Quality of Service (QoS)

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1 Quality of Service (QoS) An Alcatel Executive Briefing February,

2 Table of contents 1. Introduction What is QoS? Class of Service (CoS) Soft QoS Hard QoS Hardware vs. software Implementing QoS Connection-Oriented QoS Connectionless QoS Q and 802.1p.7 Type of Service (ToS).8 Differentiated Services..8 Layer 2 and Layer 3 QoS - MPLS 8 3. QoS Issues Numerous QoS Protocols Bandwidth Planning Performance Expense Future Proofing QoS Conclusion...9 Appendix A: Abbreviations and Acronyms...10 Appendix B: Sources for further information on QoS...10 Editor s note: QoS is a very complicated topic with many protocols and considerations involved. This brief covers the basics plus a few of the protocols to get you started. Check out our Appendices if you want to explore this topic further. Copyright 2002 Alcatel Internetworking. The hyperlinks provided in this Executive Briefing are merely for the convenience of our Executive Briefing readers. Alcatel Internetworking, Inc. has no interest in, responsibility for, or control over the linked-to sites. AII disclaims all warranties, expressed and implied, including those of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non-infringement, with respect to the information contained herein, the hyperlinks provided, the information contained therein, and the use thereof. In no event shall AII be liable for any damages resulting from the reader's use of the information contained herein and/or the hyperlinks provided, even if AII has been informed of the possibility of such damages. February, 2002 page 2

3 1. Introduction Network congestion has been a problem ever since computers were able to share resources. Networks keep getting bigger, and new applications such as voice and video increase the demand even more, causing bottlenecks, congestion, and in general degrading network performance. In the past, the easiest solution was to increase the amount of available bandwidth, thus providing more avenues over which information could flow. However, infinite bandwidth isn t possible, so network gridlock can still occur. To combat degradation in network performance, intelligent management is needed. The challenge lies in creating effective traffic rules such that traffic jams don t congest the network and time sensitive traffic isn t delayed. The idea is to provide sufficient network bandwidth with adequate quality, such that the existing bandwidth is used as efficiently as possible. The term used to describe this effort is quality of service (QoS). New QoS advances in packet-based systems have the ability to support data, voice, and media rich applications over IP. 2. What is QoS? QoS is a technique that uses several different technologies to provide consistent delivery of traffic across a network. The network actively monitors the usage of its available bandwidth and watches for signs of congestion. It proactively generates usage patterns and bandwidth statistics. It also enforces policies relating to the provisioning, use, and distribution of available bandwidth. QoS provides the ability to distinguish between different traffic types for the purpose of resource allocation using bandwidth, latency, jitter, and packet loss as its metrics. It is like a 4-way stop at an intersection where only one car can be handled at a time. Normally it s best effort: first come, first served. But QoS is like a traffic cop at the intersection. It s still first come, first served unless an ambulance is coming. The cop will delay the cars (non-priority traffic) to allow the ambulance (priority traffic) to go through. It is important to understand that adding QoS will not eliminate, or even reduce, congestion. A heavily oversubscribed network will require additional bandwidth. What adding QoS does is prioritize traffic in a congested situation. Also, remember that it is not just the pipe that is limited it is also the destination (server, etc.). Just adding more bandwidth to the pipe does not mean the server can handle the higher speeds any better. Adding QoS does not change this fundamental fact either. However, what it does do is delay the traffic that is least affected by delay and prioritizes the traffic most affected by delay. February, 2002 page 3

