Logical connections in ATM are referred to as virtual channel connections (VCCs). A VCC is analogous to a virtual circuit in X.25; it is the basic unit of switching in an ATM network. A VCC is set up between two end users through the network and a variable-rate, full-duplex flow of fixed-size cells is exchanged over the connection. VCCs are also used for user-network exchange (control signaling) and network-network exchange (network management and routing).
For ATM, a second sublayer of processing has been introduced that deals with the concept of virtual path (Figure 1). A virtual path connection (VPC) is a bundle of VCCs that have the same endpoints. Thus, all of the cells flowing over all of the VCCs in a single VPC are switched together.
The virtual path concept was developed in response to a trend in high-speed networking in which the control cost of the network is becoming an increasingly higher proportion of the overall network cost. The virtual path technique helps contain the control cost by grouping connections sharing common paths through the network into a single unit.
Advantages of virtual path
1. Simplified network architecture: Network transport functions can be separated into those related to an individual logical connection (virtual channel) and those related to a group of logical connections (virtual path).
2. Increased network performance and reliability: The network deals with fewer, aggregated entities.
3. Reduced processing and short connection setup time: Much of the work is done when the virtual path is set up. By reserving capacity on a virtual path connection in anticipation of later call arrivals, new virtual channel connections can be established by executing simple control functions at the endpoints of the virtual path connection; no call processing is required at transit nodes. Thus, the addition of new virtual channels to an existing virtual path involves minimal processing.
4. Enhanced network services: The virtual path is used internal to the network but is also visible to the end user. Thus, the user may define closed user groups or closed networks of virtual channel bundles.
Figure 2 suggests in a general way the call establishment process using virtual channels and virtual paths. The process of setting up a virtual path connection is decoupled from the process of setting up an individual virtual channel connection,
- The virtual path control mechanisms include calculating routes, allocating capacity, and storing connection state information.
- To set up a virtual channel, there must first be a virtual path connection to the required destination node with sufficient available capacity to support the virtual channel, with the appropriate quality of service. A virtual channel is set up by storing the required state information (virtual channel/virtual path mapping).