Similar to TCP/IP, the Netware or IPX/SPX protocol suite is actually made up of a number of protocols that serve different purposes in the network communication process. While the IPX/SPX suite has become less popular based on the widespread adoption of TCP/IP, it is still in use in many (especially larger) network environments.
The IPX/SPX suite comes from the world of NetWare, Novell’s popular network operating system (NOS). Up until NetWare 4.x versions, Novell servers primarily relied on IPX/SPX as their native networking protocol suite. However, versions as early as 3.1x are capable of IP-based communication via a loadable module called NetWare/IP that encapsulates IPX/SPX traffic in UDP datagrams. Beginning with version 5.0, NetWare began using TCP/IP as its primary network protocol, although support for IPX/SPX continues into current versions. In order to reduce the complexity of networks, most companies now deploying NetWare are choosing to use TCP/IP only. However, the use of older IPX-based servers continues to make IPX/SPX a requirement on many networks. For the purpose of both the CCNA and CCDA exams, you are expected to be familiar with IPX/SPX, although you will definitely find a much larger emphasis placed on TCP/IP.
NetWare and the OSI Model
The NetWare protocol suite also follows a layered design that can be roughly mapped to the OSI model. The figure below outlines some of the more common protocols that make up the suite. We’ll look at these in more detail in this section.