Frame Relay is a high-performance (layer 2) WAN protocol that operates at the physical and data link layers of the OSI reference model. Frame Relay was originally designed for use across Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) interfaces. However now it is used over a variety of other network interfaces as well.
Frame Relay is an example of a packet-switched technology. Packet-switched networks enable end stations to dynamically share the network medium and the available bandwidth. The following two techniques are used in packet-switching technology:
Variable-length packets are used for more efficient and flexible data transfers. These packets are switched between the various segments in the network until the destination is reached. Statistical multiplexing techniques control network access in a packet-switched network. The advantage of this technique is that it accommodates more flexibility and more efficient use of bandwidth.
Frame Relay often is described as a refined version of X.25.However frame relay offers fewer of the robust capabilities, such as windowing and retransmission of last data that are offered in X.25.
This is because Frame Relay typically operates over WAN facilities that offer more reliable connection services and a higher degree of reliability than the facilities available during the late 1970s and early 1980s that served as the common platforms for X.25 WANs.
Frame Relay is a Layer 2 protocol suite. Whereas X.25 is a Layer 3 (the network layer) protocol. This enables Frame Relay to offer higher performance and greater transmission efficiency than X.25, and makes Frame Relay suitable for WAN applications, such as LAN interconnection.
There are two types of devices that attach to a frame relay WAN:
•Data terminal equipment (DTE)
•Data circuit-terminating equipment (DCE)
DTEs generally are considered to be terminating equipment for a specific network and typically are located on the premises of a customer. In fact, the customer may own them. Examples of DTE devices are personal computers, routers, terminals and bridges.
DCEs are carrier-owned internetworking devices. The purpose of DCE equipment is to provide clocking and switching services in a network, which are the devices that actually transmit data through the WAN. These devices are normally packet switches.
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