Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is an International Telecommunication Union-Telecommunications Standards Section (ITU-T) standard for cell relay wherein information for multiple service types, such as voice, video, or data, is conveyed in small, fixed-size cells. ATM networks are connection-oriented. This chapter provides summaries of ATM protocols, services, and operation. Figure- 1 illustrates a private ATM network and a public ATM network carrying voice, video, and data traffic.
Figure-1 A Private ATM Network and a Public ATM Network Both Can Carry Voice, Video, and Data Traffic
ATM is based on the efforts of the ITU-T Broadband Integrated Services Digital Network (B-ISDN) standard. It was originally conceived as a high-speed transfer technology for voice, video, and data over public networks. The ATM Forum extended the ITU-T’s vision of ATM for use over public and private networks. The ATM Forum has released work on the following specifications:
ATM Devices and the Network Environment
ATM is a cell-switching and multiplexing technology that combines the benefits of circuit switching (guaranteed capacity and constant transmission delay) with those of packet switching (flexibility and efficiency for intermittent traffic). It provides scalable bandwidth from a few megabits per second (Mbps) to many gigabits per second (Gbps). Because of its asynchronous nature, ATM is more efficient than synchronous technologies, such as time-division multiplexing (TDM).
With TDM, each user is assigned to a time slot, and no other station can send in that time slot. If a station has much data to send, it can send only when its time slot comes up, even if all other time slots are empty. However, if a station has nothing to transmit when its time slot comes up, the time slot is sent empty and is wasted. Because ATM is asynchronous, time slots are available on demand with information identifying the source of the transmission contained in the header of each ATM cell.
ATM Cell Basic Format
ATM transfers information in fixed-size units called cells. Each cell consists of 53 octets, or bytes. The first 5 bytes contain cell-header information, and the remaining 48 contain the payload (user information). Small, fixed-length cells are well suited to transferring voice and video traffic because such traffic is intolerant of delays that result from having to wait for a large data packet to download, among other things. Figure 27-2 illustrates the basic format of an ATM cell.
Figure 27-2 An ATM Cell Consists of a Header and Payload Data
An ATM network is made up of an ATM switch and ATM endpoints. An ATM switch is responsible for cell transit through an ATM network. The job of an ATM switch is well defined: It accepts the incoming cell from an ATM endpoint or another ATM switch. It then reads and updates the cell header information and quickly switches the cell to an output interface toward its destination. An ATM endpoint (or end system) contains an ATM network interface adapter. Examples of ATM endpoints are workstations, routers, digital service units (DSUs), LAN switches, and video coder-decoders (CODECs). Figure-3 illustrates an ATM network made up of ATM switches and ATM endpoints.
Figure-3 An ATM Network Comprises ATM Switches and Endpoints
ATM Network Interfaces
An ATM network consists of a set of ATM switches interconnected by point-to-point ATM links or interfaces. ATM switches support two primary types of interfaces: UNI and NNI. The UNI connects ATM end systems (such as hosts and routers) to an ATM switch. The NNI connects two ATM switches.
Depending on whether the switch is owned and located at the customer’s premises or is publicly owned and operated by the telephone company, UNI and NNI can be further subdivided into public and private UNIs and NNIs. A private UNI connects an ATM endpoint and a private ATM switch. Its public counterpart connects an ATM endpoint or private switch to a public switch. A private NNI connects two ATM switches within the same private organization. A public one connects two ATM switches within the same public organization.
An additional specification, the broadband intercarrier interface (B-ICI), connects two public switches from different service providers. Figure 4 illustrates the ATM interface specifications for private and public networks.
Figure 4 ATM Interface Specifications Differ for Private and Public Networks
ATM Cell Header Format
An ATM cell header can be one of two formats: UNI or NNI. The UNI header is used for communication between ATM endpoints and ATM switches in private ATM networks. The NNI header is used for communication between ATM switches. Figure-5 depicts the basic ATM cell format, the ATM UNI cell header format, and the ATM NNI cell header format.
