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Frame Relay is a standardized wide area network technology that specifies the physical and data link layers of digital telecommunications channels using a packet switching methodology. Originally designed for transport across Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) infrastructure, it may be used today in the context of many other network interfaces.
Network providers commonly implement Frame Relay for voice (VoFR) and data as an encapsulation technique used between local area networks (LANs) over a wide area network (WAN). Each end-user gets a private line (or leased line) to a Frame Relay node. The Frame Relay network handles the transmission over a frequently changing path transparent to all end-user extensively used WAN protocols. It is less expensive than leased lines and that is one reason for its popularity. The extreme simplicity of configuring user equipment in a Frame Relay network offers another reason for Frame Relay's popularity.
With the advent of Ethernet over fiber optics, MPLS, VPN and dedicated broadband services such as cable modem and DSL, the end may loom for the Frame Relay protocol and encapsulation.[ speculation? ]
The designers of Frame Relay aimed to provide a telecommunication service for cost-efficient data transmission for intermittent traffic between local area networks (LANs) and between end-points in a wide area network (WAN). Frame Relay puts data in variable-size units called "frames" and leaves any necessary error-correction (such as retransmission of data) up to the end-points. This speeds up overall data transmission. For most services, the network provides a permanent virtual circuit (PVC), which means that the customer sees a continuous, dedicated connection without having to pay for a full-time leased line, while the service-provider figures out the route each frame travels to its destination and can charge based on usage.
An enterprise can select a level of service quality, prioritizing some frames and making others less important. Frame Relay can run on fractional T-1 or full T-carrier system carriers (outside the Americas, E1 or full E-carrier). Frame Relay complements and provides a mid-range service between basic rate ISDN, which offers bandwidth at 128 kbit/s, and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), which operates in somewhat similar fashion to Frame Relay but at speeds from 155.520 Mbit/s to 622.080 Mbit/s.
Frame Relay has its technical base in the older X.25 packet-switching technology, designed for transmitting data on analog voice lines. Unlike X.25, whose designers expected analog signals with a relatively high chance of transmission errors, Frame Relay is a fast packet switching technology operating over links with a low chance of transmission errors (usually practically lossless like PDH), which means that the protocol does not attempt to correct errors. When a Frame Relay network detects an error in a frame, it simply drops that frame. The end points have the responsibility for detecting and retransmitting dropped frames. (However, digital networks offer an incidence of error extraordinarily small relative to that of analog networks.)
Frame Relay often serves to connect local area networks (LANs) with major backbones, as well as on public wide-area networks (WANs) and also in private network environments with leased lines over T-1 lines. It requires a dedicated connection during the transmission period. Frame Relay does not provide an ideal path for voice or video transmission, both of which require a steady flow of transmissions. However, under certain circumstances, voice and video transmission do use Frame Relay.
Frame Relay originated as an extension of integrated services digital network (ISDN). Its designers aimed to enable a packet-switched network to transport over circuit-switched technology. The technology has become a stand-alone and cost-effective means of creating a WAN.
Frame Relay switches create virtual circuits to connect remote LANs to a WAN. The Frame Relay network exists between a LAN border device, usually a router, and the carrier switch. The technology used by the carrier to transport data between the switches is variable and may differ among carriers (i.e., to function, a practical Frame Relay implementation need not rely solely on its own transportation mechanism).
The sophistication of the technology requires a thorough understanding of the terms used to describe how Frame Relay works. Without a firm understanding of Frame Relay, it is difficult to troubleshoot its performance.
Frame-relay frame structure essentially mirrors almost exactly that defined for LAP-D. Traffic analysis can distinguish Frame Relay format from LAP-D by its lack of a control field.[ citation needed ]
Each Frame Relay protocol data unit (PDU) consists of the following fields:
The Frame Relay network uses a simplified protocol at each switching node. It achieves simplicity by omitting link-by-link flow-control. As a result, the offered load has largely determined the performance of Frame Relay networks. When offered load is high, due to the bursts in some services, temporary overload at some Frame Relay nodes causes a collapse in network throughput. Therefore, Frame Relay networks require some effective mechanisms to control the congestion.
