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Practical Guide to Frame Relay
...because it doesn't have to be complex.
by

Niels Jonker
Copyright © 1997 Niels Jonker All Rights Reserved

This paper will address the following issues: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. What is Frame Relay? How does Frame Relay differ from other techniques? What is Frame Relay useful for? How does frame relay fit in the U.S. Internet strategy? Mixing Frame Relay with other technologies Pros and Cons of Frame Relay Technical aspects of installing and running frame

Items one through six will address general overviews of frame; item 7 will be a technical discussion related to equipment installation and setup that is probably only interesting for the technical staff involved in this area.

1. What is Frame Relay? Frame relay is a technique used to transport data from locations to location, just like T-1 lines or ISDN connections do. In frame relay, there are a number of locations on the network that can send and receive data. These connections are known as Ports. Each location that needs access to the frame system, needs to have one of these ports. Every port in a Frame Relay system has an Address. This address is Unique to the port at that specific location. The port is connected to the equipment that handles the Data on one side, to the Frame Relay Cloud on the other side.

When we add a Location C. things get more interesting: . What we do is simply address data as Going to B or Going to A. there are a lot of different ways to get from one port to another. the actual Data and the Control block. Let's for example say that we have two sites connected to a frame relay network. they figure out what router to send a packet over to get it fast and reliable from the source to the destination port. at this point. and we wish to send data from site A to site B. These frames are sent over Virtual Connections. These switches can make informed decisions on the traffic flow over each part of each route.The equipment that handles the data can send data out the frame relay port. Together. These ways are all interconnected by Frame Switches. Inside the cloud. The frame network itself should be imagined as a cloud. The diagram would look like this: What happens INSIDE the Frame Cloud is not known. or Frames. This happens in the form of Packets. Each frame is built up of two parts. and does not matter to us. things work pretty much the same as they would on a dedicated line between A and B. So. Every Frame Relay Access Port runs into this Cloud.

the cloud takes care of all of this! What the cloud does for us. the three sites can simply talk to each other by passing packets with the correct addresses. these are the virtual connections that would be needed: . we say there is a connection from site A to site B. this is called a Data link Connection Identifier. or that traffic would have to pass through two sites. The way this is done.Now. Each connection from one site to another is defined. is simple. For example. For everyone in the above diagram to be able to talk to everyone directly. this would have meant that either each site would have to have two lines. Each end of each connection is given a number that identifies it. In a conventional setup with leased or dialup lines. From site A to site C. is form 'Virtual Connections'. Not in frame relay. etc. or DCLI.

in one port! This means that the Equipment itself takes care of picking the data apart and putting the correct packets in the correct directions. If A wants to setup an SVC to B.This means that everyone can talk to each other by simply stating the address and DLCI number of the line they want to talk over. This type of circuit is brought up when needed. ISDN to T-1 or higher bandwidth. just like making a phonecall. or PVC. it can be dialup. these virtual connections come in two flavors. the On Demand variety is called a Switched Virtual Circuit or SVC. as said before by one port into the frame network. The fixed variety is referred to as a Private Virtual Circuit. If A and B start sending . This port comes in over a traditional form of media. and they are now ready to talk. which will bring up a SVC. Let's say for example that all ports in our network have a 512 Kilobit bandwidth. it will send a control packet in LAPD format. being Fixed and On Demand. Simply addressing the data with a port address and DLCI will get it over the Frame Cloud to the right port. A PVC is setup by the carrier that carries the frame-data from A to B. Both sides will be assigned a temporary DLCI. The multiple DCLI's coming into or going out of one location are all handled. Now keep in mind that all the data for all virtual connections arrives over one line. This will get the data across the Virtual Connection.

As shown before. and not dependent on bandwidth or usage. It will be sent as soon as possible. since it is not actually being used. However. The risk in this is of course that the dataflow may not let off. It can make multiple redundant connections possible through the use of PVC's between various routers. the total combined bandwidth will be 512+512 = 1024Kilobits. say for example Knoxville to Nashville. without having to use multiple physical links. Data sent over the Frame Connection is not subject to additional charges. 2. The bandwidth on frame is shared. The interesting part about this pricing is that there is NO DISTANCE CHARGE involved! A Frame Relay Access Port is expensive. since it may cause slowdowns in the network. Frame becomes . From this port. It is however something to consider. frame Relay pricing is where things really get different: From the above discussion we know there are two elements to Frame Relay.).. The price of the port depends on it's bandwidth. the frame relay cloud will drop the data. In local traffic. a Frame solution is an attractive one. Since C only has a 512 Kbit port. each of the two gets a fair share of the bandwidth. if the buffers fill up and there is nowhere to go. when the dataflow lets off a little. Two frame ports between two cities are usually also more expensive than a direct T-1 as long as there is only a one or two LATA Hop. it can have multiple Virtual Connections to various locations. A bigger port costs more money. In a traditional fixed-bandwidth multiple connection scenario. we have a problem! Frame Relay uses a technique called Statistical Multiplexing to fix this. each location can have one port into a Frame Relay Network. this is no problem. The price of a PVC is fixed. a lot of bandwidth will be wasted at most times. since the protocols running over frame will re-send the data anyway. therefor allowing better utilization of bandwidth. The chance of congestion is however also greater. allowing for multiple bursts to be handled sequentially. In our uses. Also. The multiplexed nature of Frame Relay facilitates especially the transmission of Bursty Traffic. Per port. and offers a way to buffer speed differences.data to C at the same time. when you feed multiple cities and Hop multiple Lata's. the Access Port and the Private Virtual Circuits. since Frame relay is not media specific. The rest of the data is temporarily buffered in the Frame Relay Cloud. How does Frame Relay differ from other Techniques? The biggest difference in frame Relay from other techniques is the use of Virtual Connections rather than Static Connections. it can make a good interconnect medium between various devices that run at various speeds. we can feed as many circuits as we please (up to the equipment's limit. since the bandwidth in the Frame Relay Port may become a bottleneck.

