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Differentiated Services (DiffServ, or DS) is a protocol for specifying and controlling network traffic by class so that certain types of traffic get precedence - for example, voice traffic, which requires a relatively uninterrupted flow of data, might get precedence over other kinds of traffic. Differentiated Services is the most advanced method for managing traffic in terms of what is called Class of Service (CoS). Unlike the earlier mechanisms of 802.1p tagging and Type of Service (ToS), Differentiated Services avoids simple priority tagging and depends on more complex policy or rule statements to determine how to forward a given network packet. An analogy is made to travel services, in which a person can choose among different modes of travel - train, bus, airplane - degree of comfort, the number of stops on the route, standby status, the time of day or period of year for the trip, and so forth. For a given set of packet travel rules, a packet is given one of 64 possible forwarding behaviors - known as per hop behaviors (PHBs). A six-bit field, known as the Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP), in the Internet Protocol (IP) header specifies the per hop behavior for a given flow of packets.
Differentiated Services and the Class of Service approach provide a way to control traffic that is both more flexible and more scalability than the Quality of Service approach.