Congestion control in Frame Relay networks includes the following elements:
Once the network has established a connection, the edge node of the Frame Relay network must monitor the connection's traffic flow to ensure that the actual usage of network resources does not exceed this specification. Frame Relay defines some restrictions on the user's information rate. It allows the network to enforce the end user's information rate and discard information when the subscribed access rate is exceeded.
Explicit congestion notification is proposed as the congestion avoidance policy. It tries to keep the network operating at its desired equilibrium point so that a certain quality of service (QoS) for the network can be met. To do so, special congestion control bits have been incorporated into the address field of the Frame Relay: FECN and BECN. The basic idea is to avoid data accumulation inside the network.
FECN means forward explicit congestion notification. The FECN bit can be set to 1 to indicate that congestion was experienced in the direction of the frame transmission, so it informs the destination that congestion has occurred. BECN means backwards explicit congestion notification. The BECN bit can be set to 1 to indicate that congestion was experienced in the network in the direction opposite of the frame transmission, so it informs the sender that congestion has occurred.
Frame Relay began as a stripped-down version of the X.25 protocol, releasing itself from the error-correcting burden most commonly associated with X.25. When Frame Relay detects an error, it simply drops the offending packet. Frame Relay uses the concept of shared access and relies on a technique referred to as "best-effort", whereby error-correction practically does not exist and practically no guarantee of reliable data delivery occurs. Frame Relay provides an industry-standard encapsulation, utilizing the strengths of high-speed, packet-switched technology able to service multiple virtual circuits and protocols between connected devices, such as two routers.
Although Frame Relay became very popular in North America, it was never very popular in Europe. X.25 remained the primary standard until the wide availability of IP made packet switching almost obsolete. It was used sometimes as backbone for other services, such as X.25 or IP traffic. Where Frame Relay was used in the USA also as carrier for TCP/IP traffic, in Europe backbones for IP networks often used ATM or PoS, later replaced by Carrier Ethernet
| OSI model |
X.25 provides quality of service and error-free delivery, whereas Frame Relay was designed to relay data as quickly as possible over low error networks. Frame Relay eliminates a number of the higher-level procedures and fields used in X.25. Frame Relay was designed for use on links with error-rates far lower than available when X.25 was designed.
X.25 prepares and sends packets, while Frame Relay prepares and sends frames. X.25 packets contain several fields used for error checking and flow control, most of which are not used by Frame Relay. The frames in Frame Relay contain an expanded link layer address field that enables Frame Relay nodes to direct frames to their destinations with minimal processing. The elimination of functions and fields over X.25 allows Frame Relay to move data more quickly, but leaves more room for errors and larger delays should data need to be retransmitted.
X.25 packet switched networks typically allocated a fixed bandwidth through the network for each X.25 access, regardless of the current load. This resource allocation approach, while apt for applications that require guaranteed quality of service, is inefficient for applications that are highly dynamic in their load characteristics or which would benefit from a more dynamic resource allocation. Frame Relay networks can dynamically allocate bandwidth at both the physical and logical channel level.
As a WAN protocol, Frame Relay is most commonly implemented at Layer 2 (data link layer) of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) seven layer model. Two types of circuits exist: permanent virtual circuits (PVCs) which are used to form logical end-to-end links mapped over a physical network, and switched virtual circuits (SVCs). The latter are analogous to the circuit-switching concepts of the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the global phone network.
Initial proposals for Frame Relay were presented to the Consultative Committee on International Telephone and Telegraph (CCITT) in 1984. Lack of interoperability and standardization prevented any significant Frame Relay deployment until 1990, when Cisco, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Northern Telecom, and StrataCom formed a consortium to focus on its development. They produced a protocol that provided additional capabilities for complex inter-networking environments. These Frame Relay extensions are referred to as the local management interface (LMI).
Datalink connection identifiers (DLCIs) are numbers that refer to paths through the Frame Relay network. They are only locally significant, which means that when device-A sends data to device-B it will most likely use a different DLCI than device-B would use to reply. Multiple virtual circuits can be active on the same physical end-points (performed by using subinterfaces).
The LMI global addressing extension gives Frame Relay data-link connection identifier (DLCI) values global rather than local significance. DLCI values become DTE addresses that are unique in the Frame Relay WAN. The global addressing extension adds functionality and manageability to Frame Relay internetworks. Individual network interfaces and the end nodes attached to them, for example, can be identified by using standard address-resolution and discovery techniques. In addition, the entire Frame Relay network appears to be a typical LAN to routers on its periphery.
