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Network Working Group A. Farrel Request for Comments: 4655 Old Dog Consulting Category: Informational J.-P. Vasseur

                                                   Cisco Systems, Inc.
                                                                J. Ash
                                                           August 2006
        A Path Computation Element (PCE)-Based Architecture

Status of This Memo

 This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
 not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
 memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

 Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).


 Constraint-based path computation is a fundamental building block for
 traffic engineering systems such as Multiprotocol Label Switching
 (MPLS) and Generalized Multiprotocol Label Switching (GMPLS)
 networks.  Path computation in large, multi-domain, multi-region, or
 multi-layer networks is complex and may require special computational
 components and cooperation between the different network domains.
 This document specifies the architecture for a Path Computation
 Element (PCE)-based model to address this problem space.  This
 document does not attempt to provide a detailed description of all
 the architectural components, but rather it describes a set of
 building blocks for the PCE architecture from which solutions may be

Table of Contents

 1. Introduction ....................................................3
 2. Terminology .....................................................3
 3. Definitions .....................................................4
 4. Motivation for a PCE-Based Architecture .........................6
    4.1. CPU-Intensive Path Computation .............................6
    4.2. Partial Visibility .........................................7
    4.3. Absence of the TED or Use of Non-TE-Enabled IGP ............7
    4.4. Node Outside the Routing Domain ............................8

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 1] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

    4.5. Network Element Lacks Control Plane or Routing Capability ..8
    4.6. Backup Path Computation for Bandwidth Protection ...........8
    4.7. Multi-layer Networks .......................................9
    4.8. Path Selection Policy ......................................9
    4.9. Non-Motivations ...........................................10
         4.9.1. The Whole Internet .................................10
         4.9.2. Guaranteed TE LSP Establishment ....................10
 5. Overview of the PCE-Based Architecture .........................11
    5.1. Composite PCE Node ........................................11
    5.2. External PCE ..............................................12
    5.3. Multiple PCE Path Computation .............................13
    5.4. Multiple PCE Path Computation with Inter-PCE
         Communication .............................................14
    5.5. Management-Based PCE Usage ................................15
    5.6. Areas for Standardization .................................16
 6. PCE Architectural Considerations ...............................16
    6.1. Centralized Computation Model .............................16
    6.2. Distributed Computation Model .............................17
    6.3. Synchronization ...........................................17
    6.4. PCE Discovery and Load Balancing ..........................18
    6.5. Detecting PCE Liveness ....................................20
    6.6. PCC-PCE and PCE-PCE Communication .........................20
    6.7. PCE TED Synchronization ...................................22
    6.8. Stateful versus Stateless PCEs ............................23
    6.9. Monitoring ................................................25
    6.10. Confidentiality ..........................................25
    6.11. Policy ...................................................26
         6.11.1. PCE Policy Architecture ...........................26
         6.11.2. Policy Realization ................................28
         6.11.3. Type of Policies ..................................28
         6.11.4. Relationship to Signaling .........................29
    6.12. Unsolicited Interactions .................................30
    6.13. Relationship with Crankback ..............................30
 7. The View from the Path Computation Client ......................31
 8. Evaluation Metrics .............................................32
 9. Manageability Considerations ...................................33
    9.1. Control of Function and Policy ............................33
    9.2. Information and Data Models ...............................34
    9.3. Liveness Detection and Monitoring .........................34
    9.4. Verifying Correct Operation ...............................35
    9.5. Requirements on Other Protocols and Functional
         Components ................................................35
    9.6. Impact on Network Operation ...............................36
    9.7. Other Considerations ......................................36
 10. Security Considerations .......................................37
 11. Acknowledgements ..............................................37
 12. Informative References ........................................38

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 2] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

1. Introduction

 Constraint-based path computation is a fundamental building block for
 traffic engineering in MPLS [RFC3209] and GMPLS [RFC3473] networks.
 [RFC2702] describes requirements for traffic engineering in MPLS
 networks, while [RFC4105] and [RFC4216] describe traffic engineering
 requirements in inter-area and inter-AS environments, respectively.
 Path computation in large, multi-domain networks is complex and may
 require special computational components and cooperation between the
 elements in different domains.  This document specifies the
 architecture for a Path Computation Element (PCE)-based model to
 address this problem space.
 This document describes a set of building blocks for the PCE
 architecture from which solutions may be constructed.  For example,
 it discusses PCE-based implementations including composite, external,
 and multiple PCE path computation.  Furthermore, it discusses
 architectural considerations including centralized computation,
 distributed computation, synchronization, PCE discovery and load
 balancing, detection of PCE liveness, communication between Path
 Computation Clients (PCCs) and the PCE (PCC-PCE communication) and
 PCE-PCE communication, Traffic Engineering Database (TED)
 synchronization, stateful and stateless PCEs, monitoring, policy and
 confidentiality, and evaluation metrics.
 The model of the Internet is to distribute network functionality
 (e.g., routing) within the network.  PCE functionality is not
 intended to contradict this model and can be used to match the model
 exactly, for example, when the PCE functionality coexists with each
 Label Switching Router (LSR) in the network.  PCE is also able to
 augment functionality in the network where the Internet model cannot
 supply adequate solutions, for example, where traffic engineering
 information is not exchanged between network domains.

