Layer 6 Presentation Layer

De/Encryption, Encoding, String representation

The presentation layer (data presentation layer, data provision level) sets the system-dependent representation of the data (for example, ASCII, EBCDIC) into an independent form, enabling the syntactically correct data exchange between different systems. Also, functions such as data compression and encryption are guaranteed that data to be sent by the application layer of a system that can be read by the application layer of another system to the layer 6. The presentation layer. If necessary, the presentation layer acts as a translator between different data formats, by making an understandable for both systems data format, the ASN.1 (Abstract Syntax Notation One) used.

OSI Layer 6 - Presentation Layer

The presentation layer is responsible for the delivery and formatting of information to the application layer for further processing or display. It relieves the application layer of concern regarding syntactical differences in data representation within the end-user systems. An example of a presentation service would be the conversion of an EBCDIC-coded text computer file to an ASCII-coded file. The presentation layer is the lowest layer at which application programmers consider data structure and presentation, instead of simply sending data in the form of datagrams or packets between hosts. This layer deals with issues of string representation - whether they use the Pascal method (an integer length field followed by the specified amount of bytes) or the C/C++ method (null-terminated strings, e.g. "thisisastring\0"). The idea is that the application layer should be able to point at the data to be moved, and the presentation layer will deal with the rest. Serialization of complex data structures into flat byte-strings (using mechanisms such as TLV or XML) can be thought of as the key functionality of the presentation layer. Encryption is typically done at this level too, although it can be done on the application, session, transport, or network layers, each having its own advantages and disadvantages. Decryption is also handled at the presentation layer. For example, when logging on to bank account sites the presentation layer will decrypt the data as it is received.[1] Another example is representing structure, which is normally standardized at this level, often by using XML. As well as simple pieces of data, like strings, more complicated things are standardized in this layer. Two common examples are 'objects' in object-oriented programming, and the exact way that streaming video is transmitted. In many widely used applications and protocols, no distinction is made between the presentation and application layers. For example, HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), generally regarded as an application-layer protocol, has presentation-layer aspects such as the ability to identify character encoding for proper conversion, which is then done in the application layer. Within the service layering semantics of the OSI network architecture, the presentation layer responds to service requests from the application layer and issues service requests to the session layer. In the OSI model: the presentation layer ensures the information that the application layer of one system sends out is readable by the application layer of another system. For example, a PC program communicates with another computer, one using extended binary coded decimal interchange code (EBCDIC) and the other using ASCII to represent the same characters. If necessary, the presentation layer might be able to translate between multiple data formats by using a common format. Wikipedia
  • Data conversion
  • Character code translation
  • Compression
  • Encryption and Decryption

The Presentation OSI Layer is usually composed of 2 sublayers that are:

CASE common application service element

Sase specific application service element, layer 7   application layer, layer 6   presentation layer, layer 5   session layer, layer 4   transport layer, layer 3   network layer, layer 2   data link layer, layer 1   physical layer.

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Prerequisite : OSI Model

Introduction : Presentation Layer is the 6th layer in the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model. This layer is also known as Translation layer, as this layer serves as a data translator for the network. The data which this layer receives from the Application Layer is extracted and manipulated here as per the required format to transmit over the network. The main responsibility of this layer is to provide or define the data format and encryption. The presentation layer is also called as Syntax layer since it is responsible for maintaining the proper syntax of the data which it either receives or transmits to other layer(s).

Functions of Presentation Layer :

The presentation layer, being the 6th layer in the OSI model, performs several types of functions, which are described below-

  • Presentation layer format and encrypts data to be sent across the network.
  • This layer takes care that the data is sent in such a way that the receiver will understand the information (data) and will be able to use the data efficiently and effectively.
  • This layer manages the abstract data structures and allows high-level data structures (example- banking records), which are to be defined or exchanged.
  • This layer carries out the encryption at the transmitter and decryption at the receiver.
  • This layer carries out data compression to reduce the bandwidth of the data to be transmitted (the primary goal of data compression is to reduce the number of bits which is to be transmitted).
  • This layer is responsible for interoperability (ability of computers to exchange and make use of information) between encoding methods as different computers use different encoding methods.
  • This layer basically deals with the presentation part of the data.
  • Presentation layer, carries out the data compression (number of bits reduction while transmission), which in return improves the data throughput.
  • This layer also deals with the issues of string representation.
  • The presentation layer is also responsible for integrating all the formats into a standardized format for efficient and effective communication.
  • This layer encodes the message from the user-dependent format to the common format and vice-versa for communication between dissimilar systems.
  • This layer deals with the syntax and semantics of the messages.
  • This layer also ensures that the messages which are to be presented to the upper as well as the lower layer should be standardized as well as in an accurate format too.
  • Presentation layer is also responsible for translation, formatting, and delivery of information for processing or display.
  • This layer also performs serialization (process of translating a data structure or an object into a format that can be stored or transmitted easily).