Figure-5 An ATM Cell, ATM UNI Cell, and ATM NNI Cell Header Each Contain 48 Bytes of Payload
Unlike the UNI, the NNI header does not include the Generic Flow Control (GFC) field. Additionally, the NNI header has a Virtual Path Identifier (VPI) field that occupies the first 12 bits, allowing for larger trunks between public ATM switches.
ATM Cell Header Fields
In addition to GFC and VPI header fields, several others are used in ATM cell header fields. The following descriptions summarize the ATM cell header fields illustrated in Figure-5:
•Generic Flow Control (GFC)—Provides local functions, such as identifying multiple stations that share a single ATM interface. This field is typically not used and is set to its default value of 0 (binary 0000).
•Payload Type (PT)—Indicates in the first bit whether the cell contains user data or control data. If the cell contains user data, the bit is set to 0. If it contains control data, it is set to 1. The second bit indicates congestion (0 = no congestion, 1 = congestion), and the third bit indicates whether the cell is the last in a series of cells that represent a single AAL5 frame (1 = last cell for the frame).
•Cell Loss Priority (CLP)—Indicates whether the cell should be discarded if it encounters extreme congestion as it moves through the network. If the CLP bit equals 1, the cell should be discarded in preference to cells with the CLP bit equal to 0.
Three types of ATM services exist: permanent virtual circuits (PVC), switched virtual circuits (SVC), and connectionless service (which is similar to SMDS).
PVC allows direct connectivity between sites. In this way, a PVC is similar to a leased line. Among its advantages, PVC guarantees availability of a connection and does not require call setup procedures between switches. Disadvantages of PVCs include static connectivity and manual setup. Each piece of equipment between the source and the destination must be manually provisioned for the PVC. Furthermore, no network resiliency is available with PVC.
An SVC is created and released dynamically and remains in use only as long as data is being transferred. In this sense, it is similar to a telephone call. Dynamic call control requires a signaling protocol between the ATM endpoint and the ATM switch. The advantages of SVCs include connection flexibility and call setup that can be handled automatically by a networking device. Disadvantages include the extra time and overhead required to set up the connection.
ATM Virtual Connections
ATM networks are fundamentally connection-oriented, which means that a virtual channel (VC) must be set up across the ATM network prior to any data transfer. (A virtual channel is roughly equivalent to a virtual circuit.)
Two types of ATM connections exist: virtual paths, which are identified by virtual path identifiers, and virtual channels, which are identified by the combination of a VPI and a virtual channel identifier (VCI).
A virtual path is a bundle of virtual channels, all of which are switched transparently across the ATM network based on the common VPI. All VPIs and VCIs, however, have only local significance across a particular link and are remapped, as appropriate, at each switch.
A transmission path is the physical media that transports virtual channels and virtual paths. Figure 6 illustrates how VCs concatenate to create VPs, which, in turn, traverse the media or transmission path.
Figure-6 VCs Concatenate to Create VPs
ATM Switching Operations
The basic operation of an ATM switch is straightforward: The cell is received across a
link on a known VCI or VPI value. The switch looks up the connection value in a local translation table to determine the outgoing port (or ports) of the connection and the new VPI/VCI value of the connection on that link. The switch then retransmits the cell on that outgoing link with the appropriate connection identifiers. Because all VCIs and VPIs have only local significance across a particular link, these values are remapped, as necessary, at each switch.
ATM Reference Model
The ATM architecture uses a logical model to describe the functionality that it supports. ATM functionality corresponds to the physical layer and part of the data link layer of the OSI reference model.
The ATM reference model is composed of the following planes, which span all layers:
The ATM reference model is composed of the following ATM layers:
•ATM layer—Combined with the ATM adaptation layer, the ATM layer is roughly analogous to the data link layer of the OSI reference model. The ATM layer is responsible for the simultaneous sharing of virtual circuits over a physical link (cell multiplexing) and passing cells through the ATM network (cell relay). To do this, it uses the VPI and VCI information in the header of each ATM cell.