2. Terminology

 CSPF: Constraint-based Shortest Path First.
 LER: Label Edge Router.
 LSDB: Link State Database.
 LSP: Label Switched Path.
 LSR: Label Switching Router.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 3] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 PCC: Path Computation Client.  Any client application requesting a
 path computation to be performed by the Path Computation Element.
 PCE: Path Computation Element.  An entity (component, application, or
 network node) that is capable of computing a network path or route
 based on a network graph and applying computational constraints (see
 further description in Section 3).
 TED: Traffic Engineering Database, which contains the topology and
 resource information of the domain.  The TED may be fed by Interior
 Gateway Protocol (IGP) extensions or potentially by other means.
 TE LSP: Traffic Engineering MPLS Label Switched Path.

3. Definitions

 A Path Computation Element (PCE) is an entity that is capable of
 computing a network path or route based on a network graph, and of
 applying computational constraints during the computation.  The PCE
 entity is an application that can be located within a network node or
 component, on an out-of-network server, etc.  For example, a PCE
 would be able to compute the path of a TE LSP by operating on the TED
 and considering bandwidth and other constraints applicable to the TE
 LSP service request.
 A domain is any collection of network elements within a common sphere
 of address management or path computation responsibility.  Examples
 of domains include IGP areas, Autonomous Systems (ASes), and multiple
 ASes within a Service Provider network.  Domains of path computation
 responsibility may also exist as sub-domains of areas or ASes.
 In order to fully characterize a PCE and clarify these definitions,
 the following important considerations must also be examined:
 1) Path computation is applicable in intra-domain, inter-domain, and
    inter-layer contexts.
    a. Inter-domain path computation may involve the association of
       topology, routing, and policy information from multiple domains
       from which relationships may be deduced in order to help in
       performing path computation.
    b. Inter-layer path computation refers to the use of PCE where
       multiple layers are involved and when the objective is to
       perform path computation at one or multiple layers while taking
       into account topology and resource information at these layers.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 4] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

    Overlapping domains are not within the scope of this document.  In
    the inter-domain case, the domains may belong to a single or to
    multiple Service Providers.
 2) a. In "single PCE path computation", a single PCE is used to
       compute a given path in a domain.  There may be multiple PCEs
       in a domain, but only one PCE per domain is involved in any
       single path computation.
    b. In "multiple PCE path computation", multiple PCEs are used to
       compute a given path in a domain.
 3) a. "Centralized computation model" refers to a model whereby all
       paths in a domain are computed by a single, centralized PCE.
    b. Conversely, "distributed computation model" refers to the
       computation of paths in a domain being shared among multiple
    Paths that span multiple domains may be computed using the
    distributed model with one or more PCEs responsible for each
    domain, or the centralized model by defining a domain that
    encompasses all the other domains.
    From these definitions, a centralized computation model inherently
    uses single PCE path computation.  However, a distributed
    computation model could use either single PCE path computation or
    multiple PCE path computations.  There would be no such thing as a
    centralized model that uses multiple PCEs.
 4) The PCE may or may not be located at the head-end of the path.
    For example, a conventional intra-domain solution is to have path
    computation performed by the head-end LSR of an MPLS TE LSP; in
    this case, the head-end LSR contains a PCE.  But solutions also
    exist where other nodes on the path must contribute to the path
    computation (for example, loose hops), making them PCEs in their
    own right.  At the same time, the path computation may be made by
    some other PCE physically distinct from the computed path.
 5) The path computed by the PCE may be an "explicit path" (that is,
    the full explicit path from start to destination, made of a list
    of strict hops) or a "strict/loose path" (that is, a mix of strict
    and loose hops comprising at least one loose hop representing the
    destination), where a hop may be an abstract node such as an AS.
 6) A PCE-based path computation model does not mean to be exclusive
    and can be used in conjunction with other path computation models.
    For instance, the path of an inter-AS TE LSP may be computed using

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 5] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

    a PCE-based path computation model in some ASes, whereas the set
    of traversed ASes may be specified by other means (not determined
    by a PCE).  Furthermore, different path computation models may be
    used for different TE LSPs.
 7) This document does not make any assumptions about the nature or
    implementation of a PCE.  A PCE could be implemented on a router,
    an LSR, a dedicated network server, etc.  Moreover, the PCE
    function is orthogonal to the forwarding capability of the node on
    which it is implemented.

4. Motivation for a PCE-Based Architecture

 Several motivations for a PCE-based architecture (described in
 Section 5) are listed below.  This list is not meant to be exhaustive
 and is provided for the sake of illustration.
 It should be highlighted that the aim of this section is to provide
 some application examples for which a PCE-based path may be suitable:
 this also clearly states that such a model does not aim to replace
 existing path computation models but would apply to specific existing
 or future situations.
 As can be seen from these examples, PCE does not replace the existing
 Internet model where intelligence is distributed within the network.
 Instead, it builds on this model and makes use of distributed centers
 of information or computational ability.  PCE should not, therefore,
 necessarily be seen as a centralized, "all-seeing oracle in the sky",
 but as the cooperative operation of distributed functionality used to
 address specific challenges such as the computation of a shortest
 inter-domain constrained path.

