Book Review: Cisco Frame Relay Solutions Guide

Book Review: Cisco Frame Relay Solutions Guide

Cisco Frame Relay Solutions Guide

Reviewer Name: Sam Chang

Rating: *** out of *****

Jonathan Chin’s Cisco Frame Relay Solutions Guide is a new book on an older WAN technology widely deployed in small companies, the enterprise, and service provider networks: Frame Relay. Although one might think that many Cisco Press Frame Relay books exist, there really are none that cover the technology comprehensively, including newer advancements in Frame Relay technology. The closest document would be the Cisco IOS Wide Area Networking Configuration Guide found online or on the Cisco Documentation CD. Jonathan Chin takes many technical aspects and explains them in friendlier terms with IOS command examples and case studies to reinforce the theory. His book includes twenty-two chapters broken out into five major categories:

  • Frame Relay – Technology
  • Frame Relay – Policing & Shaping
  • Frame Relay – Traffic Management
  • Frame Relay – Congestion Management
  • Frame Relay – Congestion Avoidance & Signaling

Just by looking at the major section headers, it is obvious that the book focuses on QoS strategies in a Frame Relay environment, and this is the real value and uniqueness of the book as it discusses updated modular QoS CLI (MQC) best practices in a Frame network. Frame Relay traffic shaping (FRTS) with low latency queuing (LLQ) and class based weighted fair queuing (CBWFQ) is a great example of a real world Frame/QoS strategy that is well documented in this book. FRF.12 fragmentation, compression, and FRF.16 multilink Frame Relay are other topics that Chin covers and helps to clarify their context and possible uses. Aside from QoS techniques, Chin also covers lesser known Frame Relay technologies such as PPP over Frame, Frame SVC’s, and X.25 over Frame. Lastly, Chin spends some time going through different ways to configure a Cisco router to act as a Frame Relay switch, and what types of QoS can be used in those scenarios.

Again, the QoS sections of the book are good and helpful, although at times it seems that too many different topics are covered leaving less in-depth details for any one topic. Readers familiar with MQC will have a much easier time with the book than those who haven’t spent anytime working with or investigating QoS strategy. The major drawback to the book is that it includes some sections that could either be reduced or not included at all. The first 90 pages are devoted to basic Frame Relay technology which in one sense is to be expected in a “Frame Relay Solutions Guide,” but on the other is unnecessary given that the basics are well documented elsewhere. Chin works in the “Fancy Queuing” techniques of Priority and Custom queuing on different occasions in the book, which at some level is more a topic of historical knowledge than real world practical. The MQC configs are much more valuable and applicable; more time should have been spent in those areas instead of priority queuing. The X.25 over Frame was a perplexing chapter as Chin states that “the use of X.25 protocol on network backbones is fast becoming obsolete” (p.332). Again, interesting from a posterity perspective, but the reality is that X.25 is obsolete. Chin would have better served his reading audience by providing just two major categories: Advanced Frame Relay technologies (PPP, Frame/ATM, ELMI Switching, etc) and Frame Relay QoS technologies (FRTS, fragmentation, compression, RSVP, WRED, etc.).

The Cisco Frame Relay Solutions Guide has good information for the small company up to the enterprise and even at the service provider level, especially as it pertains to QoS. Some of the other advanced Frame technologies may be useful at the enterprise level, but the coverage depth is too shallow for the service provider. This is a good book to see what Frame Relay can do outside of configuring your standard PVC’s and when you need to deploy QoS. It is not comprehensive or deep enough, however, to stand as an authoritative source for Frame Relay.