What Is Socket Programming
Sockets are a generalized networking capability first introduced in 4.1cBSD and subsequently refined into their current form with 4.2BSD. The sockets feature is available with most current UNIX system releases. (Transport Layer Interface (TLI) is the System V alternative). Sockets allow communication between two different processes on the same or different machines. Internet protocols are used by default for communication between machines; other protocols such as DECnet can be used if they are available.To a programmer a socket looks and behaves much like a low level file descriptor. This is because commands such as read() and write() work with sockets in the same way they do with files and pipes. The differences between sockets and normal file descriptors occurs in the creation of a socket and through a variety of special operations to control a socket. These operations are different between sockets and normal file descriptors because of the additional complexity in establishing network connections when compared with normal disk access.For most operations using sockets, the roles of client and server must be assigned. A server is a process which does some function on request from a client. As will be seen in this discussion, the roles are not symmetric and cannot be reversed without some effort.This description of the use of sockets progresses in three stages:The use of sockets in a connectionless or datagram mode between client and server processes on the same host. In this situation, the client does not explicitly establish a connection with the server. The client, of course, must know the server's address. The server, in turn, simply waits for a message to show up. The client's address is one of the parameters of the message receive request and is used by the server for response.The use of sockets in a connected mode between client and server on the same host. In this case, the roles of client and server are further reinforced by the way in which the socket is established and used. This model is often referred to as a connection-oriented client-server model.The use of sockets in a connected mode between client and server on different hosts. This is the network extension of Stage 2, above.The connectionless or datagram mode between client and server on different hosts is not explicitly discussed here. Its use can be inferred from the presentations made in Stages 1 and 3.
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