Features of Presentation Layer in the OSI model: Presentation layer, being the 6th layer in the OSI model, plays a vital role while communication is taking place between two devices in a network.

List of features which are provided by the presentation layer are:

  • Presentation layer could apply certain sophisticated compression techniques, so fewer bytes of data are required to represent the information when it is sent over the network.
  • If two or more devices are communicating over an encrypted connection, then this presentation layer is responsible for adding encryption on the sender’s end as well as the decoding the encryption on the receiver’s end so that it can represent the application layer with unencrypted, readable data.
  • This layer formats and encrypts data to be sent over a network, providing freedom from compatibility problems.
  • This presentation layer also negotiates the Transfer Syntax.
  • This presentation layer is also responsible for compressing data it receives from the application layer before delivering it to the session layer (which is the 5th layer in the OSI model) and thus improves the speed as well as the efficiency of communication by minimizing the amount of the data to be transferred.

Working of Presentation Layer in the OSI model : Presentation layer in the OSI model, as a translator, converts the data sent by the application layer of the transmitting node into an acceptable and compatible data format based on the applicable network protocol and architecture.  Upon arrival at the receiving computer, the presentation layer translates data into an acceptable format usable by the application layer. Basically, in other words, this layer takes care of any issues occurring when transmitted data must be viewed in a format different from the original format. Being the functional part of the OSI mode, the presentation layer performs a multitude (large number of) data conversion algorithms and character translation functions. Mainly, this layer is responsible for managing two network characteristics: protocol (set of rules) and architecture.

Presentation Layer Protocols : Presentation layer being the 6th layer, but the most important layer in the OSI model performs several types of functionalities, which makes sure that data which is being transferred or received should be accurate or clear to all the devices which are there in a closed network. Presentation Layer, for performing translations or other specified functions, needs to use certain protocols which are defined below –

  • Apple Filing Protocol (AFP): Apple Filing Protocol is the proprietary network protocol (communications protocol) that offers services to macOS or the classic macOS. This is basically the network file control protocol specifically designed for Mac-based platforms.
  • Lightweight Presentation Protocol (LPP): Lightweight Presentation Protocol is that protocol which is used to provide ISO presentation services on the top of TCP/IP based protocol stacks.
  • NetWare Core Protocol (NCP): NetWare Core Protocol is the network protocol which is used to access file, print, directory, clock synchronization, messaging, remote command execution and other network service functions.
  • Network Data Representation (NDR): Network Data Representation is basically the implementation of the presentation layer in the OSI model, which provides or defines various primitive data types, constructed data types and also several types of data representations.
  • External Data Representation (XDR): External Data Representation (XDR) is the standard for the description and encoding of data. It is useful for transferring data between computer architectures and has been used to communicate data between very diverse machines. Converting from local representation to XDR is called encoding, whereas converting XDR into local representation is called decoding.
  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL): The Secure Socket Layer protocol provides security to the data that is being transferred between the web browser and the server. SSL encrypts the link between a web server and a browser, which ensures that all data passed between them remains private and free from attacks.

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Presentation Layer of OSI Model (Layer-6)

Presentation Layer of OSI Model

Presentation Layer is responsible for representation & formatting of data for session Layer in encapsulation process. It is the 6th Layer in the seven layer OSI Model after Session Layer. Presentation layer serves like a translator & takes care that the data is sent in such a way that the receiver will understand the information or data and will be able to use the data. OSI Model divides the network communication processes into seven layers in order to simplify it. Each layer performs specific functions to support the layers above it. This seven Layer model starts from Physical till Application Layer & Presentation Layer is on 2nd place in this model as in below figure:

Presentation Layer of OSI Model

Functions/Duties of Presentation Layer

Each Layer in OSI Model Performs some important duties. Important functions performed by Presentation Layer are listed here:

  • The first & most important is, of course Data Formatting & Representation . When the presentation layer receives data from the application layer, to be sent over the network, it makes sure that the data is in the proper format. If it is not, the presentation layer converts the data to the proper format. On the other side of communication, when the presentation layer receives network data from the Presentation layer, it makes sure that the data is in the proper format and once again converts it if it is not.
  • It is also responsible for Data Encryption/Decryption: Presentation Layer carries out encryption at the transmitter end and decryption at the receiver end to keep data secure during transmission.
  • Data Compression/De-compression also falls under the responsibility matrix of Presentation Layer . Presentation Layer compresses data to a small size to reduce resource usage such as data storage space or transmission capacity.

