Differentiated services or DiffServ is a computer networking architecture that specifies a simple and scalable mechanism for classifying and managing network traffic and providing quality of service (QoS) on modern IP networks. DiffServ can, for example, be used to provide low-latency to critical network traffic such as voice or streaming media while providing simple best-effort service to non-critical services such as web traffic or file transfers.
DiffServ uses a 6-bit differentiated services code point (DSCP) in the 8-bit differentiated services field (DS field) in the IP header for packet classification purposes. The DS field replaces the outdated IPv4 TOS field.
Modern data networks carry many different types of services, including voice, video, streaming music, web pages and email. Many of the proposed QoS mechanisms that allowed these services to co-exist were both complex and failed to scale to meet the demands of the public Internet.
In December 1998, the IETF published RFC 2474 – Definition of the Differentiated services field (DS field) in the IPv4 and IPv6 headers, which replaced the IPv4 TOS field with the DS field. In the DS field, a range of eight values (Class Selectors) is used for backward compatibility with the IP precedence specification in the former TOS field.
Today, DiffServ has largely supplanted TOS and other layer-3 QoS mechanisms, such as integrated services (IntServ), as the primary architecture routers use to provide QoS.