The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a connectionless transport-layer protocol (Layer 4) that belongs to the Internet protocol family. UDP is basically an interface between IP and upper-layer processes. UDP protocol ports distinguish multiple applications running on a single device from one another.
Unlike the TCP, UDP adds no reliability, flow-control, or error-recovery functions to IP. Because of UDP’s simplicity, UDP headers contain fewer bytes and consume less network overhead than TCP. UDP is useful in situations where the reliability mechanisms of TCP are not necessary, such as in cases where a higher-layer protocol might provide error and flow control. UDP is the transport protocol for several well-known application-layer protocols, including Network File System (NFS), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Domain Name System (DNS), and Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP).
UDP is one of the core protocols of the Internet protocol suite. Using UDP, programs on networked computers can send short messages sometimes known as datagrams (using Datagram Sockets) to one another. UDP is sometimes called the Universal Datagram Protocol. The protocol was designed by David P. Reed in 1980.
UDP does not guarantee reliability or ordering in the way that TCP does. Datagrams may arrive out of order, appear duplicated, or go missing without notice. Avoiding the overhead of checking whether every packet actually arrived makes UDP faster and more efficient, for applications that do not need guaranteed delivery. Time-sensitive applications often use UDP because dropped packets are preferable to delayed packets. UDP's stateless nature is also useful for servers that answer small queries from huge numbers of clients. Unlike TCP, UDP is compatible with packet broadcast (sending to all on local network) and multicasting (send to all subscribers).
UDP is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite.
UDP is a simpler message-based connectionless protocol. In connectionless protocols, there is no effort made to setup a dedicated end-to-end connection. Communication is achieved by transmitting information in one direction, from source to destination without checking to see if the destination is still there, or if it is prepared to receive the information. With UDP messages (packets) cross the network in independent units.
- Unreliable - When a message is sent, it cannot be known if it will reach its destination; it could get lost along the way. There is no concept of acknowledgment, retransmission and timeout.
- Not ordered - If two messages are sent to the same recipient, the order in which they arrive cannot be predicted.
- Lightweight - There is no ordering of messages, no tracking connections, etc. It is a small transport layer designed on top of IP.
- Datagrams - Packets are sent individually and are guaranteed to be whole if they arrive. Packets have definite bounds and no split or merge into data streams may exist.
UDP packet format:
Source port - This is the source port of the packet, describing where a reply packet should be sent. This can actually be set to zero if it doesn't apply. For example, sometimes we don't require a reply packet, and the packet can then be set to source port zero. In most implementations, it is set to some port number.
Destination port - The destination port of the packet. This is required for all packets, as opposed to the source port of a packet.
Length -The length field specifies the length of the whole packet in octets, including header and data portions. The shortest possible packet can be 8 octets long.
Checksum - The checksum is the same kind of checksum as used in the TCP header, except that it contains a different set of data. In other words, it is a one's complement of the one's complement sum of parts of the IP header, the whole UDP header, the UDP data and padded with zeroes at the end when necessary.