Under the Hood: Vista's Next Generation TCP/IP Stack
As useful as the Network and Sharing Center is, it's not the most important network-related change in Windows Vista. The big news is under the hood, in the technology used to manage all network connections. This technology is called the TCP/IP stack, and the one in Vista is completely different from the one used in Windows XP.
The advantage of Vista's new TCP/IP stack (called, appropriately enough, the Next Generation TCP/IP stack), is that it is more robust and more reliable. This makes for more secure and more solid network connections. If you've ever experienced a flaky network connection, or had a computer that wasn't always recognized by the network, you'll appreciate how Vista's Next Generation TCP/IP stack eliminates most of these pesky network connection problems. Vista is, for both networking professionals and the average home user, a much better networking solution than Windows XP or previous versions of the operating system.
You'll notice the Next Generation TCP/IP stack at work the next time you have to set up a network connection or connect to a wireless Internet hot spot. Unlike in past versions of Windows, where establishing a new connection was somewhat tedious and often tenuous, Windows Vista networking is smooth as silk and steady as a rock. You'll experience fewer (if any) dropped connections, and find it much easier to identify and connect with a Wi-Fi hot spot while roaming.
This improved networking is due to several changes that Microsoft engineered into the Next Generation TCP/IP stack. These improvements include
- Support of the newer, more reliable TCP/IP Version 6 standard, along with continued support for the older TCP/IP Version 4.
- A Quality Windows Audio/Video Experience (qWave) subsystem to support simultaneous audio/video and data streams that take best advantage of available network bandwidth.
- Routing compartments that isolate different networking sessions; this lets you connect to more than one network at a time while maintaining data security between networks.
- Compound TCP to provide better performance over high latency connections.
- A reduction in the number of dropped packets associated with interference, distance issues, and the like with wireless networks.
In addition, Windows Vista's improved Link Layer Topology Discovery technology makes it easier to find new wireless hot spots, and the new network management features help you save these network settings and manage them as permanent connections. The use of the new Public profile also provides security precautions (such as automatically turning off file sharing) that make your computer data less vulnerable in public situations.
The bottom line? Vista networks are faster, more reliable, more secure, and easier to configure. If you rely heavily on your computer network, connect to a lot of public Wi-Fi hot spots, or have had networking problems in the past, this improved networking is a major reason to consider upgrading your computers to Windows Vista.