•ATM adaptation layer (AAL)—Combined with the ATM layer, the AAL is roughly analogous to the data link layer of the OSI model. The AAL is responsible for isolating higher-layer protocols from the details of the ATM processes. The adaptation layer prepares user data for conversion into cells and segments the data into 48-byte cell payloads.
Finally, the higher layers residing above the AAL accept user data, arrange it into packets, and hand it to the AAL. Figure-7 illustrates the ATM reference model.
Figure-7 the ATM Reference Model Relates to the Lowest Two Layers of the OSI Reference Model
The ATM Physical Layer
The ATM physical layer has four functions: Cells are converted into a bitstream, the transmission and receipt of bits on the physical medium are controlled, ATM cell boundaries are tracked, and cells are packaged into the appropriate types of frames for the physical medium. For example, cells are packaged differently for SONET than for DS-3/E-3 media types.
The ATM physical layer is divided into two parts: the physical medium-dependent (PMD) sublayer and the transmission convergence (TC) sublayer.
The PMD sublayer provides two key functions. First, it synchronizes transmission and reception by sending and receiving a continuous flow of bits with associated timing information. Second, it specifies the physical media for the physical medium used, including connector types and cable. Examples of physical medium standards for ATM include Synchronous Digital Hierarchy/Synchronous Optical Network (SDH/SONET), DS-3/E3, 155 Mbps over multimode fiber (MMF) using the 8B/10B encoding scheme, and 155 Mbps 8B/10B over shielded twisted-pair (STP) cabling.
The TC sublayer has four functions: cell delineation, header error control (HEC) sequence generation and verification, cell-rate decoupling, and transmission frame adaptation. The cell delineation function maintains ATM cell boundaries, allowing devices to locate cells within a stream of bits. HEC sequence generation and verification generates and checks
the header error control code to ensure valid data. Cell-rate decoupling maintains synchronization and inserts or suppresses idle (unassigned) ATM cells to adapt the rate of valid ATM cells to the payload capacity of the transmission system. Transmission frame adaptation packages ATM cells into frames acceptable to the particular physical layer implementation.
ATM Adaptation Layers: AAL1
AAL1, a connection-oriented service, is suitable for handling constant bit rate sources (CBR), such as voice and videoconferencing. ATM transports CBR traffic using circuit-emulation services. Circuit-emulation service also accommodates the attachment of equipment currently using leased lines to an ATM backbone network. AAL1 requires timing synchronization between the source and the destination. For this reason, AAL1 depends on a medium, such as SONET, that supports clocking.
The AAL1 process prepares a cell for transmission in three steps. First, synchronous samples (for example, 1 byte of data at a sampling rate of 125 microseconds) are inserted into the Payload field. Second, Sequence Number (SN) and Sequence Number Protection (SNP) fields are added to provide information that the receiving AAL1 uses to verify that it has received cells in the correct order. Third, the remainder of the Payload field is filled with enough single bytes to equal 48 bytes. Figure-8 illustrates how AAL1 prepares a cell for transmission.
Figure-8 AAL1 Prepares a Cell for Transmission So That the Cells Retain Their Order
ATM Adaptation Layers: AAL2
Another traffic type has timing requirements like CBR but tends to be bursty in nature. This is called variable bit rate (VBR) traffic. This typically includes services characterized as packetized voice or video that do not have a constant data transmission speed but that do have requirements similar to constant bit rate services. AAL2 is suitable for VBR traffic. The AAL2 process uses 44 bytes of the cell payload for user data and reserves 4 bytes of the payload to support the AAL2 processes.
VBR traffic is characterized as either real-time (VBR-RT) or as non-real-time (VBR-NRT). AAL2 supports both types of VBR traffic.
ATM Adaptation Layers: AAL3/4
AAL3/4 supports both connection-oriented and connectionless data. It was designed for network service providers and is closely aligned with Switched Multimegabit Data Service (SMDS). AAL3/4 is used to transmit SMDS packets over an ATM network.
