TCP Reliability – The Segment Ordered Delivery

Transmission Control Protocol accepts data from a stream, divides it into small chunks, and adds a TCP header creating a TCP segment. The TCP segment is then encapsulated into an Internet Protocol datagram (IP datagram) and exchanged with peers.

These TCP segments possibly will arrive at their destination out of order. For the original message to be understood by the receiver; the data in these out of order segments are reassembled into the original order. Sequence numbers are assigned in the header of each segment to get this goal. The sequence number represents the first data byte of the TCP segment.

During the established session, the first sequence number (ISN) is set. This ISN represents the opening value of the bytes for this session that is transmitted to the receiving side application. As data is transmitted during the established session, the sequence number is incremented by the number of bytes that have been transmitted. This data byte tracking enables every segment to be individually identified and acknowledged. Missing segments can then be identified and then reported. The ISN is effectively a random number. This is to avoid certain types of malicious attacks. For simplicity, we will use an ISN of 1 for the examples. sequence numbers indicate how to reassemble and reorder received segments, as shown in the figure.


The receiving TCP process places the data from a segment into a receiving buffer. Segments are placed in the proper sequence order and passed to the application layer when reassembled. Any segments that arrive with sequence numbers that are out of order are seized for later processing. in that case, when the segments with the missing bytes reach the destination, these segments are processed in proper order.

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