Some Definitions

proxy server

In an enterprise that uses the Internet, a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary between a workstation user and the Internet so that the enterprise can ensure security, administrative control, and caching service. A proxy server is associated with or part of a gateway server that separates the enterprise network from the outside network and a firewall server that protects the enterprise network from outside intrusion.
A proxy server receives a request for an Internet service (such as a Web page request) from a user. If it passes filtering requirements, the proxy server, assuming it is also a cache server, looks in its local cache of previously downloaded Web pages. If it finds the page, it returns it to the user without needing to forward the request to the Internet. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server, acting as a client on behalf of the user, uses one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the server out on the Internet. When the page is returned, the proxy server relates it to the original request and forwards it on to the user.

To the user, the proxy server is invisible; all Internet requests and returned responses appear to be directly with the addressed Internet server. (The proxy is not quite invisible; its IP address has to be specified as a configuration option to the browser or other protocol program.)

An advantage of a proxy server is that its cache can serve all users. If one or more Internet sites are frequently requested, these are likely to be in the proxy's cache, which will improve user response time. In fact, there are special servers called cache servers. A proxy can also do logging.

The functions of proxy, firewall, and caching can be in separate server programs or combined in a single package. Different server programs can be in different computers. For example, a proxy server may in the same machine with a firewall server or it may be on a separate server and forward requests through the firewall.


A gateway is a network point that acts as an entrance to another network. On the Internet, a node or stopping point can be either a gateway node or a host (end-point) node. Both the computers of Internet users and the computers that serve pages to users are host nodes. The computers that control traffic within your company's network or at your local Internet service provider (ISP) are gateway nodes.
In the network for an enterprise, a computer server acting as a gateway node is often also acting as a proxy server and a firewall server. A gateway is often associated with both a router, which knows where to direct a given packet of data that arrives at the gateway, and a switch, which furnishes the actual path in and out of the gateway for a given packet.


In a network, a node is a connection point, either a redistribution point or an end point for data transmissions. In general, a node has programmed or engineered capability to recognize and process or forward transmissions to other nodes.


In packet-switched networks such as the Internet, a router is a device or, in some cases, software in a computer, that determines the next network point to which a packet should be forwarded toward its destination. The router is connected to at least two networks and decides which way to send each information packet based on its current understanding of the state of the networks it is connected to. A router is located at any gateway (where one network meets another), including each point-of-presence on the Internet. A router is often included as part of a network switch.

A router may create or maintain a table of the available routes and their conditions and use this information along with distance and cost algorithms to determine the best route for a given packet. Typically, a packet may travel through a number of network points with routers before arriving at its destination. Routing is a function associated with the Network layer (layer 3) in the standard model of network programming, the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. A layer-3 switch is a switch that can perform routing functions.

An edge router is a router that interfaces with an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network. A brouter is a network bridge combined with a router.

For home and business computer users who have high-speed Internet connections such as cable, satellite, or DSL, a router can act as a hardware firewall. This is true even if the home or business has only one computer. Many engineers believe that the use of a router provides better protection against hacking than a software firewall, because no computer Internet Protocol address are directly exposed to the Internet. This makes port scans (a technique for exploring weaknesses) essentially impossible. In addition, a router does not consume computer resources as a software firewall does. Commercially manufactured routers are easy to install, reasonably priced, and available for hard-wired or wireless networks.


In a telecommunications network, a switch is a device that channels incoming data from any of multiple input ports to the specific output port that will take the data toward its intended destination. In the traditional circuit-switched telephone network, one or more switches are used to set up a dedicated though temporary connection or circuit for an exchange between two or more parties. On an Ethernet local area network (LAN), a switch determines from the physical device (Media Access Control or MAC) address in each incoming message frame which output port to forward it to and out of. In a wide area packet-switched network such as the Internet, a switch determines from the IP address in each packet which output port to use for the next part of its trip to the intended destination.

In the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) communications model, a switch performs the layer 2 or Data-Link layer function. That is, it simply looks at each packet or data unit and determines from a physical address (the "MAC address") which device a data unit is intended for and switches it out toward that device. However, in wide area networks such as the Internet, the destination address requires a look-up in a routing table by a device known as a router. Some newer switches also perform routing functions (layer 3 or the Network layer functions in OSI) and are sometimes called IP switches.

On larger networks, the trip from one switch point to another in the network is called a hop. The time a switch takes to figure out where to forward a data unit is called its latency. The price paid for having the flexibility that switches provide in a network is this latency. Switches are found at the backbone and gateway levels of a network where one network connects with another and at the subnetwork level where data is being forwarded close to its destination or origin. The former are often known as core switches and the latter as desktop switches.

In the simplest networks, a switch is not required for messages that are sent and received within the network. For example, a local area network may be organized in a Token Ring or bus arrangement in which each possible destination inspects each message and reads any message with its address.

Circuit-Switching version Packet-Switching
A network's paths can be used exclusively for a certain duration by two or more parties and then switched for use to another set of parties. This type of "switching" is known as circuit-switching and is really a dedicated and continuously connected path for its duration. Today, an ordinary voice phone call generally uses circuit-switching.