AAL3/4 prepares a cell for transmission in four steps. First, the convergence sublayer (CS) creates a protocol data unit (PDU) by prepending a beginning/end tag header to the frame and appending a length field as a trailer. Second, the segmentation and reassembly (SAR) sublayer fragments the PDU and prepends a header to it. Then the SAR sublayer appends a CRC-10 trailer to each PDU fragment for error control. Finally, the completed SAR PDU becomes the Payload field of an ATM cell to which the ATM layer prepends the standard ATM header.
An AAL 3/4 SAR PDU header consists of Type, Sequence Number, and Multiplexing Identifier fields. Type fields identify whether a cell is the beginning, continuation, or end of a message. Sequence number fields identify the order in which cells should be reassembled. The Multiplexing Identifier field determines which cells from different traffic sources are interleaved on the same virtual circuit connection (VCC) so that the correct cells are reassembled at the destination.
ATM Adaptation Layers: AAL5
AAL5 is the primary AAL for data and supports both connection-oriented and connectionless data. It is used to transfer most non-SMDS data, such as classical IP over ATM and LAN Emulation (LANE). AAL5 also is known as the simple and efficient adaptation layer (SEAL) because the SAR sublayer simply accepts the CS-PDU and segments it into 48-octet SAR-PDUs without reserving any bytes in each cell.
AAL5 prepares a cell for transmission in three steps. First, the CS sublayer appends a variable-length pad and an 8-byte trailer to a frame. The pad ensures that the resulting PDU falls on the 48-byte boundary of an ATM cell. The trailer includes the length of the frame and a 32-bit cyclic redundancy check (CRC) computed across the entire PDU. This allows the AAL5 receiving process to detect bit errors, lost cells, or cells that are out of sequence. Second, the SAR sublayer segments the CS-PDU into 48-byte blocks. A header and trailer are not added (as is in AAL3/4), so messages cannot be interleaved. Finally, the ATM layer places each block into the Payload field of an ATM cell. For all cells except the last, a bit in the Payload Type (PT) field is set to 0 to indicate that the cell is not the last cell in a series that represents a single frame. For the last cell, the bit in the PT field is set to 1.
The ITU-T standard is based on the use of E.164 addresses (similar to telephone numbers) for public ATM (B-ISDN) networks. The ATM Forum extended ATM addressing to include private networks. It decided on the subnetwork or overlay model of addressing, in which the ATM layer is responsible for mapping network layer addresses to ATM addresses. This subnetwork model is an alternative to using network layer protocol addresses (such as IP and IPX) and existing routing protocols (such as IGRP and RIP). The ATM Forum defined an address format based on the structure of the OSI network service access point (NSAP) addresses.
Subnetwork Model of Addressing
The subnetwork model of addressing decouples the ATM layer from any existing higher-layer protocols, such as IP or IPX. Therefore, it requires an entirely new addressing scheme and routing protocol. Each ATM system must be assigned an ATM address, in addition to any higher-layer protocol addresses. This requires an ATM address resolution protocol (ATM ARP) to map higher-layer addresses to their corresponding ATM addresses.
NSAP Format ATM Addresses
The 20-byte NSAP-format ATM addresses are designed for use within private ATM networks, whereas public networks typically use E.164 addresses, which are formatted as defined by ITU-T. The ATM Forum has specified an NSAP encoding for E.164 addresses, which is used for encoding E.164 addresses within private networks, but this address can also be used by some private networks.
Such private networks can base their own (NSAP format) addressing on the E.164 address of the public UNI to which they are connected and can take the address prefix from the E.164 number, identifying local nodes by the lower-order bits.
All NSAP-format ATM addresses consist of three components: the authority and format identifier (AFI), the initial domain identifier (IDI), and the domain-specific part (DSP). The AFI identifies the type and format of the IDI, which, in turn, identifies the address allocation and administrative authority. The DSP contains actual routing information.
