Network operating system

A network operating system is a specialized operating system for a network device such as a router, switch or firewall.

Historically operating systems with networking capabilities were described as network operating system, because they allowed personal computers (PCs) to participate in computer networks and shared file and printer access within a local area network (LAN). This description of operating systems is now largely historical, as common operating systems include a network stack to support a client–server model.


Early microcomputer operating systems such as CP/M, DOS and classic Mac OS were designed for one user on one computer.[citation needed] Packet switching networks were developed to share hardware resources, such as a mainframe computer, a printer or a large and expensive hard disk.[1] As local area network technology became available, two general approaches to handle sharing of resources on networks arose.[citation needed]

Historically a network operating system was an operating system for a computer which implemented network capabilities. Operating systems with a network stack allowed personal computers to participate in a client-server architecture in which a server enables multiple clients to share resources, such as printers.[2][3][4] Early examples of client-server operating systems that were shipped with fully integrated network capabilities are Novell NetWare using the Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) network protocol, Windows Server 2003, and Banyan VINES which used a variant of the Xerox Network Systems (XNS) protocols.[citation needed]

Peer-to-peer network operating systems were also developed, which used networking capabilities to share resources and files located on personal computers. This system is not based with having a file server or centralized management source. A peer-to-peer network sets all connected computers equal; they all share the same abilities to use resources available on the network.[3] Examples of early peer-to-peer operating systems with networking capabilities include AppleShare used for networking connecting Apple products, LANtastic supporting DOS, Microsoft Windows and OS/2 computers, as well as Windows for Workgroups used for networking peer-to-peer Windows computers.[citation needed]

Today, distributed computing and groupware applications have become the norm. Computer operating systems include a networking stack as a matter of course.[1] During the 1980s the need to integrate dissimilar computers with network capabilities grew and the number of networked devices grew rapidly. Partly because it allowed for multi-vendor interoperability the TCP/IP protocol suite became almost universally adopted in network architectures. Therefore, computer operating systems and the firmware of network devices needed to reliably support the TCP/IP protocols.[5]

Network device operating systemsEdit

Network operating systems can be embedded in a router or hardware firewall that operates the functions in the network layer (layer 3).[6] Notable network operating systems include:

Proprietary network operating systemsEdit

NetBSD, FreeBSD, or Linux based operating systemsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ann McHoes & Ida M. Flynn (2012). Understanding Operating Systems (6 ed.). cengage Learning. p. 318. ISBN 9781133417569.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Dean, Tamara (2009). "Network Operating Systems", Network+ Guide to Networks, 421(483)
  3. ^ a b Winkelman, Dr. Roy (2009). "Chapter 6: Software", An Educator's Guide to School Networks, 6.
  4. ^ Davis, Ziff (2011). "network operating system", PCmag.comRetrieved 5/7/2011.
  5. ^ Ann McHoes & Ida M. Flynn (2012). Understanding Operating Systems (6 ed.). cengage Learning. p. 305. ISBN 9781133417569.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Al-Shawakfa, Emad; Evens, Martha (2001). "The Dialoguer: An Interactive Bilingual Interface to a Network Operating System.", Expert Systems Vol. 18 Issue 3, p131, 19p, Retrieved 5/7/2011.

External linksEdit