Most data today is sent, using digital signals, over networks that use packet-switching. Using packet-switching, all network users can share the same paths at the same time and the particular route a data unit travels can be varied as conditions change. In packet-switching, a message is divided into packets, which are units of a certain number of bytes. The network addresses of the sender and of the destination are added to the packet. Each network point looks at the packet to see where to send it next. Packets in the same message may travel different routes and may not arrive in the same order that they were sent. At the destination, the packets in a message are collected and reassembled into the original message.

layer 2

Layer 2 refers to the Data Link layer of the commonly-referenced multilayered communication model, Open Systems Interconnection (OSI). The Data Link layer is concerned with moving data across the physical links in the network. In a network, the switch is a device that redirects data messages at the layer 2 level, using the destination Media Access Control (MAC) address to determine where to direct the message.

The Data-Link layer contains two sublayers that are described in the IEEE-802 LAN standards:

->Media Access Control (MAC) sublayer
->Logical Link Control (LLC) sublayer
->The Data Link layer ensures that an initial connection has been set up, divides output data into data frames, and handles the acknowledgements from a receiver that the data arrived successfully. It also ensures that incoming data has been received successfully by analyzing bit patterns at special places in the frames.


In telecommunication networks, a bridge is a product that connects a local area network (LAN) to another local area network that uses the same protocol (for example, Ethernet or Token Ring). You can envision a bridge as being a device that decides whether a message from you to someone else is going to the local area network in your building or to someone on the local area network in the building across the street. A bridge examines each message on a LAN, "passing" those known to be within the same LAN, and forwarding those known to be on the other interconnected LAN (or LANs).

In bridging networks, computer or node addresses have no specific relationship to location. For this reason, messages are sent out to every address on the network and accepted only by the intended destination node. Bridges learn which addresses are on which network and develop a learning table so that subsequent messages can be forwarded to the right network.

Bridging networks are generally always interconnected local area networks since broadcasting every message to all possible destinations would flood a larger network with unnecessary traffic. For this reason, router networks such as the Internet use a scheme that assigns addresses to nodes so that a message or packet can be forwarded only in one general direction rather than forwarded in all directions.

A bridge works at the data-link (physical network) level of a network, copying a data frame from one network to the next network along the communications path.

A bridge is sometimes combined with a router in a product called a brouter.


A firewall is a set of related programs, located at a network gateway server, that protects the resources of a private network from users from other networks. (The term also implies the security policy that is used with the programs.) An enterprise with an intranet that allows its workers access to the wider Internet installs a firewall to prevent outsiders from accessing its own private data resources and for controlling what outside resources its own users have access to.
Basically, a firewall, working closely with a router program, examines each network packet to determine whether to forward it toward its destination. A firewall also includes or works with a proxy server that makes network requests on behalf of workstation users. A firewall is often installed in a specially designated computer separate from the rest of the network so that no incoming request can get directly at private network resources.

There are a number of firewall screening methods. A simple one is to screen requests to make sure they come from acceptable (previously identified) domain name and Internet Protocol addresses. For mobile users, firewalls allow remote access in to the private network by the use of secure logon procedures and authentication certificates.

A number of companies make firewall products. Features include logging and reporting, automatic alarms at given thresholds of attack, and a graphical user interface for controlling the firewall.

Computer security borrows this term from firefighting, where it originated. In firefighting, a firewall is a barrier established to prevent the spread of fire.

reverse proxy server

A reverse proxy server is a proxy server that relays connection requests for inbound network traffic

Web Proxies

A proxy server is a gateway for users to the Web at large. Users configure the proxy in their browser settings, and all HTTP requests are routed via the proxy. Proxies are typically operated by ISPs and network administrators, and serve several purposes: for example,

->to speed access to the Web by caching pages fetched, so that popular pages don't have to be re-fetched for every user who views them.
->to enable controlled access to the web for users behind a firewall.
->to filter or transform web content.

Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy is a gateway for servers, and enables one web server to provide content from another transparently. As with a standard proxy, a reverse proxy may serve to improve performance of the web by caching; this is a simple way to mirror a website. But the most common reason to run a reverse proxy is to enable controlled access from the Web at large to servers behind a firewall.

The proxied server may be a webserver itself, or it may be an application server using a different protocol, or an application server with just rudimentary HTTP that needs to be shielded from the web at large. Since 2004, reverse proxying has been the preferred method of deploying JAVA/Tomcat applications on the Web, replacing the old mod_jk (itself a special-purpose reverse proxy module).

The Funda of Reverse Proxy - The web server will service any HTTP or HTTPS requests and CAN operate in reverse proxy mode. In this mode, the destination server will be hidden from the user and all requests will appear as though they are being fulfilled at the proxy. The web agent acts as a filter for requests directed to the proxy server. The web agent will intercept all requests directed to the web server where it is loaded and will communicate with SiteMinder to determine if the requested resource is protected. If the resource is protected, the web agent will challenge the user to provide an authorised set of credentials. Otherwise, the request is release to the web server for processing.

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