What is Fluid Networking?

Fluid Networking provides the "missing link" to MPLS technology by increasing the switching capability of each node to include path setup, management and teardown along with the normal label switching.

To accomplish this, Fluid uses a path setup protocol that performs similar functions as network engineering, but does the path setup at wire speed through the use of specialized hardware. In fact, some people have called the Fluid switch the "Internet Strowger Switch" as Fluid performs several path setup functions in a similar manner to early telephone Strowger switch networks.

The path setup protocol functions much like OSPF, except it also takes into account such factors as congestion, latency, policy, QOS, and bandwidth limits when building each path. Fluid Networking is the only technology that will build a verified path meeting all the requirements specified for the packet flow.

Fluid Networks is a Layer 4 path switch using a simple request-grant protocol for path setup. The "request" contains the required packet metrics including QOS. The "grant" is a label for an LSP meeting those requirements.


The Fluid Networking technology is being developed as a solution to the ongoing transport problems encountered when real-time critical applications such as voice are transported over packet networks. As is well-known, transport technologies such as MPLS exist and have been shown to do a good job of transporting voice when congestion is controlled through excess available bandwidth or QOS. The weak link in these technologies has been in the path setup phase. Although MPLS uses switching technologies for normal transport, it requires the use of IP routing technologies for path setup. To ensure reliability, most carriers prefer to use Network Engineering to set up label switched paths (LSPs). Engineered systems handle packet loading more effectively and are generally more reliable. The delay and cost involved in engineering LSPs has limited the number of LSPs in service and consequently much of the benefit of MPLS.

Fluid Attributes

Fluid Hardware

The technology is hardware-based and is scalable to extremely large networks. Switches can be connected together in tandem, as the number of nodes and network complexity is virtually unlimited.

Switching hardware is very dense and very fast: A 16-port 10G switch only occupies 1 U.

Plug and Play

The Fluid technology requires no provisioning. The technology will find the best path through any mesh network. System Administrators can enter policy preferences to steer packets to preferred paths. The system will load balance packet flows on parallel paths.

OA&M Support

The Fluid architecture provides full OA&M support including the display of all nodes in map form with a means for the system operator to enter system requirements like traffic loading and preferred routes. Failed nodes or links can display and alarm immediately.

Multicasting Support

The technology can support both branching and merging.

Packet Flow Support

As is well known, data flows originate at Layer 4, but are lost once they are converted to packets so they can traverse a Layer 3 network. Packet flows can be recreated using a flow-based router such as one made by Caspian Networks. Fluid simply assigns a separate LSP to each flow thereby keeping each flow separate end-to-end.