Frame Relay was developed to solve communication problems that other protocols could not: the increased need for higher speeds, an increased need for large bandwidth efficiency, particularly for clumping ("bursty" traffic), an increase in intelligent network devices that lower protocol processing, and the need to connect LANs and WANs. Like X.25, Frame Relay is a packet-switched protocol. But the Frame-Relay process is streamlined. There are significant differences that make Frame Relay a faster, more efficient form of networking. A Frame-Relay network doesn't perform error detection, which results in a considerably smaller amount of overhead and faster processing than X.25. Frame Relay is also protocol independent-it accepts data from many different protocols. This data is encapsulated by the Frame-Relay equipment, not the network.
Today's LANs and computing equipment have the potential to run at much higher speeds and transfer very large quantities of data. With the diversity and complexity of today's networks, management can be a mammoth task if you don't have the proper tools. Each environment is a unique combination of equipment from different vendors. Frame Relay uses a packet-switching technology, similar to X.25, but is more efficient. As a result, it can make your networking quicker, simpler, and less costly.
Frame Relay sends information in packets called frames through a shared Frame-Relay network. Each frame contains all the information necessary to route it to the correct destination. So in effect, each endpoint can communicate with many destinations over one access link to the network. And instead of being allocated a fixed amount of bandwidth, Frame-Relay services offer a CIR (committed information rate) at which data is transmitted. But if traffic and your service agreement allow, data can burst above your committed rate. Since Frame Relay has a low overhead, it's a perfect fit for today's complex networks. You get several clear benefits: First, multiple logical connections can be sent over a single physical connection, reducing your internetworking costs. By reducing the amount of processing required, you get improved performance and response time. And because Frame Relay uses a simple link layer protocol, your equipment usually requires only software changes or simple hardware modifications, so you don't.