The IEEE 802.3 SNAP Frame Format

While the original 802.3 specification worked well, the IEEE realized that some upper layer protocols required an Ethertype to work properly. For example, TCP/IP uses the Ethertype to differentiate between ARP packets and normal IP data frames. In order to provide this backwards compatibility with the Version II frame type, the 802.3 SNAP (SubNetwork Access Protocol) format was created.

The SNAP Frame Format consists of a normal 802.3 Data Link Header followed by a normal 802.2 LLC Header, and then a 5 byte SNAP field, followed by the normal user data and FCS.

Snap IEEE 802.3

The Data Link Header

Offset 0-5: The Destination Address
The first six bytes of an Ethernet frame make up the Destination Address. The Destination Address specifies to which adapter the data frame is being sent. A Destination Address of all ones specifies a Broadcast Message that is read in by all receiving Ethernet adapters.

The first three bytes of the Destination Address are assigned by the IEEE to the vendor of the adapter, and are specific to the vendor.

The Destination Address format is identical in all implementations of Ethernet.

Offset 6-11: The Source Address
The next six bytes of an Ethernet frame make up the Source Address. The Source Address specifies from which adapter the message originated. Like the Destination Address, the first three bytes specify the vendor of the card.

The Source Address format is identical in all implementations of Ethernet.

Offset 12-13: Length
Bytes 13 and 14 of an Ethernet frame contain the length of the data in the frame, not including the preamble, 32 bit CRC, DLC Addresses, or the Length field itself. An Ethernet frame can be no shorter than 64 bytes, and no longer than 1518 bytes in total length.

The 802.2 Logical Link Control Header (LLC)

Following the Data Link Header is the Logical Link Control Header, which is described in the IEEE 802.2 Specification. The purpose of the LLC header is to provide a “hole in the ceiling” of the Data Link Layer. By specifying into which memory buffer the adapter places the data frame, the LLC header allows the upper layers to know where to find the data.

Offset 14: The DSAP
The DSAP, or Destination Service Access Point, is a 1 byte field that simply acts as a pointer to a memory buffer in the receiving station. It tells the receiving NIC in which buffer to put this information. This functionality is crucial in situations where users are running multiple protocol stacks, etc…

In order to specify that this is a SNAP frame, the DSAP is set to AA hex.

Offset 15: The SSAP
The SSAP, or Source Service Access Point is analogous to the DSAP, and specifies the Service Access Point (SAP) of the sending process.

In order to specify that this is a SNAP frame, the SSAP is set to AA hex.

Offset 16: The Control Byte
Following the SAPs is a one byte control field that specifies the type of LLC frame that this is.

The Sub-Network Access Protocol (SNAP) Header

Offset 17-19: The Vendor Code
The first 3 bytes of the SNAP header is the vendor code, generally the same as the first three bytes of the source address, although it is sometimes set to zero.

Offset 20-21: The Local Code
Following the Vendor Code is a 2 byte field that typically contains an Ethertype for the frame. Here is where the backwards compatibility with Version II Ethernet is implemented.

User Data and the Frame Check Sequence (FCS)

Data: 38-1492 Bytes
Following the 802.2 header are 38 to 1,492 bytes of data, generally consisting of upper layer headers such as TCP/IP or IPX and then the actual user data.

FCS: Last 4 Bytes
The last 4 bytes that the adapter reads in are the Frame Check Sequence or CRC. When the voltage on the wire returns to zero, the adapter checks the last 4 bytes it received against a checksum that it generates via a complex polynomial. If the calculated checksum does not match the checksum on the frame, the frame is discarded and never reaches the memory buffers in the station.