Let’s take a look at each of the common Diameter agent variants in use today:
Diameter Relay Agent / Diameter Routing Agent (DRA)
This is the simplest of the Diameter agents, but also probably the most common. The Diameter Relay agent does not look at the contents of the AVPs, it just routes messages based on the Application ID or Destination realm.
A Diameter Relay Agent does not change any AVPs except routing AVPs.
DRAs are transaction aware, but not dialog aware. This means they know if the Diameter request made it to the destination, but have no tracking of getting a response.
DRAs are common as a central hub for all Diameter hub in a network. This allows for a star topology where every Diameter service connects to a central DRA (typically two DRAs for redundancy) for a central place to manage Diameter routing, instead of having to do a full-mesh topology, which would be a nightmare on larger networks.
Diameter Edge Agent
A Diameter Edge Agent is a special DRA that sits on the border between two networks and acts as a gateway between them.
Imagine a roaming exchange scenario, where each operator has to expose their core Diameter servers or DRAs to all the other operators they have roaming agreements with. Like we saw with the DRA to do a full-mesh style connection arrangement would be a mess, and wouldn’t allow internal changes inside the network without significant headaches.
Instead by putting a Diameter Edge Agent at the edge of the network, the operators who wish to access our Diameter information for roaming, only need to connect to a single point, and we can change whatever we like on the inside of the network, adding and removing servers, without having to update our roaming information (IR 21).
We can also strictly enforce security policies on rate limits and admission control, centrally, for all connections in from other operators.
Diameter Proxy Agent
The Diameter Proxy Agent does everything a DRA does, and more!
The Diameter Proxy Agent is application aware, meaning it can decode the AVPs and make decisions based upon the contents of the AVPs. It’s also able to edit / add / delete AVPs and Sub-AVPs.
These are useful for interconnect scenarios where you might need to re-write the value of an AVP, or translate a realm etc, on a Diameter request/response journey.
Diameter Translation Agent
Diameter Translation agents are used for translating between protocols, for example Diameter into MAP for GSM authentication, or into HTTP for 5G authentication.
For 5GC a new network element – the “Binding Support Function” (BSF) is introduced to translate between HTTP for 5G and Diameter for LTE, however this can be thought of as another Diameter Translation Agent.