4.1. CPU-Intensive Path Computation

 There are many situations where the computation of a path may be
 highly CPU-intensive; examples of CPU-intensive path computations
 include the resolution of problems such as:
  1. Placing a set of TE LSPs within a domain so as to optimize an

objective function (for example, minimization of the maximum link

  1. Multi-criteria path computation (for example, delay and link

utilization, inclusion of switching capabilities, adaptation

   features, encoding types and optical constraints within a GMPLS
   optical network)

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 6] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

  1. Computation of minimal cost Point to Multipoint trees (Steiner


 In these situations, it may not be possible or desirable for some
 routers to perform path computation because of the constraints on
 their CPUs, in which case the path computations may be off-loaded to
 some other PCE(s) that may, themselves, be routers or may be
 dedicated PCE servers.

4.2. Partial Visibility

 There are several scenarios where the node responsible for path
 computation has limited visibility of the network topology to the
 destination.  This limitation may occur, for instance, when an
 ingress router attempts to establish a TE LSP to a destination that
 lies in a separate domain, since TE information is not exchanged
 across the domain boundaries.  In such cases, it is possible to use
 loose routes to establish the TE LSP, relying on routers at the
 domain borders to establish the next piece of the path.  However, it
 is not possible to guarantee that the optimal (shortest) path will be
 used, or even that a viable path will be discovered except, possibly,
 through repeated trial and error using crankback or other signaling
 This problem of inter-domain path computation may most probably be
 addressed through distributed computation with cooperation among PCEs
 within each of the domains, and potentially using crankback between
 the domains to dynamically resolve provisioning issues.
 Alternatively, a central "all-seeing" PCE that has access to the
 complete set of topology information may be used, but in this case
 there are challenges of scalability (both the size of the TED and the
 responsiveness of a single PCE handling requests for many domains)
 and of preservation of confidentiality when the domains belong to
 different Service Providers.
 Note that the issues described here can be further highlighted in the
 context of TE LSP reoptimization, or the establishment of multiple
 diverse TE LSPs for protection or load sharing.

4.3. Absence of the TED or Use of Non-TE-Enabled IGP

 The traffic engineering database (TED) may be a large drain on the
 resources of a network node (such as an edge router or LER).
 Maintaining the TED may require a lot of memory and may require non-
 negligible CPU activity.  The use of a distinct PCE may be
 appropriate in such circumstances, and a separate node can be used to
 establish and maintain the TED, and to make it available for path

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 7] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 The IGPs run within some networks are not sufficient to build a full
 TED.  For example, a network may run OSPF/IS-IS without the
 OSPF-TE/ISIS-TE extensions, or some routers in the network may not
 support the TE extensions.  In these cases, in order to successfully
 compute paths through the network, the TED must be constructed or
 supplemented through configuration action and updated as network
 resources are reserved or released.  Such a TED could be distributed
 to the routers that need to perform path computation or held
 centrally (on a distinct node that supports PCE) for centralized

4.4. Node Outside the Routing Domain

 An LER might not be part of the routing domain for administrative
 reasons (for example, a customer-edge (CE) router connected to the
 provider-edge (PE) router in the context of MPLS VPN [RFC4364] and
 for which it is desired to provide a CE to CE TE LSP path).
 This scenario suggests a solution that does not involve doing
 computation on the ingress (TE LSP head-end, CE) router, and that
 does not rely on the configuration of static loose hops.  In this
 case, optimal shortest paths cannot be guaranteed.  A solution that a
 distinct PCE can help here.  Note that the PCE in this case may,
 itself, provide a path that includes loose hops.

4.5. Network Element Lacks Control Plane or Routing Capability

 It is common in legacy optical networks for the network elements not
 to have a control plane or routing capability.  Such network elements
 only have a data plane and a management plane, and all cross-
 connections are made from the management plane.  It is desirable in
 this case to run the path computation on the PCE, and to send the
 cross-connection commands to each node on the computed path.  That
 is, the PCC would be an element of the management plane, perhaps
 residing in the Network Management System (NMS) or Operations Support
 System (OSS).
 This scenario is important for Automatically Switched Optical Network
 (ASON)-capable networks and may also be used for interworking between
 GMPLS-capable and GMPLS-incapable networks.

4.6. Backup Path Computation for Bandwidth Protection

 A PCE can be used to compute backup paths in the context of fast
 reroute protection of TE LSPs.  In this model, all backup TE LSPs
 protecting a given facility are computed in a coordinated manner by a
 PCE.  This allows complete bandwidth sharing between backup tunnels
 protecting independent elements, while avoiding any extensions to TE

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 8] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 LSP signaling.  Both centralized and distributed computation models
 are applicable.  In the distributed case each LSR can be a PCE to
 compute the paths of backup tunnels to protect against the failure of
 adjacent network links or nodes.

