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IP QoS Architectures and MPLS


Over the last years, the Internet has been so successful that IP technologies are now expected to play a critical and potentially dominant role in the evolution of both public and private networks.

The provision and support of new distributed multimedia services are of prime concern for telecommunications operators and equipment suppliers. Therefore, the potential of the latest Internet protocols to contribute communications components is of considerable interest to all parties.

An important issue in the Internet, and consequently in every network connected to it, is support for multimedia applications (e.g., video, voice). These applications have specific requirements in terms of delay and bandwidth which challenge the original design goals of IP's best effort service model, and call for alternate service models and traffic management schemes that can offer the required quality of service (QoS). To this end, two QoS architectures have emerged in the IETF: integrated services (IntServ), which provides end-to-end QoS on a per-flow basis, and differentiated services (DiffServ), which supports QoS for traffic aggregates. Both proposals suggest solutions to overcome the QoS limitations in the current best-effort IP service architecture.

In both schemes the differentiated service levels - matching performance to user needs and pricing - promise to transform the Internet from today’s rough one-size-fits-all vehicle into tomorrow’s versatile answer to a variety of traffic requirements.

The other significant development is in the field of IP routing/switching. The industry is developing new mechanisms that improve the efficiency of packet forwarding: resolve the issues of the scalability of routing, the provision of more flexible routing services, increased performance, and more simplified integration of layer 3 datagram forwarding and layer 2 switching technologies. This all has led to the concept of MPLS with the overall goal of providing a standard label-swapping architecture.

Here we review these two proposals and MPLS on how such QoS enabling schemes could be utilized to enhance the best effort service model of IP architecture. The remainder of this chapter is structured as follows. We first briefly look at the key drivers of IP network with QoS requirements. Then we outline a classification of applications/ services and their requirements, and identify the need to support applications that have strict QoS requirements, the so-called critical applications. We then review recent developments and research results proposed to improve the Internet in order to support real-time and multimedia communications. We analyze two proposals enhancing the current Internet communication service architecture (currently limited to a ‘flat’ best-effort service): we look at the integrated services and more recent proposals for differentiated services in the Internet. Further, Multi-protocol Label Switching, and IPv6 (the new version of the Internet Protocol) are analyzed. In each case, we attempt to provide critical reviews in order to assess their suitability for this purpose. Finally, we indicate what the basis of the future infrastructure might be in order to support the full variety of application requirements.




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