The function or purpose of Internet Protocol is to move datagrams through an interconnected set of networks. This is done by passing the datagrams from one internet module to another until the destination is reached. The internet modules reside in hosts and gateways in the internet system. The datagrams are routed from one internet module to another through individual networks based on the interpretation of an internet address. Thus, one important mechanism of the internet protocol is the internet address.
In the routing of messages from one internet module to another, datagrams may need to traverse a network whose maximum packet size is smaller than the size of the datagram. To overcome this difficulty, a fragmentation mechanism is provided in the internet protocol.
A distinction is made between names, addresses, and routes . A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there. The internet protocol deals primarily with addresses. It is the task of higher level (i.e., host-to-host or application) protocols to make the mapping from names to addresses. The internet module maps internet addresses to local net addresses. It is the task of lower level (i.e., local net or gateways) procedures to make the mapping from local net addresses to routes.
Addresses are fixed length of four octets (32 bits). An address begins with a network number, followed by local address (called the "rest" field). There are three formats or classes of internet addresses: in class a, the high order bit is zero, the next 7 bits are the network, and the last 24 bits are the local address; in class b, the high order two bits are one-zero, the next 14 bits are the network and the last 16 bits are the local address; in class c, the high order three bits are one-one-zero, the next 21 bits are the network and the last 8 bits are the local address.
Care must be taken in mapping internet addresses to local net addresses; a single physical host must be able to act as if it were several distinct hosts to the extent of using several distinct internet addresses. Some hosts will also have several physical interfaces (multi-homing). That is, provision must be made for a host to have several physical interfaces to the network with each having several logical internet addresses. Examples of address mappings may be found in "Address Mappings" .
Fragmentation of an internet datagram is necessary when it originates in a local net that allows a large packet size and must traverse a local net that limits packets to a smaller size to reach its destination.
An internet datagram can be marked "don't fragment." Any internet datagram so marked is not to be internet fragmented under any circumstances. If internet datagram marked don't fragment cannot be delivered to its destination without fragmenting it, it is to be discarded instead.
Fragmentation, transmission and reassembly across a local network which is invisible to the internet protocol module is called intranet fragmentation and may be used .
The internet fragmentation and reassembly procedure needs to be able to break a datagram into an almost arbitrary number of pieces that can be later reassembled. The receiver of the fragments uses the identification field to ensure that fragments of different datagrams are not mixed. The fragment offset field tells the receiver the position of a fragment in the original datagram. The fragment offset and length determine the portion of the original datagram covered by this fragment. The more-fragments flag indicates (by being reset) the last fragment. These fields provide sufficient information to reassemble datagrams.
The identification field is used to distinguish the fragments of one datagram from those of another. The originating protocol module of an internet datagram sets the identification field to a value that must be unique for that source-destination pair and protocol for the time the datagram will be active in the internet system. The originating protocol module of a complete datagram sets the more-fragments flag to zero and the fragment offset to zero.
To fragment a long internet datagram, an internet protocol module (for example, in a gateway), creates two new internet datagrams and copies the contents of the internet header fields from the long datagram into both new internet headers. The data of the long datagram is divided into two portions on a 8 octet (64 bit) boundary (the second portion might not be an integral multiple of 8 octets, but the first must be). Call the number of 8 octet blocks in the first portion NFB (for Number of Fragment Blocks). The first portion of the data is placed in the first new internet datagram, and the total length field is set to the length of the first datagram. The more-fragments flag is set to one. The second portion of the data is placed in the second new internet datagram, and the total length field is set to the length of the second datagram. The more-fragments flag carries the same value as the long datagram. The fragment offset field of the second new internet datagram is set to the value of that field in the long datagram plus NFB.
This procedure can be generalized for an n-way split, rather than the two-way split described.
To assemble the fragments of an internet datagram, an internet protocol module (for example at a destination host) combines internet datagrams that all have the same value for the four fields: identification, source, destination, and protocol. The combination is done by placing the data portion of each fragment in the relative position indicated by the fragment offset in that fragment's internet header. The first fragment will have the fragment offset zero, and the last fragment will have the more-fragments flag reset to zero.