4.7. Multi-layer Networks

 A server-layer network of one switching capability may support
 multiple networks of another (more granular) switching capability.
 For example, a Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) network may provide
 connectivity for client-layer networks such as IP, MPLS, or Layer 2
 The server-layer network is unlikely to provide the same connectivity
 paradigm as the client networks, so bandwidth granularity in the
 server-layer network may be much coarser than in the client-layer
 network.  Similarly, there is likely to be a management separation
 between the two networks providing independent address spaces.
 Furthermore, where multiple client-layer networks make use of the
 same server-layer network, those client-layer networks may have
 independent policies, control parameters, address spaces, and routing
 The different client- and server-layer networks may be considered
 distinct path computation regions within a PCE domain, so the PCE
 architecture is useful to allow path computation from one client-
 layer network region, across the server-layer network, to another
 client-layer network region.
 In this case, the PCEs are responsible for resolving address space
 issues, handling differences in policy and control parameters, and
 coordinating resources between the networks.  Note that, because of
 the differences in bandwidth granularity, connectivity across the
 server-layer network may be provided through virtual TE links or
 Forwarding Adjacencies: the PCE may offer a point of control
 responsible for the decision to provision new TE links or Forwarding
 Adjacencies across the server-layer network.

4.8. Path Selection Policy

 A PCE may have a local policy that impacts path computation and
 selection in response to a path computation request.  Such policy may
 act on information provided by the requesting PCC.  The result of
 applying such policy includes, for example, rejection of the path
 computation request, or provision of a path that does not meet all of
 the requested constraints.  Further, the policy may support

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 9] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 administratively configured paths, or selection among transit
 providers.  Inclusion of policy within PCE may simplify the
 application of policy within the path computation/selection process.
 Similarly, a PCC may apply local policy to the selection of a PCE to
 compute a specific path, and to the constraints that are requested.
 In a PCE context, the policy may be sensitive to the type of path
 that is being computed.  For example, a different set of policies may
 be applied for an intra-area or single-layer path than would be
 provided for an inter-area or multi-layer path.
 Note that synchronization of policy between PCEs or between PCCs and
 PCEs may be necessary.  Such issues are outside the scope of the PCE
 architecture, but within scope for the PCE policy framework and
 application which is described in a separate document.

4.9. Non-Motivations

4.9.1. The Whole Internet

 PCE is not considered to be a solution that is applicable to the
 entire Internet.  That is, the applicability of PCE is limited to a
 set of domains with known relationships.  The scale of this
 limitation is similar to the peering relationships between Service

4.9.2. Guaranteed TE LSP Establishment

 When two or more paths for TE LSPs are computed on the same set of TE
 link state information, it is possible that the resultant paths will
 compete for limited resources within the network.  This may result in
 success for only the first TE LSP to be signaled, or it might even
 mean that no TE LSP can be established.
 Batch processing of computation requests, back-off times, computation
 of alternate paths, and crankback can help to mitigate this sort of
 problem, and PCE may also improve the chances of successful TE LSP
 setup.  However, a single, centralized PCE is not viewed as a
 solution that can guarantee TE LSP establishment since the potential
 for network failures or contention for resources still exists where
 the centralized TED cannot fully reflect current (i.e., real-time)
 network state.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 10] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

5. Overview of the PCE-Based Architecture

 This section gives an overview of the architecture of the PCE model.
 It needs to be read in conjunction with the details provided in the
 next section to provide a full view of the flexibility of the model.

5.1. Composite PCE Node

 Figure 1 below shows the components of a typical composite PCE node
 (that is, a router that also implements the PCE functionality) that
 utilizes path computation.  The routing protocol is used to exchange
 TE information from which the TED is constructed.  Service requests
 to provision TE LSPs are received by the node and converted into
 signaling requests, but this conversion may require path computation
 that is requested from a PCE.  The PCE operates on the TED subject to
 local policy in order to respond with the requested path.
  1. ————–

| ——— | Routing ———-

              |  |         |  | Protocol |          |
              |  |   TED   |<-+----------+->        |
              |  |         |  |          |          |
              |   ---------   |          |          |
              |      |        |          |          |
              |      | Input  |          |          |
              |      v        |          |          |
              |   ---------   |          |          |
              |  |         |  |          | Adjacent |
              |  |   PCE   |  |          |   Node   |
              |  |         |  |          |          |
              |   ---------   |          |          |
              |      ^        |          |          |
              |      |Request |          |          |
              |      |Response|          |          |
              |      v        |          |          |
              |   ---------   |          |          |
     Service  |  |         |  | Signaling|          |
      Request |  |Signaling|  | Protocol |          |
        ------+->| Engine  |<-+----------+->        |
              |  |         |  |          |          |
              |   ---------   |           ----------
                  Figure 1.  Composite PCE Node
 Note that the routing adjacency between the composite PCE node and
 any other router may be performed by means of direct connectivity or
 any tunneling mechanism.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 11] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