4 Networks that are based on standard Internet Protocol (IP) provide this type of best effort data delivery. The network tries to get the data to its destination in a timely manner, but if it can t, the packet waits or is discarded all together. Best effort delivery is acceptable for much of today s Internet traffic, for example, , most HTML, and FTP. However, with the increasing use of web-based applications with real-time requirements such as video conferencing, more sophisticated protocols are required to ensure consistent data delivery. The answer lies in creating networks that have scalable bandwidth with built-in QoS that uses both simple (soft) and complex (hard) QoS models. 2.1 Class of Service (CoS) CoS is a method of specifying and grouping applications into QoS categories based on some common characteristics. Each application still maintains its own unique requirements within the category, but the category is assigned a common QoS characteristic. 2.2 Soft QoS Soft QoS is in effect when CoS tags are used without signaling (see the QSIG Executive Brief for more information on signaling), and the available bandwidth is managed by policies established independently at each intermediate device in the network. This hopby-hop approach does not give absolute end-to-end guarantees, but attempts to manage congestion based on priority assignment for each CoS. Those CoS classes have meaning only locally to that node. To establish a global meaning, QoS network management platforms are used to distribute the QoS rules and mapping. This is a very flexible concept and is capable of scaling up for very large network environments such as the Internet. Some examples of soft QoS are Differentiated Services (DiffServ), IP preference (ToS), and 802.1p / Q tagbased priorities. Most applications can be grouped either by behavior or by importance to the enterprise, so only a few classes of QoS are needed to cover hundreds of different application needs. 2.3 Hard QoS Hard QoS is in effect when QoS (bandwidth, delay, etc.) can be negotiated (signaling) and guaranteed a specific level of service end-to-end. Guaranteed traffic will not be impacted, regardless of the amount of additional traffic on the network. This is accomplished by establishing QoS requirements when the connection is first established (like a phone call) and by using a connection-oriented technology such as ATM or frame relay. If adding additional traffic to the network will impact existing services, then the new communication will be disallowed (or relegated to a lower priority). February, 2002 page 4

5 This end-to-end approach still uses CoS as a way of grouping sessions together with similar characteristics, but at each hop, the session is checked for usage and is forced to abide by the QoS parameters it has negotiated. Hard QoS allows for guaranteed performance, but at the expense of complexity and scaling. Large network environments like the Internet will have a difficult time tracking the usage metrics for hundreds of thousands of signaled flows. 2.4 Hardware vs. software Does it matter if QoS is implemented in hardware or software? Yes. Without hardwarebased QoS, traffic may actually have to be delayed so it can be prioritized. Many vendors boast that they have, or will add, QoS to existing products saving money by upgrading existing equipment. While this idea sounds attractive, it might not really live up to this claim. QoS based purely in software without the hardware to back it up will work fine in environments where there are low levels of network traffic, but if the network gets busy, the use of software-based queues and software-based classifiers will result in traffic delays. Why is this? The software-based QoS mechanisms must examine each packet in a software mode just so it can be given priority. Software is inherently slow when compared to wire-speed networking ASICs. A purely software-based QoS mechanism can t keep up with the speed at which a switch or router operates resulting in poor performance, traffic delays, and possibly lost packets. Let s go back to the earlier example of a traffic cop and an ambulance. Using hardwarebased QoS, the cop can see the ambulance coming and give it top priority before it ever reaches the intersection. On the other hand, using software-based QoS, the cop stops the ambulance, looks inside and only then gives it the right of way. Which mechanism would you prefer in an emergency? Realistically, a combination of hardware and software is the best choice. The hardware will ensure wire-rate performance while the software allows for flexibility and future expansion. 2.5 Implementing QoS Ethernet has become the dominant choice for enterprise networks. The challenge is to implement soft QoS across the entire network, from end point to end point, in essence, end-to-end. Frequently, end-to-end is used to mean across the WAN (server to server), as QoS at the desktop/phone requires time consuming effort to configure each end point. The technologies developed by the communications industry falls into two major categories: connection oriented (circuit flow) and connectionless (packet flow). February, 2002 page 5

