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Differentiated services or DiffServ is a computer networking architecture that specifies a mechanism for classifying and managing network traffic and providing quality of service (QoS) on modern IP networks. DiffServ can, for example, be used to provide low-latency to critical network traffic such as voice or streaming media while providing best-effort service to non-critical services such as web traffic or file transfers.
DiffServ is a coarse-grained, class-based mechanism for traffic management. In contrast, IntServ is a fine-grained, flow-based mechanism. DiffServ relies on a mechanism to classify and mark packets as belonging to a specific class. DiffServ-aware routers implement per-hop behaviors (PHBs), which define the packet-forwarding properties associated with a class of traffic. Different PHBs may be defined to offer, for example, low-loss or low-latency service.
Rather than differentiating network traffic based on the requirements of an individual flow, DiffServ operates on the principle of traffic classification, placing each data packet into one of a limited number of traffic classes. Each router on the network is then configured to differentiate traffic based on its class. Each traffic class can be managed differently, ensuring preferential treatment for higher-priority traffic on the network. The premise of Diffserv is that complicated functions such as packet classification and policing can be carried out at the edge of the network by edge routers. Since no classification and policing is required in the core router, functionality there can then be kept simple. Core routers simply apply PHB treatment to packets based on their markings. PHB treatment is achieved by core routers using a combination of scheduling policy and queue management policy.
While DiffServ does recommend a standardized set of traffic classes, the DiffServ architecture does not incorporate predetermined judgments of what types of traffic should be given priority treatment. DiffServ simply provides a framework to allow classification and differentiated treatment. The standard traffic classes (discussed below) serve to simplify interoperability between different networks and different vendors' equipment.
Network traffic entering a DiffServ domain is subjected to classification and conditioning. A traffic classifier may inspect many different parameters in incoming packets, such as source address, destination address or traffic type and assign individual packets to a specific traffic class. Traffic classifiers may honor any DiffServ markings in received packets or may elect to ignore or override those markings. For tight control over volumes and type of traffic in a given class, a network operator may choose not to honor markings at the ingress to the DiffServ domain. Traffic in each class may be further conditioned by subjecting the traffic to rate limiters, traffic policers or shapers.
The per-hop behavior is determined by the DS field in the IP header. The DS field contains the 6-bit DSCP value. Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) occupies the least-significant 2 bits of the IPv4 TOS field and IPv6 traffic class (TC) field.
In theory, a network could have up to 64 different traffic classes using the 64 available DSCP values. The DiffServ RFCs recommend, but do not require, certain encodings. This gives a network operator great flexibility in defining traffic classes. In practice, however, most networks use the following commonly defined per-hop behaviors:
A default forwarding (DF) PHB is the only required behavior. Essentially, any traffic that does not meet the requirements of any of the other defined classes uses DF. Typically, DF has best-effort forwarding characteristics. The recommended DSCP for DF is 0.
The IETF defines Expedited Forwarding (EF) behavior in RFC 3246. The EF PHB has the characteristics of low delay, low loss and low jitter. These characteristics are suitable for voice, video and other realtime services. EF traffic is often given strict priority queuing above all other traffic classes. Because an overload of EF traffic will cause queuing delays and affect the jitter and delay tolerances within the class, admission control, traffic policing and other mechanisms may be applied to EF traffic. The recommended DSCP for EF is 101110B (46 or 2EH).
The IETF defines Voice Admit behavior in RFC 5865. The Voice Admit PHB has identical characteristics to the Expedited Forwarding PHB. However, Voice Admit traffic is also admitted by the network using a Call Admission Control (CAC) procedure. The recommended DSCP for voice admit is 101100B (44 or 2CH).
The IETF defines the Assured Forwarding (AF) behavior in RFC 2597 and RFC 3260. Assured forwarding allows the operator to provide assurance of delivery as long as the traffic does not exceed some subscribed rate. Traffic that exceeds the subscription rate faces a higher probability of being dropped if congestion occurs.
The AF behavior group defines four separate AF classes with all traffic within one class having the same priority. Within each class, packets are given a drop precedence (high, medium or low, where higher precedence means more dropping). The combination of classes and drop precedence yields twelve separate DSCP encodings from AF11 through AF43 (see table).
Some measure of priority and proportional fairness is defined between traffic in different classes. Should congestion occur between classes, the traffic in the higher class is given priority. Rather than using strict priority queuing, more balanced queue servicing algorithms such as fair queuing or weighted fair queuing are likely to be used. If congestion occurs within a class, the packets with the higher drop precedence are discarded first. To prevent issues associated with tail drop, more sophisticated drop selection algorithms such as random early detection are often used.
Prior to DiffServ, IPv4 networks could use the IP precedence field in the TOS byte of the IPv4 header to mark priority traffic. The TOS octet and IP precedence were not widely used. The IETF agreed to reuse the TOS octet as the DS field for DiffServ networks. In order to maintain backward compatibility with network devices that still use the Precedence field, DiffServ defines the Class Selector PHB. 2b1af7f3a8