5.2. External PCE

 Figure 2 shows a PCE that is external to the requesting network
 element.  A service request is received by the head-end node, and
 before it can initiate signaling to establish the service, it makes a
 path computation request to the external PCE.  The PCE uses the TED
 subject to local policy as input to the computation and returns a
  1. ———

| —– |

            | | TED |<-+----------->
            |  -----   |  TED synchronization
            |    |     |  mechanism (for example, routing protocol)
            |    |     |
            |    v     |
            |  -----   |
            | | PCE |  |
            |  -----   |
                 | Request/
                 | Response
    Service  ----------  Signaling   ----------
    Request | Head-End | Protocol   | Adjacent |
       ---->|  Node    |<---------->|   Node   |
             ----------              ----------
                  Figure 2.  External PCE Node
 Note that in this case, the node that supports the PCE function may
 also be an LSR or router performing forwarding in its own right
 (i.e., it may be a composite PCE node), but those functions are
 purely orthogonal to the operation of the function in the instance
 being considered here.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 12] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

5.3. Multiple PCE Path Computation

 Figure 3 illustrates how multiple PCE path computations may be
 performed along the path of a signaled service.  As in the previous
 example, the head-end PCC makes a request to an external PCE, but the
 path that is returned is such that the next network element finds it
 necessary to perform further computation.  This may be the case when
 the path returned is a partial path that does not reach the intended
 destination or when the computed path is loose.  The downstream
 network element consults another PCE to establish the next hop(s) in
 the path.  In this case, all policy decisions are made independently
 at each PCE based on information passed from the PCC.
 Note that either or both PCEs in this case could be composite PCE
 nodes, as in Section 5.1.
  1. ——— ———-

| | | |

         |   PCE    |         |   PCE    |
         |          |         |          |
         |   -----  |         |   -----  |
         |  | TED | |         |  | TED | |
         |   -----  |         |   -----  |
          ----------           ----------
              ^                     ^
              | Request/            | Request/
              | Response            | Response
              v                     v
 Service  --------  Signaling  ------------  Signaling  ------------
 Request |Head-End| Protocol  |Intermediate| Protocol  |Intermediate|
    ---->|  Node  |<--------->|    Node    |<--------->|    Node    |
          --------             ------------             ------------
               Figure 3.  Multiple PCE Path Computation

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 13] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

5.4. Multiple PCE Path Computation with Inter-PCE Communication

 The PCE in Section 5.3 was not able to supply a full path for the
 requested service, and as a result the adjacent node needs to make
 its own computation request.  As illustrated in Figure 4, the same
 problem may be solved by introducing inter-PCE communication, and
 cooperation between PCEs so that the PCE consulted by the head-end
 network node makes a request of another PCE to help with the
  1. ——— ———-

| | Inter-PCE Request/Response | |

          |   PCE    |<--------------------------------->|   PCE    |
          |          |                                   |          |
          |   -----  |                                   |   -----  |
          |  | TED | |                                   |  | TED | |
          |   -----  |                                   |   -----  |
           ----------                                     ----------
               | Request/
               | Response
 Service  ----------  Signaling   ----------  Signaling   ----------
 Request | Head-End | Protocol   | Adjacent | Protocol   | Adjacent |
    ---->|  Node    |<---------->|   Node   |<---------->|   Node   |
          ----------              ----------              ----------
 Figure 4.  Multiple PCE Path Computation with Inter-PCE Communication
 Multiple PCE path computation with inter-PCE communication involves
 coordination between distinct PCEs such that the result of the
 computation performed by one PCE depends on path fragment information
 supplied by other PCEs.  This model does not provide a distributed
 computation algorithm, but it allows distinct PCEs to be responsible
 for computation of parts (segments) of the path.
 PCE-PCE communication is discussed further in Section 6.6.
 Note that a PCC might not see the difference between centralized
 computation and multiple PCE path computation with inter-PCE
 communication.  That is, the PCC network node or component that
 requests the computation makes a single request and receives a full
 or partial path in response, but the response is actually achieved
 through the coordinated, cooperative efforts of more than one PCE.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 14] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 In this model, all policy decisions may be made independently at each
 PCE based on computation information passed from the previous PCE.
 Alternatively, there may be explicit communication of policy
 information between PCEs.

5.5. Management-Based PCE Usage

 It must be observed that the PCC is not necessarily an LSR.  For
 example, in Figure 5 the NMS supplies the head-end LSR with a fully
 computed explicit path for the TE LSP that it is to establish through
 signaling.  The NMS uses a management plane mechanism to send this
 request and encodes the data using a representation such as the TE
 MIB module [RFC3812].
 The NMS constructs the explicit path that it supplies to the head-end
 LSR using information provided by the operator.  It consults the PCE,
 which returns a path for the NMS to use.
 Although Figure 5 shows the PCE as remote from the NMS, it could, of
 course, be collocated with the NMS.
  1. ———-

| —– |

          Service             |  | TED |<-+----------->
          Request             |   -----   |  TED synchronization
             |                |     |     |  mechanism (for example,
             v                |     |     |  routing protocol)
       ------------- Request/ |     v     |
      |             | Response|   -----   |
      |     NMS     |<--------+> | PCE |  |
      |             |         |   -----   |
       -------------           -----------
     Service |
     Request |
        ----------  Signaling   ----------
       | Head-End | Protocol   | Adjacent |
       |  Node    |<---------->|   Node   |
        ----------              ----------
               Figure 5.  Management-Based PCE Usage

