Computers running on the Internet communicate to each other using either the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), as this diagram illustrates:
When you write Java programs that communicate over the
network, you are programming at the application layer. Typically, you don't
need to concern yourself with the TCP and UDP layers. Instead, you can use the
classes in the
package. These classes provide system-independent network communication.
However, to decide which Java classes your programs should use, you do need to
understand how TCP and UDP differ.
When two applications want to communicate to each other reliably, they establish a connection and send data back and forth over that connection. This is analogous to making a telephone call. If you want to speak to Aunt Beatrice in Kentucky, a connection is established when you dial her phone number and she answers. You send data back and forth over the connection by speaking to one another over the phone lines. Like the phone company, TCP guarantees that data sent from one end of the connection actually gets to the other end and in the same order it was sent. Otherwise, an error is reported.
TCP provides a point-to-point channel for applications that require reliable communications. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and Telnet are all examples of applications that require a reliable communication channel. The order in which the data is sent and received over the network is critical to the success of these applications. When HTTP is used to read from a URL, the data must be received in the order in which it was sent. Otherwise, you end up with a jumbled HTML file, a corrupt zip file, or some other invalid information.
Definition: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is a connection-based protocol that provides a reliable flow of data between two computers.
The UDP protocol provides for communication that is not guaranteed between two applications on the network. UDP is not connection-based like TCP. Rather, it sends independent packets of data, called datagrams, from one application to another. Sending datagrams is much like sending a letter through the postal service: The order of delivery is not important and is not guaranteed, and each message is independent of any other.
Definition: UDP (User Datagram Protocol) is a protocol that sends independent packets of data, called datagrams, from one computer to another with no guarantees about arrival. UDP is not connection-based like TCP.
For many applications, the guarantee of reliability is critical to the success of the transfer of information from one end of the connection to the other. However, other forms of communication don't require such strict standards. In fact, they may be slowed down by the extra overhead or the reliable connection may invalidate the service altogether.
Consider, for example, a clock server that sends the current time to its client when requested to do so. If the client misses a packet, it doesn't really make sense to resend it because the time will be incorrect when the client receives it on the second try. If the client makes two requests and receives packets from the server out of order, it doesn't really matter because the client can figure out that the packets are out of order and make another request. The reliability of TCP is unnecessary in this instance because it causes performance degradation and may hinder the usefulness of the service.
Another example of a service that doesn't need the guarantee of a reliable channel is the ping command. The purpose of the ping command is to test the communication between two programs over the network. In fact, ping needs to know about dropped or out-of-order packets to determine how good or bad the connection is. A reliable channel would invalidate this service altogether.
The UDP protocol provides for communication that is not guaranteed between two applications on the network. UDP is not connection-based like TCP. Rather, it sends independent packets of data from one application to another. Sending datagrams is much like sending a letter through the mail service: The order of delivery is not important and is not guaranteed, and each message is independent of any others.
Note: Many firewalls and routers have been configured not to allow UDP packets. If you're having trouble connecting to a service outside your firewall, or if clients are having trouble connecting to your service, ask your system administrator if UDP is permitted.
Generally speaking, a computer has a single physical connection to the network. All data destined for a particular computer arrives through that connection. However, the data may be intended for different applications running on the computer. So how does the computer know to which application to forward the data? Through the use of ports.
Data transmitted over the Internet is accompanied by addressing information that identifies the computer and the port for which it is destined. The computer is identified by its 32-bit IP address, which IP uses to deliver data to the right computer on the network. Ports are identified by a 16-bit number, which TCP and UDP use to deliver the data to the right application.
In connection-based communication such as TCP, a server application binds a socket to a specific port number. This has the effect of registering the server with the system to receive all data destined for that port. A client can then rendezvous with the server at the server's port, as illustrated here:
Definition: The TCP and UDP protocols use ports to map incoming data to a particular process running on a computer.
In datagram-based communication such as UDP, the datagram packet contains the port number of its destination and UDP routes the packet to the appropriate application, as illustrated in this figure:
Port numbers range from 0 to 65,535 because ports are represented by 16-bit numbers. The port numbers ranging from 0 - 1023 are restricted; they are reserved for use by well-known services such as HTTP and FTP and other system services. These ports are called well-known ports. Your applications should not attempt to bind to them.
Through the classes in
java.net, Java programs can use TCP or
UDP to communicate over the Internet. The
classes all use TCP to communicate over the network. The
classes are for use with UDP.
The Internet Protocol Suite
The java.net package provides a set of classes that support network programming using the communication protocols employed by the Internet. These protocols are known as the Internet protocol suite and include the Internet Protocol (IP), the Transport Control Protocol (TCP), and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) as well as other, less-prominent supporting protocols. Although this section cannot provide a full description of the Internet protocols, it gives you the basic information that you need to get started with Java network programming. In order to take full advantage of this chapter, you need an Internet connection.
Asking the question What is the Internet? may bring about a heated discussion in some circles. In this book, the Internet is defined as the collection of all computers that are able to communicate, using the Internet protocol suite, with the computers and networks registered with the Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC). This definition includes all computers to which you can directly (or indirectly through a firewall) send Internet Protocol packets.
Computers on the Internet communicate by exchanging packets of data, known as Internet Protocol, or IP, packets. IP is the network protocol used to send information from one computer to another over the Internet. All computers on the Internet (by our definition in this book) communicate using IP. IP moves information contained in IP packets. The IP packets are routed via special routing algorithms from a source computer that sends the packets to a destination computer that receives them. The routing algorithms figure out the best way to send the packets from source to destination.
