7 Application layer

6 Presentation layer

5 Session layer

4 Transport layer

3 Network layer

2 Data link layer

1 Physical layer

The Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model (OSI Model or OSI Reference Model for short) is a layered, abstract description for communications and computer network protocol design, developed as part of the Open Systems Interconnection initiative. It is also called the OSI seven layer model.

The OSI model divides the functions of a protocol into a series of layers. Each layer has the property that it only uses the functions of the layer below, and only exports functionality to the layer above. A system that implements protocol behavior consisting of a series of these layers is known as a 'protocol stack' or 'stack'. Protocol stacks can be implemented either in hardware or software, or a mixture of both. Typically, only the lower layers are implemented in hardware, with the higher layers being implemented in software.

This OSI model is roughly adhered to in the computing and networking industry. Its main feature is in the interface between layers which dictates the specifications on how one layer interacts with another. This means that a layer written by one manufacturer can operate with a layer from another (assuming that the specification is interpreted correctly). These specifications are typically known as Requests for Comments or "RFC"s in the TCP/IP community. They are ISO standards in the OSI community.

The OSI reference model is a hierarchical structure of seven layers that defines the requirements for communications between two computers. The model was defined by the International Organization for Standardization in the ISO standard 7498-1. It was conceived to allow interoperability across the various platforms offered by vendors. The model allows all network elements to operate together, regardless of who built them. By the late 1980's, ISO was recommending the implementation of the OSI model as a networking standard.

Layer 7: Application Layer
The Application layer is closest to the end user. It provides a means for the user to access information on the network through an application. This layer is the main interface for the user(s) to interact with the application and therefore the network. Some examples of application layer protocols include Telnet, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). A Web Browser is a good example of an entity that works at the application layer.

Layer 6: Presentation Layer
The Presentation layer transforms data to provide a standard interface for the Application layer. MIME encoding, data compression, data encryption and similar manipulation of the presentation is done at this layer to present the data as a service or protocol developer sees fit. Examples: converting an EBCDIC-coded text file to an ASCII-coded file, or serializing objects and other data structures into and out of XML.

Layer 5: Session Layer
The Session layer controls the dialogues (sessions) between computers. It establishes, manages and terminates the connections between the local and remote application. It provides for either duplex or half-duplex operation and establishes checkpointing, adjournment, termination, and restart procedures. The OSI model made this layer responsible for "graceful close" of sessions, which is a property of TCP, and also for session checkpointing and recovery, which is not usually used in the Internet protocol suite.

Layer 4: Transport Layer
The Transport layer provides transparent transfer of data between end users, thus relieving the upper layers from any concern while providing reliable and cost-effective data transfer. The transport layer controls the reliability of a given link through flow control, segmentation/desegmentation, and error control . Some protocols are state and connection oriented. This means that the transport layer can keep track of the packets and retransmit those that fail. The best known example of a layer 4 protocol is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). It is the layer that converts messages into TCP, User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP), etc. packets.

Layer 3: Network Layer
The Network layer provides the functional and procedural means of transferring variable length data sequences from a source to a destination via one or more networks while maintaining the quality of service requested by the Transport layer. The Network layer performs network routing functions, and might also perform segmentation/desegmentation, and report delivery errors. Routers operate at this layer—sending data throughout the extended network and making the Internet possible (there also exist layer 3 (or IP) switches). This is a logical addressing scheme – values are chosen by the network engineer. The addressing scheme is hierarchical. The best known example of a layer 3 protocol is the Internet Protocol (IP).

Layer 2: Data Link Layer
The Data Link layer provides the functional and procedural means to transfer data between network entities and to detect and possibly correct errors that may occur in the Physical layer. The addressing scheme is physical which means that the addresses (MAC address) are hard-coded into the network cards at the time of manufacture. The addressing scheme is flat. Note: The best known example of this is Ethernet. Other examples of data link protocols are HDLC and ADCCP for point-to-point or packet-switched networks and Aloha for local area networks. On IEEE 802 local area networks, and some non-IEEE 802 networks such as FDDI, this layer may be split into a Media Access Control (MAC) layer and the IEEE 802.2 Logical Link Control (LLC) layer.
This is the layer at which the bridges and switches operate. Connectivity is provided only among locally attached network nodes. However, there's a reasonable argument to be made that these really belong at "layer 2.5" rather than strictly at layer 2.

Layer 1: Physical Layer
The Physical layer defines all the electrical and physical specifications for devices. This includes the layout of pins, voltages, and cable specifications. Hubs, repeaters, network adapters and Host Bus Adapters (HBAs used in Storage Area Networks) are physical-layer devices. The major functions and services performed by the physical layer are:
• Establishment and termination of a connection to a communications medium.
• Participation in the process whereby the communication resources are effectively shared among multiple users. For example, contention resolution and flow control.
• Modulation, or conversion between the representation of digital data in user equipment and the corresponding signals transmitted over a communications channel. These are signals operating over the physical cabling (such as copper and fiber optic) or over a radio link.