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 15] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

5.6. Areas for Standardization

 The following areas require standardization within the PCE
  1. communication between PCCs and PCEs, and between cooperating PCEs,

including the communication of policy-related information

  1. requirements for extending existing routing and signaling protocols

in support of PCE discovery and signaling of inter-domain paths

  1. definition of metrics to evaluate path quality, scalability,

responsiveness, robustness, and policy support of path computation

  1. MIB modules related to communication protocols, routing and

signaling extensions, metrics, and PCE monitoring information

6. PCE Architectural Considerations

 This section provides a list of the PCE architectural components.
 Specific realizations and implementation details (state machines or
 algorithms, etc.) of PCE-based solutions are out of the scope of this
 Note also that PCE-based path computation does not affect in any way
 the use of the computed paths.  For example, the use of PCE does not
 change the way in which Traffic Engineering LSPs are signaled,
 maintained, and torn down, but it strictly relates to the path
 computation aspects of such TE LSPs.
 This section presents an architectural view of PCE.  That is, it
 describes the components that exist and how they interact.  Note that
 the architectural model, and in particular the functional model, may
 be perceived differently by different components of the PCE system.
 For example, the PCC will not be aware of whether a PCE consults
 other PCEs.  The PCC view of the PCE architecture is discussed in
 Section 7.

6.1. Centralized Computation Model

 A "centralized computation model" considers that all path
 computations for a given domain will be performed by a single,
 centralized PCE.  This may be a dedicated server (for example, an
 external PCE node), or a designated router (for example, a composite
 PCE node) in the network.  In this model, all PCCs in the domain
 would send their path computation requests to the central PCE.  While

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 16] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 a domain in this context might be an IGP area or AS, it might also be
 a sub-group of network nodes that is defined by its dependence on the
 This model has a single point of failure: the PCE.  In order to avoid
 this issue, the centralized computation model may designate a backup
 PCE that can take over the computation responsibility in a controlled
 manner in the event of a failure of the primary PCE.  Any policies
 present on the primary PCE should also be present on the backup,
 although the primary policies may themselves be subject to policy
 governing how they are implemented on the backup.  Note that at any
 moment in time there is only one active PCE in any domain.

6.2. Distributed Computation Model

 A "distributed computation model" refers to a domain or network that
 may include multiple PCEs, and where computation of paths is shared
 among the PCEs.  A given path may in turn be computed by a single PCE
 ("single PCE path computation") or multiple PCEs ("multiple PCE path
 computation").  A PCC may be linked to a particular PCE or may be
 able to choose freely among several PCEs; the method of choice
 between PCEs is out of scope of this document, but see Section 6.4
 for a discussion of PCE discovery that affects this choice.
 Implementation of policy should be consistent across the set of
 available PCEs.
 Often, the computation of an individual path is performed entirely by
 a single PCE.  For example, this is usually the case in MPLS TE
 within a single IGP area where the ingress LSR/composite PCE node is
 responsible for computing the path or for contacting an external PCE.
 Conversely, multiple PCE path computation implies that more than one
 PCE is involved in the computation of a single path.  An example of
 this is where loose hop expansion is performed by transit
 LSRs/composite PCE nodes on an MPLS TE LSP.  Another example is the
 use of multiple cooperating PCEs to compute the path of a single TE
 LSP across multiple domains.

6.3. Synchronization

 Often, multiple paths need to be computed to support a single service
 (for example, for protection or load sharing).  A PCC that determines
 that it requires more than one path to be computed may send a series
 of individual requests to the PCE.  In this case of non-synchronized
 path computation requests, the PCE may make multiple individual path
 computations to generate the paths, and the PCC may send its
 individual requests to different PCEs.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 17] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 Alternatively, the PCC may send a single request to a PCE asking for
 a set of paths to be computed, but specifying that non-synchronized
 path computation is acceptable.  The PCE may compute each path in
 turn exactly as it would have done had the PCC made multiple
 requests, and the PCE may devolve some computations to other PCEs if
 it chooses.  On the other hand, the PCE is not prohibited from
 performing all computations together in a synchronized manner as
 described below.
 The PCC may also issue a single request to the PCE asking for all the
 paths to be computed in a synchronized manner.  The PCE will then
 perform simultaneous computation of the set of requested paths.  Such
 synchronized computation can often provide better results.
 The involvement of more than one PCE in the computation of a series
 of paths is by its nature non-synchronized.  However, a set of
 cooperating PCEs may be synchronized under the control of a single
 PCE.  For example, a PCC may send a request to a PCE that invokes
 domain-specific computations by other PCEs before supplying a result
 to the PCC.
 It is desirable to add a parameter to the PCC-PCE protocol to request
 that the PCE supply a set of alternate paths for use by the PCC,
 should the establishment of the TE LSP using the principal path fail
 to complete.  While alternate paths may not always be successful if
 the first path fails, including alternate paths in a PCE response
 could have less overhead than having the PCC make separate requests
 for subsequent path computations as the need arises.  This technique
 is used in some existing CSPF implementations.

