OSI Layers The OSI reference model consists of seven layers. Each layer defines a set of typical networking functions. When OSI was in active development in the 1980s and 1990s, the OSI committees created new protocols and specifications to implement the functions specified by each layer. In other cases, the OSI committees did not create new protocols or standards, but instead referenced other protocols that were already defined. For instance, the IEEE defines Ethernet standards, so the OSI committees did not waste time specifying a new type of Ethernet; it simply referred to the IEEE Ethernet standards.
Because OSI does have a very well-defined set of functions associated with each of its seven layers, you can examine any networking protocol or specification and make some determination of whether it most closely matches OSI Layer 1, 2, or 3, and so on. For instance, TCP/IP’s internetworking layer, as implemented by IP, equates most directly to the OSI network layer. So, most people say that IP is a network layer, or Layer 3, protocol, using OSI terminology and numbers for the layer. Of course, if you numbered the TCP/IP model, starting at the bottom, IP would be in Layer 2—but, by convention, everyone uses the OSI standard when describing other protocols. So, using this convention, IP is a network layer protocol.
Cisco requires that CCNAs demonstrate an understanding of the functions defined by OSI for each layer, as well as some example protocols that correspond to each OSI layer. The names of the OSI reference model layers, a few of the typical protocols at each layer, and the functions of each layer are simply good things to memorize for the INTRO exam. And frankly, if you want to pursue your Cisco certifications beyond CCNA, these names and functional areas will come up continually.