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High-Level Data-Link Control (HDLC) Protocol

The High-Level Data-Link Control protocol (HDLC) is a popular ISO standard, bit-oriented
Data Link layer protocol. It specifies an encapsulation method for data on synchronous serial
data links using frame characters and checksums. HDLC is a point-to-point protocol used on
leased lines. No authentication can be used with HDLC.
In byte-oriented protocols, control information is encoded using entire bytes. Bit-oriented
protocols, on the other hand, may use single bits to represent control information. Bit-oriented
protocols include SDLC, LLC, HDLC, TCP, IP, etc.
HDLC is the default encapsulation used by Cisco routers over synchronous serial links. Ciscos
HDLC is proprietaryit wont communicate with any other vendors HDLC implementation.
Everyones HDLC implementation is proprietary.

The reason that every vendor has a proprietary HDLC encapsulation method is that each vendor
has a different way for the HDLC protocol to communicate with the Network layer protocols.
This propriety header is placed in the data field of the HDLC encapsulation.
Characterization of HDLC
HDLC can be characterized by
1. Station Types
2. Configurations
3. Response Modes
1. Station Types (Computers)
HDLC differentiates b/w 3 types of stations
Primary Station
Secondary Station
Combined Station

Primary Station
a. Primary station works in the same way as primary devices in the discussion of flow control
b. The primary is a device in point-to-point or multipoint line configuration that has complete
control of the link
Secondary Station
a. The primary sends commands to the secondary stations
b. A primary issues commands and secondary issue responses
Combined Station
a. A combined station can both command and respond
b. A combined station is one of a set of connected peer devices programmed to behave either
as a primary or as a secondary depending on the nature and the direction of the transmission
2. Configuration
a.
Configuration refers to the relationship of the hardware devices on a link
b.
Primary, secondary and combined stations can be configured in three ways
Unbalanced Configuration
Symmetrical Configuration
Balanced Configuration
Unbalanced Configuration
a.
Also called Master/Slave Configuration
b.
One device is a primary and others are secondary
c.
Unbalanced configuration can be point to point if only two devices are involved
d.
Most of the times it is multipoint with one primary controlling several secondaries
Symmetrical Configuration
a.
Each physical station on a link consists of two logical stations, one a primary and the other
a secondary
b.
Separate lines link the primary aspect of one physical station to the secondary aspect of
another physical station
Balanced Configuration
a.
Both stations in a point-to-point topology are of combined type
b.
HDLC does not support balanced multipoint

3. Response Modes
a.
A mode in HDLC is the relationship b/w two devices involved in an exchange
b. The mode describes who controls the link
c.
HDLC supports 3 modes of communication b/w stations
Normal Response Mode (NRM)
Asynchronous Response Mode (ARM)
Asynchronous Balanced Mode (ABM)

Normal Response Mode (NRM)


a.
Refers to the standard primary-secondary relationship
b.
Secondary device must have permission from primary device before transmitting
c.
Once permission has been granted, the secondary may initiate a response transmission of
one or more frames containing data
Asynchronous Response Mode (ARM)
a.
A secondary may initiate a TX w/o permission from the primary whenever the channel is
idle
b.
ARM does not alter the primary secondary relationship in any other way
c.
All transmissions from the primary still go to the secondary and are then relayed to the
other devices
Asynchronous Balanced Mode (ABM)
a.
All stations are equal and therefore only combined stations connected in point-to-point are
used
b.
Either combined station may initiate TX with the other combined station w/o permission
HDLC Operations and Frame Types
There are three fundamental types of HDLC frames.
Information frames, or I-frames, transport user data from the network layer. In addition
they can also include flow and error control information piggybacked on data.
Supervisory Frames, or S-frames, are used for flow and error control whenever
piggybacking is impossible or inappropriate, such as when a station does not have data to
send. S-frames do not have information fields.
Unnumbered frames, or U-frames, are used for various miscellaneous purposes,
including link management. Some U-frames contain an information field, depending on
the type.
The general format of the control field is:

P/F Bit
Poll/Final is a single bit with two names. It is called Poll when set by the primary station to
obtain a response from a secondary station, and Final when set by the secondary station to
indicate a response or the end of transmission. In all other cases, the bit is clear.
The bit is used as a token that is passed back and forth between the stations. Only one token
should exist at a time. The secondary only sends a Final when it has received a Poll from the
primary. The primary only sends a Poll when it has received a Final back from the secondary, or
after a timeout indicating that the bit has been lost.
N(S) Bit
This is incremented for successive I-frames, modulo 8 or modulo 128. Depending on the number
of bits in the sequence number, up to 7 or 127 I-frames may be awaiting acknowledgment at any
time.
N(R) Bit
Both I and S frames contain a receive sequence number N(R). N(R) provides a positive
acknowledgement for the receipt of I-frames from the other side of the link. Its value is always
the first frame not received; it acknowledges that all frames with N(S) values up to N(R)-1
(modulo 8 or modulo 128) have been received and indicates the N(S) of the next frame it expects
to receive.