Internetwork Packet Exchange

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Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) is the OSI-model Network layer protocol in the IPX/SPX protocol stack.

The IPX/SPXM protocol stack is supported by Novell's NetWare network operating system. Because of Netware's popularity through the late 1980s into the mid-1990s, IPX became a popular internetworking protocol. Novell derived IPX from Xerox Network Systems' IDP.

A big advantage of IPX is an easy configuration of the client computers. However, IPX did not scale enough for large networks such as the internet[1] and as such, IPX usage decreased as the boom of the Internet made TCP/IP nearly universal. Computers and networks can run multiple network protocols, so almost all IPX sites will be running TCP/IP as well to allow for Internet connectivity.[2] It has also been possible to run Novell products without IPX for some time, as they have supported both IPX and TCP/IP since NetWare reached version 5[3] in late 1998.


A big advantage of IPX protocol is its little or no need for configuration. In the time, when protocols for dynamic assigning IP addresses did not exist and the bootp protocol for centralized assigning addresses was not common, the IPX network could be configured almost automatically. A client computer uses the MAC address of its network card as the node address, and learns the network number from the server or router. Network number is derived from MAC address of the server.

The administrator had to care only

IPX packet structure[edit]

Each IPX packet begins with a header with the following structure:

2Checksum (always 0xFFFF - no checksum)
2Packet Length (including the IPX header)
1Transport Control (hop count)
1Packet Type
12Destination address
12Source address

The Packet Type values:

1RIP (Routing Information Protocol) (RFC 1582, RFC 2091)
2Echo Packet
3Error Packet
4PEP (Packet Exchange Protocol), used for SAP (Service Advertising Protocol)
5SPX (Sequenced Packet Exchange)
17NCP (NetWare Core Protocol)

IPX addressing[edit]

An IPX address has the following structure:

4Network number
6Node number
2Socket number

Socket numbers[edit]

Socket numberProtocol
0x0001-0x0BB8Registered by Xerox
0x0001Routing Information Packet
0x0002Echo Protocol Packet
0x0003Error Handling Packet
0x0BB9-0xFFFFDynamicly Assigned
0x0451Netware Core Protocol (NCP - used by Novell Netware servers)
0x0452Service Advertising Protocol (SAP)
0x0453Routing Information Protocol (RIP)
0x0456Diagnostic Packet
0x0457Serialization Packet (used for NCP as well)
0x4000-0x4FFFDynamicly Assigned Socket Numbers
0x4003used by Novell Netware Client
0x8000-0xFFFFStaticly Assigned Socket Numbers
0x9091TCP over IPXF
0x9092UDP over IPXF
0x9093IPXF, IPX Fragmentation Protocol

Similarities with IP[edit]

The IPX network address is conceptually identical to the network part of the IP address (the parts with netmask bits set to 1); the node address then has the same meaning as the bits of IP address with netmask bits set to 0. As the node address is usually identical to the MAC address of the network adapter, the Address Resolution Protocol is not needed.

For routing, the entries in the IPX routing table are similar to IP routing tables; routing is done by network address, and for each network address a network:node of the next router is specified in a similar fashion an IP address/netmask is specified in IP routing tables.

IPX over Ethernet[edit]

IPX can be transmitted over Ethernet using one of the following 4 encapsulation types:


  1. ^ Simson Garfinkel, Gene Spafford. Practical UNIX and Internet Security (2nd ed.). O'Reilly Media. ISBN 1-56592-148-8. "It does not scale well to large networks such as the Internet" 
  2. ^ TechRepublic - Do you still support IPX/SPX on your Windows servers?
  3. ^ Maintaining IPX Compatibility During a Migration to TCP/IP on a NetWare Network

External links[edit]