6 Connection-oriented QoS technologies reserve bandwidth from point to point through a network before any information is sent. Connectionless-based QoS marks individual packets, and then the switches and routers throughout the network are responsible for sending the data in order of importance. The packets do not have a predefined path as they would in a connection-oriented flow. Both types of QoS can be implemented through hardware, software or a combination of both. Layers 2 and 3 are used to implement QoS. Layer 2 protocols include 802.1Q and p (connectionless, best effort) while RSVP (connection oriented) and IP (connectionless, best effort) are layer 3 protocols. 2.6 Connection-Oriented QoS For connection-oriented QoS, the system resources need to be reserved before information can be passed across the network. RSVP is a resource reservation setup protocol (signaling protocol) used by a host (or switch) to request a specific QoS level from the network to support a particular application data flow. RSVP is also used by routing services to deliver the QoS requests to nodes along the path of the flow and to establish and maintain the requested service. RSVP supports unicast and multicast traffic flows. Using RSVP, a sending station generates an RSVP path message through the network to advertise the requirements of the flow (e.g., a video stream). When a workstation receives this message, it sends a reservation request for resources in the network that it will need to receive the flow. The request is passed to each switch in the network, which then validates or rejects the request. If the reservation is validated, the desired resources are made available on that part of the link, and the request is sent to the next node. Once the reservation request reaches the sender, it starts sending data packets. A confirmation message is sent to the receiver. 2.7 Connectionless QoS The following are protocols frequently used to provide connectionless (packet flow) QoS Q and 802.1p 802.1Q is actually a VLAN-tagging specification that supports the 802.1p QoS specification. The 802.1Q specification adds four bytes of data to the frame (usually an Ethernet frame). Two bytes identify it as an 802.1Q frame, 12 bits identify the VLAN, one bit is for addressing information, and the final three bits identify the priority. These February, 2002 page 6

7 priority bits, as defined by the 802.1p specification, allow for eight levels of priority. The transmitting device or an intermediate switch can assign priority. Type of Service (ToS) ToS, sometimes referred to as IP Precedence, is information defined within the IP header. This field was mostly unused until recent requirements to provide QoS such that both voice and data could be supported in the network. The field consists of two sub-fields: the first is called precedence and is used to identify and route packets in the Internet. The second, called the ToS sub-field, was created to define the type of service requested for the traffic; however, it s normally not used. ToS is limited in its capabilities, so a new protocol called Differentiated Services (DiffServ), was developed to replace it. DiffServ uses the same ToS data field within the IP packet but adds increased QoS capabilities. Differentiated Services Differentiated Services (DiffServ, RFC 2474) is designed for use at the edge of the enterprise where corporate traffic enters the service provider environment. Because it s a layer-3 protocol, DiffServ can be added to most routing services via a software upgrade. In addition, it functions at layer 3 and requires no specific layer-2 capability. This allows it to be used in the LAN, MAN, and WAN. DiffServ works by tagging the frame (at the originating device or an intermediate switch) for the requested level of service it requires across the Internet. The different levels of services provided by DiffServ allow preferred handling across the IP network. The DiffServ field contains a Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) that specifies how each switch handles the frame. Layer 2 and Layer 3 QoS MPLS In an effort to increase throughput, reduce network complexity in ATM networks, and bring advanced bandwidth shaping and QoS capabilities to non-atm networks, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) created Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). The main applications for MPLS are traffic engineering, QoS, CoS, and virtual private networks. MPLS combines the power of layer 2 switching with the flexibility and intelligence of layer 3 protocols, and it operates independently of other network technologies but is fully capable of interoperating with them. MPLS brings non-atm networks powerful QoS capabilities, the ability to route multiple network technologies (Ethernet, frame relay, ATM) over one infrastructure, and the capability of interoperating with modern routing protocols such as RIP, OSPF and BGP while increasing efficiency and simplifying network infrastructure. An MPLS network is independent from other networks, meaning that any traffic must enter the network through an ingress point and exit at the appropriate destination egress. February, 2002 page 7