Note Summarized another way, the first 13 bytes form the NSAP prefix that answers the question, "Which switch?" Each switch must have a prefix value to uniquely identify it. Devices attached to the switch inherit the prefix value from the switch as part of their NSAP address. The prefix is used by switches to support ATM routing.
The next 6 bytes, called the end station identifier (ESI), identify the ATM element attached to the switch. Each device attached to the switch must have a unique ESI value.
The last byte, called the selector (SEL) byte, identifies the intended process within the device that the connection targets.
Three formats of private ATM addressing differ by the nature of the AFI and IDI. In the NSAP-encoded E.164 format, the IDI is an E.164 number. In the DCC format, the IDI is a data country code (DCC), which identifies particular countries, as specified in ISO 3166. Such addresses are administered by the ISO National Member Body in each country. In the ICD format, the IDI is an international code designator (ICD), which is allocated by the ISO 6523 registration authority (the British Standards Institute). ICD codes identify particular international organizations.
The ATM Forum recommends that organizations or private network service providers use either the DCC or the ICD formats to form their own numbering plan.
Figure-9 illustrates the three formats of ATM addresses used for private networks.
Figure-9 Three Formats of ATM Addresses Are Used for Private Networks
ATM Address Fields
The following descriptions summarize the fields illustrated in Figure 27-9:
•High-Order Domain-Specific Part (HO-DSP)—Combines the routing domain (RD) and the area identifier (AREA) of the NSAP addresses. The ATM Forum combined these fields to support a flexible, multilevel addressing hierarchy for prefix-based routing protocols.
ATM supports two types of connections: point-to-point and point-to-multipoint.
Point-to-point connects two ATM end systems and can be unidirectional (one-way communication) or bidirectional (two-way communication). Point-to-multipoint connects a single-source end system (known as the root node) to multiple destination end systems (known as leaves). Such connections are unidirectional only. Root nodes can transmit to leaves, but leaves cannot transmit to the root or to each other on the same connection. Cell replication is done within the ATM network by the ATM switches where the connection splits into two or more branches.
It would be desirable in ATM networks to have bidirectional multipoint-to-multipoint connections. Such connections are analogous to the broadcasting or multicasting capabilities of shared-media LANs, such as Ethernet and Token Ring. A broadcasting capability is easy to implement in shared-media LANs, where all nodes on a single LAN segment must process all packets sent on that segment.
Unfortunately, a multipoint-to-multipoint capability cannot be implemented by using AAL5, which is the most common AAL to transmit data across an ATM network. Unlike AAL3/4, with its Message Identifier (MID) field, AAL5 does not provide a way within its cell format to interleave cells from different AAL5 packets on a single connection. This means that all AAL5 packets sent to a particular destination across a particular connection must be received in sequence; otherwise, the destination reassembly process will be incapable of reconstructing the packets.
This is why AAL5 point-to-multipoint connections can be only unidirectional. If a leaf node were to transmit an AAL5 packet onto the connection, for example, it would be received by both the root node and all other leaf nodes. At these nodes, the packet sent by the leaf could be interleaved with packets sent by the root and possibly other leaf nodes, precluding the reassembly of any of the interleaved packets.
ATM Quality of Service
ATM supports QoS guarantees comprising traffic contract, traffic shaping, and traffic policing.
A traffic contract specifies an envelope that describes the intended data flow. This envelope specifies values for peak bandwidth, average sustained bandwidth, and burst size, among others. When an ATM end system connects to an ATM network, it enters a contract with the network, based on QoS parameters.
Traffic shaping is the use of queues to constrain data bursts, limit peak data rate, and smooth jitters so that traffic will fit within the promised envelope. ATM devices are responsible for adhering to the contract by means of traffic shaping. ATM switches can use traffic policing to enforce the contract. The switch can measure the actual traffic flow and compare it against the agreed-upon traffic envelope. If the switch finds that traffic is outside of the agreed-upon parameters, it can set the cell-loss priority (CLP) bit of the offending cells. Setting the CLP bit makes the cell discard eligible, which means that any switch handling the cell is allowed to drop the cell during periods of congestion.