In order for IP to send packets from a source computer to a destination computer, it must have some way of identifying these computers. All computers on the Internet are identified using one or more IP addresses. A computer may have more than one IP address if it has more than one interface to computers that are connected to the Internet.
IP addresses are 32-bit numbers. They may be written in decimal, hexadecimal, or other formats, but the most common format is dotted decimal notation. This format breaks the 32-bit address up into four bytes and writes each byte of the address as unsigned decimal integers separated by dots. For example, one of my IP addresses is 0xccD499C1. Because 0xcc = 204, 0xD4 = 212, 0x99 = 153, and 0xC1 = 193, my address in dotted decimal form is 220.127.116.11.
IP addresses are not easy to remember, even using dotted decimal notation. The Internet has adopted a mechanism, referred to as the Domain Name System (DNS), whereby computer names can be associated with IP addresses. These computer names are referred to as domain names. The DNS has several rules that determine how domain names are constructed and how they relate to one another. For the purposes of this chapter, it is sufficient to know that domain names are computer names and that they are mapped to IP addresses.
The mapping of domain names to IP addresses is maintained by a system of domain name servers. These servers are able to look up the IP address corresponding to a domain name. They also provide the capability to look up the domain name associated with a particular IP address, if one exists.
As I mentioned, IP enables communication between computers on the Internet by routing data from a source computer to a destination computer. However, computer-to-computer communication only solves half of the network communication problem. In order for an application program, such as a mail program, to communicate with another application, such as a mail server, there needs to be a way to send data to specific programs within a computer.
Ports are used to enable communication between programs. A port is an address within a computer. Port addresses are 16-bit addresses that are usually associated with a particular application protocol. An application server, such as a Web server or an FTP server, listens on a particular port for service requests, performs whatever service is requested of it, and returns information to the port used by the application program requesting the service.
Popular Internet application protocols are associated with well-known ports. The server programs implementing these protocols listen on these ports for service requests. The well-known ports for some common Internet application protocols are:
File Transfer Protocol
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
Hypertext Transfer Protocol
The well-known ports are used to standardize the location of Internet services.
Transport protocols are used to deliver information from one port to another and thereby enable communication between application programs. They use either a connection-oriented or connectionless method of communication. TCP is a connection-oriented protocol and UDP is a connectionless transport protocol.
The TCP connection-oriented protocol establishes a communication link between a source port/IP address and a destination port/IP address. The ports are bound together via this link until the connection is terminated and the link is broken. An example of a connection-oriented protocol is a telephone conversation. A telephone connection is established, communication takes place, and then the connection is terminated.
The reliability of the communication between the source and destination programs is ensured through error-detection and error-correction mechanisms that are implemented within TCP. TCP implements the connection as a stream of bytes from source to destination. This feature allows the use of the stream I/O classes provided by java.io.
The UDP connectionless protocol differs from the TCP connection-oriented protocol in that it does not establish a link for the duration of the connection. An example of a connectionless protocol is postal mail. To mail something, you just write down a destination address (and an optional return address) on the envelope of the item you're sending and drop it in a mailbox. When using UDP, an application program writes the destination port and IP address on a datagram and then sends the datagram to its destination. UDP is less reliable than TCP because there are no delivery-assurance or error-detection and -correction mechanisms built into the protocol.
Application protocols such as FTP, SMTP, and HTTP use TCP to provide reliable, stream-based communication between client and server programs. Other protocols, such as the Time Protocol, use UDP because speed of delivery is more important than end-to-end reliability.
The Internet provides a variety of services that contribute to its appeal. These services include e-mail, newsgroups, file transfer, remote login, and the Web. Internet services are organized according to a client/server architecture. Client programs, such as Web browsers and file transfer programs, create connections to servers, such as Web and FTP servers. The clients make requests of the server, and the server responds to the requests by providing the service requested by the client.
The Web provides a good example of client/server computing. Web browsers are the clients and Web servers are the servers. Browsers request HTML files from Web servers on your behalf by establishing a connection with a Web server and submitting file requests to the server. The server receives the file requests, retrieves the files, and sends them to the browser over the established connection. The browser receives the files and displays them to your browser window.
Clients and servers establish connections and communicate via sockets. Connections are communication links that are created over the Internet using TCP. Some client/server applications are also built around the connectionless UDP. These applications also use sockets to communicate.
Sockets are the endpoints of Internet communication. Clients create client sockets and connect them to server sockets. Sockets are associated with a host address and a port address. The host address is the IP address of the host where the client or server program is located. The port address is the communication port used by the client or server program. Server programs use the well-known port number associated with their application protocol.
A client communicates with a server by establishing a connection to the socket of the server. The client and server then exchange data over the connection. Connection-oriented communication is more reliable than connectionless communication because the underlying TCP provides message-acknowledgment, error-detection, and error-recovery services.
When a connectionless protocol is used, the client and server communicate by sending datagrams to each other's socket. The UDP is used for connectionless protocols. It does not support reliable communication like TCP.
The java.net package provides several classes that support socket-based client/server communication.
The InetAddress class encapsulates Internet IP addresses and supports conversion between dotted decimal addresses and hostnames.
The Socket, ServerSocket, DatagramSocket and MulticastSocket classes implement client and server sockets for connection-oriented and connectionless communication. The SocketImpl class and the SocketImplFactory interface provide hooks for implementing custom sockets.
The URL, URLConnection, and URLEncoder classes implement high-level browser-server Web connections.