We study the performance of an Internet that uses circuit switching (CS) instead of, or in addition to, packet switching (PS). On the face of it, this would seem a pointless exercise; the Internet is packet switched, and it was deliberately built that way to enable the efficiencies afforded by statistical multiplexing and the robustness of fast rerouting around failures. But link utilization is low particularly at the core of the Internet, which makes statistical multiplexing less important than it once was. Moreover, circuit switches today are capable of rapid reconfiguration around failures. There is also renewed interest in CS because of the ease of building very-high-capacity optical circuit switches. Although several proposals have suggested ways in which CS may be introduced into the Internet, the research presented here is based on Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) switching, in which a new circuit is created for each application flow. Here we explore the performance of a network that uses TCP switching, with particular emphasis on the response time experienced by users. We use simple M/GI/1 and M/GI/N queues to model application flows in both packet-switched and circuit-switched networks, as well as ns-2 simulations. We conclude that because of high-bandwidth long-lived flows, it does not make sense to use CS in shared-access or local area networks. But our results suggest that in the core of the network, where high capacity is needed most, and where peak flow rate is limited by the access link, there is little or no difference in performance between CS and PS. Given that circuit switches can be built to be much faster than packet switches, this suggests that a circuit-switched core warrants further investigation.
© 2002 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 20, 2002
Revised Manuscript: November 19, 2002
Published: March 21, 2003
Pablo Molinero-Fernández and Nick McKeown, "Performance of circuit switching in the Internet," J. Opt. Netw. 2, 83-96 (2003)