internet is deploying Frame Relay ports for some of the long distance connections required to connect to remote Points of Presence. Initially.S. from one Frame port. For a number of U. at Fractional T-1 bandwidth generally 8 or more. Due to the implementation and cost of frame relay. we will operate with roughly 1. This integrated approach can be attractive for both parties. Sprint has been chosen as our frame Relay provider. up to speeds of about 4 megabits per second. In a later stage. It is not desirable as of yet to access frame relay on a dialup basis for economical purposes.attractive when you feed a large number of connections. Memphis. and the equipment required to operate successfully in this architecture is only now (September 1995) being deployed. Clarksville and Pittsburgh. It is possible to connect the clients router to Frame Relay and access Internet Services over this circuit. Internet's routers. Johnson City. the economical advantage will in most cases compensate for this.S. U. Several PVC's will be installed to allow for redundant hookups between the various locations. 3. It should be seen as a flexible protocol that lies on the Data Level of the Connections between routers. The cost of these ports is substantial.S. Although there is a greater chance of connection then when dedicated lines are used. Internet strategy? Initially. At the same time. if the customer has other Frame Relay ports available in different locations. At the same time. and connecting into one of U.S. Chattanooga. How does frame relay fit in the U. Internet clients.S. . clients in remote cities where we do not have bandwidth available to service them would be helped by getting in to the Frame cloud. 4.5 megabit of access bandwidth out of two locations (Knoxville and Nashville). PA will all come on-line on this frame relay system. the same port may be used to connect to Wide Area offices the client has. What is frame relay useful for? Frame Relay can be used for various types of connections. The POP's in Alabama. use of Frame Relay may allow for the connection of various remote sites using one technology. the client can connect to multiple remote locations using the one port. It can currently be used effectively for carrying all sorts of data. it is most suitable for permanent or semi-permanent connections. In this scenario. Internet can connect multiple customers. we may start offering clients access to the network over frame Relay. U.

PRO: Less hardware is needed to for the same amount of connections CON: There may be jams. this function will be performed by the software in our Cisco routers. access over High Speed Modem and ISDN will be investigated. it is not economically feasible. it is technically possible to connect to a Frame cloud using an ISDN connection. The device used to handle the special frame signaling is called a Frame Relay Access Device.S. Frame Relay is nearly a protocol that describes how packets of data move from one location to another. PRO: In many scenario's involving long haul.5. Pro's and Cons of Frame Relay. 7. PRO: Mixed speeds can be converted.S. no guaranteed bandwidth CON: In a point-to-point scenario it is not economically feasible. and connect to U. These connections will terminate in a DSU at U. U. Currently. Internet's services. Mixing Frame Relay with Other Technologies. or FRAD.S. then become a part of the frame network. Internet will initially be using Dedicated Fractional T-1 connections to connect to the Frame Cloud. 6. CON: In short haul. it is cheaper than dedicated lines. In our case. cost of technology and cost of service are prohibitive factors in this scenario. The connection to the Frame Relay Network will be made over dedicated T-1 connections. traffic bursts can be buffered. just like a T1 does. Internet. high speed connections. Several techniques can be used to get data in a frame port. . Next. PRO: There is a cheap solution to incorporate redundancy in the network. it does not concern itself with the issues of how packets get to and from the frame network. Technical Aspects of Installing and Running Frame. but companies requiring more complicated Wide Area Solutions including internet may wish to look into this option.

In the POPs. For implementation of Sub-interface Routing. are also available on the World Wide Web. please contact Niels Jonker at niels@myhome. which goes into the exact configuration strategies and commands in greater details. 2500's or 4000's will serve as the FRAD. the 4500's will take care of the FRAD functionality. in the NOC's. as well as many others. a more general and detailed overview of the technology.org . they will also function as a Frame Switch. Attached is the Cisco documentation regarding Internet Technologies and Frame relay. These documents. and Frame Relay Configuration. For further information. All Rights Reserved. These attachments are Copyright © 1995 Cisco Systems Inc.