6.4. PCE Discovery and Load Balancing

 In order that a PCC can communicate efficiently with a PCE, it must
 know the location of the PCE.  That is, it is an architectural
 decision made here that PCC requests be targeted to a specific PCE,
 and not broadcast to the network for any PCE to respond.  This
 decision means that only the selected PCE will operate on any single
 request, and it saves network resources during request propagation
 and processing resources at the PCEs that are not required to
 The knowledge of the location of a PCE may be achieved through local
 configuration at the PCC or may rely on a protocol-based discovery
 mechanism that may be governed by policy.
 Where more than one PCE is known to a PCC, the PCC must have
 sufficient information to select an appropriate PCE for its purposes,
 under the control of policy.  Such a selection procedure allows for

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 18] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 load sharing between PCEs and supports PCEs with different
 computation capabilities including different visibility scopes.
 Thus, the information available to the PCC must include details of
 the PCE capabilities, which may be fixed or may vary dynamically in
 The PCC may learn PCE capabilities through static configuration, or
 it may discover the information dynamically.  Note that even when the
 location of the PCE is configured at the PCC, the PCC may still
 discover the PCE capabilities dynamically.  Dynamic PCE capabilities
 cannot be configured and can only be discovered.
 Proxy PCE advertisement whereby the existence of a PCE is advertised
 via a proxy PCE is a viable alternative, should the PCE be incapable
 of such advertisement itself.  In this case, it is a requirement that
 the proxy adequately advertise the PCE status and capability in a
 timely and synchronized fashion.
 In the event that multiple PCEs are available to serve a particular
 path computation request, the PCC must select a PCE to satisfy the
 request.  The details of such a selection (for instance, to
 efficiently share the computation load across multiple PCEs or to
 request secondary computations after partial or failed computations)
 are local to the PCC, may be based on policy, and are out of the
 scope of this document.
 PCE capabilities that may be advertised or configured could include
 (and are not be limited to):
  1. a set of constraints that it can account for (diversity, shared

risk link groups (SRLGs), optical impairments, wavelength

   continuity, etc.)
  1. computational capacity (for example, the number of computations it

can perform per second)

  1. the number of switching capability layers (and which ones)
  1. the number of path selection criteria (and which ones)
  1. whether it is a stateless PCE or it can send updates about better

paths that might be available in the future

  1. whether it can compute P2MP trees (and which types)
  1. whether it can ensure resource sharing between backup tunnels
 This information would help a PCC to decide which PCE to use.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 19] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 Requirements for PCE advertisement will be documented separately.
 Note that there is no restriction within the architecture about how
 location and capabilities are advertised, and the two elements should
 be considered functionally distinct.
 A PCC might also ask a PCE to perform a particular type of service
 without knowledge of the PCE's capabilities and receive a response
 that says that the PCE is unable to perform the service.  The
 response could specify the capabilities of the PCE and might also
 suggest another PCE that has the requested capabilities.

6.5. Detecting PCE Liveness

 The ability to detect a PCE's liveness is a mandatory piece of the
 overall architecture and could be achieved by several means.  If some
 form of regular advertisement (such as through IGP extensions) is
 used for PCE discovery, it is expected that the PCE liveness will be
 determined by means of status advertisement (for example, IGP
 The inability of a PCE to service a request (perhaps due to excessive
 load) may be reported to the PCC through a failure message, but the
 failure of a PCE or the communications mechanism while processing a
 request cannot be reported in this way.  Furthermore, in the case of
 excessive load, the PCE may not have sufficient resources to send a
 failure message.  Thus, the PCC should employ other mechanisms, such
 as protocol timers, to determine the liveness of the PCE.  This is
 particularly important in the case of inter-domain path computation
 where the PCE liveness may not be detected by means of the IGP that
 runs in the PCC's domain.

6.6. PCC-PCE and PCE-PCE Communication

 Once the PCC has selected a PCE, and provided that the PCE is not
 local to the PCC, a request/response protocol is required for the PCC
 to communicate the path computation requests to the PCE and for the
 PCE to return the path computation response.  Discussion of the
 security requirements and implications for this protocol is provided
 in Section 10 of this document.
 The path computation request may include a significant set of
 requirements, including the following:
  1. the source and destination of the path
  1. the bandwidth and other Quality of Service (QoS) parameters desired

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 20] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