8 Traffic is accepted from multiple sources, such as ATM, Ethernet, and frame relay. 3. QoS Issues 3.1 Numerous QoS Protocols The typical frame and packet-based networks lack the quality of service (QoS) and traffic shaping sophistication of the powerful - yet expensive - ATM networks. The proliferation of network protocols increases the complexity and reduces network capability and performance. This is part of the reason MPLS was created. What is the best way to implement QoS in a network? It depends on whom you ask, and therein lies the heart of the problem. Typically, to achieve end-to-end QoS, you will need to stick with a single vendor s equipment, since most QoS implementations contain some proprietary functions. Each vendor has specific ways of designing a network that may not be compatible with existing network segments, causing further problems. From an economic view, if you are locked into a single vendor, you are at their mercy in terms of costs, and typically you ll spend more money since there is no competition to keep the price down. If a standard or set of standards can be ratified that all vendors could use, then theoretically networking equipment from multiple vendors could interoperate to provide end-to-end QoS, allowing competitive pricing and very flexible network designs. When implementing a QoS scheme, should you activate it only at the edge, only at the core, or across the entire network (end-to-end)? If you activate QoS at the edge, you will keep costs down in the core, but any time-sensitive traffic that needs to move through the core will be treated just like the MP3s that Bob in the shipping department is downloading from the Internet. If you implement QoS only in the core, edge costs go down significantly, but then traffic in the edge is not prioritized correctly, so any time-sensitive traffic in the edge is subject to the situation described above. The only effective and proven QoS implementation is an end-to-end scheme incorporating QoS in both the core and the edge to provide a uniform solution. 3.2 Bandwidth Planning QoS does not increase bandwidth. It only helps to use the existing bandwidth more efficiently. If the network is over-subscribed, QoS will not help. Therefore, an essential part of designing a network to use QoS as effectively as possible is to evaluate each segment of the network and make sure the bandwidth needs are met before even considering activating a QoS scheme. February, 2002 page 8

9 3.3 Performance Most routers and switches that have QoS are implementing those functions strictly through software. When QoS is activated, the relatively slow software will cause a performance drop. When buying equipment to implement QoS, it is essential that there be some type of hardware QoS in addition to the software-based functions to ensure wire-rate QoS performance. 3.4 Expense True end-to-end QoS costs money. When you purchase a router or switch that has QoS functions, you are going to pay more. Competition keeps the prices down, but unfortunately when deciding on a vendor, you typically have to use their equipment throughout the network to make sure there are no interoperability issues. With adherence to standards, there s hope this situation will improve in the future. 3.5 Future Proofing QoS works well in today s networks, but what about tomorrow? Mobility is an increasingly important requirement for businesses today. Ingenious solutions are being used today to make mobility and QoS interoperate for now, but mobility and other networking innovations will soon make current technology obsolete. 4. QoS Conclusion QoS overall is probably the most talked about but least understood networking technology available. Time-sensitive network traffic and overloaded connections make QoS a necessity in today s converged networks and most enterprise networks. QoS in its many implementations works well, but it has a long way to go before it will truly be easy to implement and maintain. So the question is, how do you implement a QoS strategy that is effective from end-toend, is reasonable to install and configure, and not a nightmare to maintain? Again, it depends on whom you ask. Strides are being taken to simplify setup, configuration, and maintenance of QoS policies, and standards are being written and agreed upon. However, until there is unified set of standards for QoS, every vendor will have their own vision of how it should work. As it stands, most vendors have a good QoS solution that will work. There are a few pitfalls to watch out for: make sure that turning on QoS will not degrade performance, make sure any QoS implementations are end-to-end, and look out for hidden costs. February, 2002 page 9

10 Appendix A: Abbreviations and Acronyms ASIC ATM BGP CoS DiffServ DSCP FTP HTML IETF IP LAN MAN MPLS OSPF QSIG QoS RSVP RIP TOS VLAN WAN Application-Specific Integrated Circuit Asynchronous Transfer Mode Border Gateway Protocol class of service Differentiated Services Differentiated Services Code Point File Transfer Protocol Hyper Text Markup Language Internet Engineering Task Force Internet Protocol local area network metropolitan area network Multi Protocol Label Switching Open Shortest Path First Q-signaling quality of service Resource Reservation Protocol Routing Information Protocol type of service virtual local area network wide area network Appendix B: Sources for further information on QoS QoS resources: QoS Glossary of Terms: QoS Forum IETF Diffserv Working Group Integrated Service Working Group RSVP Working Group A good source for information on many QoS related topics February, 2002 page 10

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