*Encryption is typically done at this layer as well, although it can be done on the application, session, transport, or network layers, each having its own advantages and disadvantages

Presentation Layer Protocols

The OSI Model provides a conceptual framework for communication between computers, but the model itself is not a method of communication. Actual communication is made possible by using communication protocols. Each layer on the OSI Model has some protocols associated with it. Some important protocols on Presentation layer are listed in below:


Network Equipment/Components at Presentation Layer

  • Load Balancers
  • End Devices e.g. Computers, Smart Phones, Servers, …

Presentation Layer is the 6th Layer in seven Layer OSI Model. It performs important functions like Data Formatting, Data Representation, Data Encryption/Decryption, Data Compression and De-compression. Important Protocols at Presentation Layer include ASCII, EBCDIC, JPEG, MPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, SSL & TLS. Equipment operating at Presentation Layer include Firewalls, Gateways, Load Balancers & Computers.

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What is Layer 6 of The OSI Model: Presentation Layer?

Layer 6 of The OSI Model: Presentation Layer is the layer of the ISO Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model that establishes context between application-layer entities, in which the higher-layer entities may use different syntax and semantics if the presentation service provides a mapping between them. If a mapping is available, presentation service data units are encapsulated into session protocol data units, and passed down the stack. This layer provides independence from data representation (e.g., encryption) by translating between application and network formats. The presentation layer transforms data into the form that the application accepts. This layer formats and encrypts data to be sent across a network.


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What is the presentation layer in the OSI model?

The presentation layer is the sixth layer in the OSI model and is responsible for converting different file formats. This allows two systems to communicate. Other tasks carried out by the sixth layer include data compression and encryption.

What is the presentation layer?

What does the presentation layer do, which format does the presentation layer use, presentation layer protocols, skipping the presentation layer.

The presentation layer is the sixth layer of the OSI model. It is primarily used to convert different file formats between the sender and the receiver . The OSI model is a reference model that is used to define communication standards between two devices within a network . The development of this standard began in the 1970s and it was first published at the beginning of the following decade. This standard enables seamless interaction between different technical systems.

The model is made up of a total of seven different layers, all having their own clearly defined tasks. While there are clear boundaries between the layers, the layers interact with each other, with each layer building off the one below it. The different layers are as follows:

  • Physical layer
  • Data link layer
  • Network layer
  • Transport layer
  • Session layer
  • Presentation layer
  • Application layer

The presentation layer interacts closely with the application layer, which is located directly above it. The presentation layer’s main task is to present data in such a way that it can be understood and interpreted from both the system sending the data and the system receiving it. After this has been accomplished, the application layer then determines how the data should be structured and what sort of data and values are permissible.

Using these entries, a command set, or an abstract transfer syntax, is then automatically created. The presentation layer now has the task of transferring the data in such a way that it is readable without changing the information contained within it.

The presentation layer is often also responsible for the encryption and decryption of data . The information is first encrypted on the sender’s side and then sent to the receiver in an encrypted state. Keys and encryption methods are then exchanged in the presentation layer. The recipient is then able to decrypt the unreadable data and convert it into a format that can be understood and interpreted.

If data is shown during a transfer, we often use the term transfer syntax. These are separated into the abstract transfer syntax , in which the transferred values are written, and the concrete syntax, which contains a definition of the value coding.

The receiver can only process and understand the data they receive if they receive all of the information from the presentation layer. The most common definition language is Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) , which is also recommended by the ISO. The ISO is an organization that is responsible for developing international standards in technology, management and manufacturing.

The presentation layer has many different formats. The most common text formats are the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) and EBCDIC (Extended Binary-Coded Decimal Interchange Code). The most common image formats are GIF, JPEG and TIFF. Widely used video formats include MIDI, MPEG and QuickTime.

There are many different presentation layer protocols as well as transfer and encryption technologies in the presentation layer. These include:

The tasks which are carried out by the presentation layer are not always necessary for communication between two systems. In instances where both systems use the same formats, data conversion is not necessary. Additionally, encryption and compression are not required for every interaction and can also be carried out in another layer of the OSI model. If this is the case, the presentation layer can be skipped and the application layer (7) can communicate directly with the session layer (5) instead .

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