interfaces with Application layer protocols when it needs to deal with remote resources.

The Application layer is also responsible for identifying and establishing the availability of the intended communication partner and determining whether sufficient resources for the requested communication exist.

These tasks are important because computer applications sometimes require more than just desktop resources. Often, they unite communicating components from more than one network application. Prime examples are fi le transfers and email as well as enabling remote access, network-management activities, and client-server processes like printing and information location. Many network applications provide services for communication over enterprise networks, but for present and future internetworking, the need is fast developing to reach beyond the limitations of current physical networking.

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