LMI virtual circuit status messages provide communication and synchronization between Frame Relay DTE and DCE devices. These messages are used to periodically report on the status of PVCs, which prevents data from being sent into black holes (that is, over PVCs that no longer exist).
The LMI multicasting extension allows multicast groups to be assigned. Multicasting saves bandwidth by allowing routing updates and address-resolution messages to be sent only to specific groups of routers. The extension also transmits reports on the status of multicast groups in update messages.
Frame Relay connections are often given a committed information rate (CIR) and an allowance of burstable bandwidth known as the extended information rate (EIR). The provider guarantees that the connection will always support the C rate, and sometimes the PRa rate should there be adequate bandwidth. Frames that are sent in excess of the CIR are marked as discard eligible (DE) which means they can be dropped should congestion occur within the Frame Relay network. Frames sent in excess of the EIR are dropped immediately.
Frame Relay aimed to make more efficient use of existing physical resources, permitting the over-provisioning of data services by telecommunications companies to their customers, as clients were unlikely to be using a data service 45 percent of the time. In more recent years, Frame Relay has acquired a bad reputation in some markets because of excessive bandwidth overbooking.[ citation needed ]
Telecommunications companies often sell Frame Relay to businesses looking for a cheaper alternative to dedicated lines; its use in different geographic areas depended greatly on governmental and telecommunication companies' policies. Some of the early companies to make Frame Relay products included StrataCom (later acquired by Cisco Systems) and Cascade Communications (later acquired by Ascend Communications and then by Lucent Technologies).
As of June 2007, AT&T was the largest Frame Relay service provider in the USA, with local networks in 22 states, plus national and international networks.[ citation needed ]
When multiplexing packet data from different virtual circuits or flows, quality of service concerns often arise. This is because a frame from one virtual circuit may occupy the line for a long enough period of time to disrupt a service guarantee given to another virtual circuit. IP fragmentation is a method for addressing this. An incoming long packet is broken up into a sequence of shorter packets and enough information is added to reassemble that long frame at the far end. FRF.12 is a specification from the Frame Relay Forum which specifies how to perform fragmentation on frame relay traffic primarily for voice traffic. The FRF.12 specification describes the method of fragmenting Frame Relay frames into smaller frames.
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a telecommunications standard defined by ANSI and ITU standards for carriage of user traffic, including telephony (voice), data, and video signals. ATM was developed to meet the needs of the Broadband Integrated Services Digital Network, as defined in the late 1980s, and designed to integrate telecommunication networks. Additionally, it was designed for networks that must handle both traditional high-throughput data traffic, and real-time, low-latency content such as voice and video. The reference model for ATM approximately maps to the three lowest layers of the ISO-OSI reference model: network layer, data link layer, and physical layer. ATM is a core protocol used over the SONET/SDH backbone of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), but its use is declining in favour of all IP.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a routing technique in telecommunications networks that directs data from one node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, thus avoiding complex lookups in a routing table and speeding traffic flows. The labels identify virtual links (paths) between distant nodes rather than endpoints. MPLS can encapsulate packets of various network protocols, hence the "multiprotocol" reference on its name. MPLS supports a range of access technologies, including T1/E1, ATM, Frame Relay, and DSL.
Quality of service (QoS) is the description or measurement of the overall performance of a service, such as a telephony or computer network or a cloud computing service, particularly the performance seen by the users of the network. To quantitatively measure quality of service, several related aspects of the network service are often considered, such as packet loss, bit rate, throughput, transmission delay, availability, jitter, etc.
A wide area network (WAN) is a telecommunications network that extends over a large geographical area for the primary purpose of computer networking. Wide area networks are often established with leased telecommunication circuits.
Synchronous optical networking (SONET) and synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) are standardized protocols that transfer multiple digital bit streams synchronously over optical fiber using lasers or highly coherent light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). At low transmission rates data can also be transferred via an electrical interface. The method was developed to replace the plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) system for transporting large amounts of telephone calls and data traffic over the same fiber without the problems of synchronization.
In computer networking, cell relay refers to a method of statistically multiplexing small fixed-length packets, called "cells", to transport data between computers or kinds of network equipment. It is an unreliable, connection-oriented packet switched data communications protocol.