ATM Signaling and Connection Establishment
When an ATM device wants to establish a connection with another ATM device, it sends a signaling-request packet to its directly connected ATM switch. This request contains the ATM address of the desired ATM endpoint, as well as any QoS parameters required for the connection.
ATM signaling protocols vary by the type of ATM link, which can be either UNI signals or NNI signals. UNI is used between an ATM end system and ATM switch across ATM UNI, and NNI is used across NNI links.
The ATM Forum UNI 3.1 specification is the current standard for ATM UNI signaling. The UNI 3.1 specification is based on the Q.2931 public network signaling protocol developed by the ITU-T. UNI signaling requests are carried in a well-known default connection:
VPI = 0, VPI = 5.
The ATM Connection-Establishment Process
ATM signaling uses the one-pass method of connection setup that is used in all modern telecommunication networks, such as the telephone network. An ATM connection setup proceeds in the following manner. First, the source end system sends a connection-signaling request. The connection request is propagated through the network. As a result, connections are set up through the network. The connection request reaches the final destination, which either accepts or rejects the connection request.
Connection-Request Routing and Negotiation
Routing of the connection request is governed by an ATM routing protocol (Private Network-Network Interface [PNNI], which routes connections based on destination and source addresses), traffic, and the QoS parameters requested by the source end system. Negotiating a connection request that is rejected by the destination is limited because call routing is based on parameters of initial connection; changing parameters might affect the connection routing. Figure 27-10 highlights the one-pass method of ATM connection establishment.
Figure-10 ATM Devices Establish Connections through the One-Pass Method
ATM Connection-Management Messages
A number of connection-management message types, including setup, call proceeding, connect, and release, are used to establish and tear down an ATM connection. The source end system sends a setup message (including the address of the destination end system and any traffic QoS parameters) when it wants to set up a connection. The ingress switch sends a call proceeding message back to the source in response to the setup message. The destination end system next sends a connect message if the connection is accepted.
The destination end system sends a release message back to the source end system if the connection is rejected, thereby clearing the connection.
Connection-management messages are used to establish an ATM connection in the following manner. First, a source end system sends a setup message, which is forwarded to the first ATM switch (ingress switch) in the network. This switch sends a call proceeding message and invokes an ATM routing protocol. The signaling request is propagated across the network. The exit switch (called the egress switch) that is attached to the destination end system receives the setup message. The egress switch forwards the setup message to the end system across its UNI, and the ATM end system sends a connect message if the connection is accepted. The connect message traverses back through the network along the same path to the source end system, which sends a connect acknowledge message back to the destination to acknowledge the connection. Data transfer can then begin.
PNNI provides two significant services: ATM topology discovery and call establishment. For switches to build connections between ends, the switch must know the ATM network topology. PNNI is the ATM routing protocol that enables switches to automatically discover the topology and the characteristics of the links interconnecting the switches. A link-state protocol much like OSPF, PNNI tracks things such as bandwidth on links. When a significant event occurs that changes the characteristics of a link, PNNI announces the change to the other switches.
When a station sends a call setup request to its local switch, the ingress switch references the PNNI routing table to determine a path between the source and the intended destination that meets the QoS requirements specified by the source. The switch attached to the source then builds a list defining each switch hop to support the circuit to the destination. This is called the designated transit list (DTL).
VCI = 18 is reserved for PNNI.
Integrated Local Management Interface
Integrated Local Management Interface (ILMI) enables devices to determine status of components at the other end of a physical link and to negotiate a common set of operational parameters to ensure interoperability. ILMI operates over a reserved VCC of VPI = X, VCI = 16.
Administrators may enable or disable ILMI at will, but it is highly recommended to enable it. Doing so allows the devices to determine the highest UNI interface level to operate (3.0, 3.1, 4.0), UNI vs. NNI, as well as numerous other items. Furthermore, ILMI allows devices to share information such as NSAP addresses, peer interface names, and IP addresses. Without ILMI, many of these parameters must be manually configured for the ATM attached devices to operate correctly.