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Unicast vs Multicast vs Broadcast

Hello internet, as usual, I am writing after a long period. Its’ my dream to be consistent when it comes to blogging, but with work, family, and lately a lot of gaming, this is just impossible for me.

A few days ago I’ve had an interesting toping with a colleague of mine about TCP/IP network communications so as usual, I thought it would be interesting to write a short blog post about it in order for me to remember it easier in the future references as I always tend to forget this. These differences are often mentioned during the technical interviews for SRE/DevOps positions so make sure you remember them. Without any further ado, let’s dive in.

When it comes to networking, there are three types of communication protocols: unicast, multicast, and broadcast. Each of these communication protocols of course has its own advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the differences between them will definitely help you out when it comes to determining which is the right one for your network.

What is Unicast?

Unicast is a point-to-point connection between two devices. In unicast communication, one device sends a message to another device, and only the intended recipient receives the message. Unicast is the most common form of communication between two devices, and it is used for everything from web browsing to file transfers.

PROS: Unicast is very reliable since the message is only sent to the intended recipient. It is also very secure, as it is not possible for anyone else to intercept the message.

CONS: Unicast is not suitable for large network communications, since it is a point-to-point connection. It is also not suitable for communications between multiple devices, since each device must be individually addressed.

What is Multicast?

Multicast is a form of communication where one device sends a message to multiple devices at the same time. This is useful for applications such as streaming video or audio, where multiple people need to receive the same data at the same time.

PROS: Multicast is very efficient, as the same data is sent to multiple devices at the same time. It is also very secure, as each device must authenticate itself to the sender before receiving the data.

CONS: Multicast is not suitable for large networks, since the sender needs to keep track of all the devices that need to receive the data. It is also not suitable for point-to-point communications, since it is designed for multiple recipients.

What is Broadcast?

Broadcast is a form of communication where one device sends a message to all devices on the network. This is useful for applications such as broadcast television, where everyone on the network needs to receive the same data at the same time.

PROS: Broadcast is very efficient, as the same data is sent to all devices on the network at the same time. It is also very secure, as each device must authenticate itself to the sender before receiving the data.

CONS: Broadcast is not suitable for large networks, since the sender needs to keep track of all the devices that need to receive the data. It is also not suitable for point-to-point communications, since it is designed for multiple recipients.

In conclusion, unicast, multicast, and broadcast are all different types of communication protocols that have their own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences between them will help you determine which is right for your network.

So what do you guys think about the differences mentioned here? Which one would you choose and for which use case? Let me know on Twitter!

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