Network topology is the arrangement of the elements of a communication network. Network topology can be used to define or describe the arrangement of various types of telecommunication networks, including command and control radio networks, industrial fieldbusses and computer networks.
Time-division multiplexing (TDM) is a method of transmitting and receiving independent signals over a common signal path by means of synchronized switches at each end of the transmission line so that each signal appears on the line only a fraction of time in an alternating pattern. It is used when the bit rate of the transmission medium exceeds that of the signal to be transmitted. This form of signal multiplexing was developed in telecommunications for telegraphy systems in the late 19th century, but found its most common application in digital telephony in the second half of the 20th century.
A virtual circuit (VC) is a means of transporting data over a packet switched computer network in such a way that it appears as though there is a dedicated physical layer link between the source and destination end systems of this data. The term virtual circuit is synonymous with virtual connection and virtual channel. Before a connection or virtual circuit may be used, it has to be established, between two or more nodes or software applications, by configuring the relevant parts of the interconnecting network. After that, a bit stream or byte stream may be delivered between the nodes; hence, a virtual circuit protocol allows higher level protocols to avoid dealing with the division of data into segments, packets, or frames.
In computer networking, the transport layer is a conceptual division of methods in the layered architecture of protocols in the network stack in the Internet protocol suite and the OSI model. The protocols of this layer provide host-to-host communication services for applications. It provides services such as connection-oriented communication, reliability, flow control, and multiplexing.
A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running on a computing device, e.g., a laptop, desktop, smartphone, across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network. Encryption is a common, though not an inherent, part of a VPN connection.
The data link layer, or layer 2, is the second layer of the seven-layer OSI model of computer networking. This layer is the protocol layer that transfers data between adjacent network nodes in a wide area network (WAN) or between nodes on the same local area network (LAN) segment. The data link layer provides the functional and procedural means to transfer data between network entities and might provide the means to detect and possibly correct errors that may occur in the physical layer.
A data link connection identifier (DLCI) is a Frame Relay 10-bit-wide link-local virtual circuit identifier used to assign frames to a specific PVC or SVC. Frame Relay networks use DLCIs to statistically multiplex frames. DLCIs are preloaded into each switch and act as road signs to the traveling frames.
Throughput of a network can be measured using various tools available on different platforms. This page explains the theory behind what these tools set out to measure and the issues regarding these measurements.
Resilient Packet Ring (RPR), also known as IEEE 802.17, is a protocol standard designed for the optimized transport of data traffic over optical fiber ring networks. The standard began development in November 2000 and has undergone several amendments since its initial standard was completed in June 2004. The amended standards are 802.17a through 802.17d, the last of which was adopted in May 2011. It is designed to provide the resilience found in SONET/SDH networks but, instead of setting up circuit oriented connections, provides a packet based transmission, in order to increase the efficiency of Ethernet and IP services.
Statistical multiplexing is a type of communication link sharing, very similar to dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA). In statistical multiplexing, a communication channel is divided into an arbitrary number of variable bitrate digital channels or data streams. The link sharing is adapted to the instantaneous traffic demands of the data streams that are transferred over each channel. This is an alternative to creating a fixed sharing of a link, such as in general time division multiplexing (TDM) and frequency division multiplexing (FDM). When performed correctly, statistical multiplexing can provide a link utilization improvement, called the statistical multiplexing gain.
Connection-oriented communication is a network communication mode in telecommunications and computer networking, where a communication session or a semi-permanent connection is established before any useful data can be transferred, and where a stream of data is delivered in the same order as it was sent. The alternative to connection-oriented transmission is connectionless communication, for example the datagram mode communication used by the IP and UDP protocols, where data may be delivered out of order, since different network packets are routed independently, and may be delivered over different paths.
In computer networking, a reliable protocol is a protocol which notifies the sender whether or not the delivery of data to intended recipients was successful. Reliability is a synonym for assurance, which is the term used by the ITU and ATM Forum.
A computer network is a digital telecommunications network which allows nodes to share resources. In computer networks, computing devices exchange data with each other using connections between nodes. These data links are established over cable media such as twisted pair or fiber-optic cables, and wireless media such as Wi-Fi.
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