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Protocol Independence Problems

Fundamentally, the problem with protocol independence is that software has not been written with the intent of being protocol-independent. Some common programs, such as Sendmail, support multiple protocols, but are still only capable of operating with certain protocols that they know about (and usually only one protocol really works). A protocol-independent application hides away knowledge of particular protocols into run-time abstractions that allow the same operations to apply regardless of what actual protocols happen to be in use. In some cases, it is not possible to make operations completely generic, in which case protocol-dependent code needs to be carefully guarded and some reasonable default actions must be available for other protocols. But most importantly, programs must be tested with several different protocols to prove that they can handle them. The jump from supporting one protocol to two is the biggest hurdle, and clearing that in a reasonable way makes supporting other protocols much easier.


Craig Metz 2000-05-08