  1. resources, resource affinities, and shared risk link groups (SRLGs)

to use/avoid

  1. the number of disjoint paths required and whether near-disjoint

paths are acceptable

  1. the levels of resiliency, reliability, and robustness of the path


  1. policy-related information
 The level of robustness of the path resources covers a qualitative
 assessment of the vulnerability of the resources that may be used.
 For example, one might grade resources based on empirical evidence
 (mean time between failures), on known risks (there is major building
 work going on near this conduit), or on prejudice (vendor X's
 software is always crashing).  A PCC could request that only robust
 resources be used, or it could allow any resource.
 In case of a positive response from the PCE, one or more paths would
 be returned to the requesting node.  In the event of a failure to
 compute the desired path(s), an error is returned together with as
 much information as possible about the reasons for the failure(s),
 and potentially with advice about which constraints might be relaxed
 so that a positive result is more likely in a future request.
 Note that the resultant path(s) may be made up of a set of strict or
 loose hops, or any combination of strict and loose hops.  Moreover, a
 hop may have the form of a non-explicit abstract node.
 A request/response protocol is also required for a PCE to communicate
 path computation requests to another PCE and for the PCE to return
 the path computation response.  The path computation request may
 include a significant set of requirements including those defined
 above.  In case of a positive response from the PCE, one or more
 paths would be returned to the requesting PCE.  In the event of a
 failure to compute the desired path(s), an error is returned together
 with as much information as possible about the reasons for the
 failure, and potentially advice about which constraints might be
 relaxed so that a positive result is more likely.  Note that the
 resultant path(s) may be made up of a set of strict or loose hops, or
 any combination of strict and loose hops.  Moreover, a hop may have
 the form of a non-explicit abstract node.
 An important feature of PCEs that are cooperating to compute a path
 is that they apply compatible or identical computation algorithms and
 coordinated policies.  This may require coordination through the
 communication between the PCEs.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 21] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 Note that when multiple PCEs cooperate to compute a path, it is
 important that they have a coordinated view of the meaning of
 constraints such as costs, resource affinities, and class of service.
 This is particularly significant where the PCEs are responsible for
 different domains.  It is assumed that this is a matter of policy
 between domains and between PCEs.
 No assumption is made in this architecture about whether the PCC-PCE
 and PCE-PCE communication protocols are identical.

6.7. PCE TED Synchronization

 As previously described, the PCE operates on a TED.  Information on
 network status to build the TED may be provided in the domain by
 various means:
 1) Participation in IGP distribution of TE information.  The standard
    method of distribution of TE information within an IGP area is
    through the use of extensions to the IGP [RFC3630, RFC3748].  This
    mechanism allows participating nodes to build a TED, and this is
    the standard technique, for example, within a single area MPLS or
    GMPLS network.  A node that hosts the PCE function may collect TE
    information in this way by maintaining at least one routing
    adjacency with a router in the domain.  The PCE node may be
    adjacent or non-adjacent (via some tunneling techniques) to the
    router.  Such a technique provides a mechanism for ensuring that
    the TED is efficiently synchronized with the network state and is
    the normal case, for example, when the PCE is co-resident with the
    LSRs in an MPLS or GMPLS network.
 2) Out-of-band TED synchronization.  It may not be convenient or
    possible for a PCE to participate in the IGPs of one or more
    domains (for example, when there are very many domains, when IGP
    participation is not desired, or when some domains are not running
    TE-aware IGPs).  In this case, some mechanism may need to be
    defined to allow the PCE node to retrieve the TED from each
    domain.  Such a mechanism could be incremental (like the IGP in
    the previous case), or it could involve a bulk transfer of the
    complete TED.  The latter might significantly limit the capability
    to ensure TED synchronization, which might result in an increase
    in the failure rate of computed paths, or the computation of sub-
    optimal paths.  Consideration should also be given to the impact
    of the TED distribution on the network and on the network node
    within the domain that is asked to distribute the database.  This
    is particularly relevant in the case of frequent network state

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 22] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 3) Information in the TED can include information obtained from
    sources other than the IGP.  For example, information about link
    usage policies can be configured by the operator.  Path
    computation can also act on a far wider set of information that
    includes data about the TE LSPs provisioned within the network.
    This information can include TE LSP routes, reserved bandwidth,
    and measured traffic volume passing through the TE LSP.
    Such TE LSP information can enhance TE LSP (re)optimization to
    provide "full network" (re)optimization and can allow traffic
    fluctuations to be taken into account.  Detailed TE LSP
    information may also facilitate reconfiguration of the Virtual
    Network Topology (VNT) [MLN], in which lower-layer TE LSPs, such
    as optical paths, provide TE links for use by the higher layer,
    since this reconfiguration is also a "full network" problem.
 Note that synchronization techniques may apply to both intra- and
 inter-domain TEDs.  Furthermore, the techniques can be mixed for use
 in different domains.  The degree of synchronization between the PCE
 and the network is subject to implementation and/or policy.  However,
 better synchronization generally leads to paths that are more likely
 to succeed.
 Note also that the PCE may have access to only a partial TED: for
 instance, in the case of inter-domain path computation where each
 such domain may be managed by different entities.  In such cases,
 each PCE may have access to a partial TED, and cooperative techniques
 between PCEs may be used to achieve end-to-end path computation
 without any requirement that any PCE handle the complete TED related
 to the set of traversed domains by the TE LSP in question.

6.8. Stateful versus Stateless PCEs

 A PCE can be either stateful or stateless.  In the former case, there
 is a strict synchronization between the PCE and not only the network
 states (in term of topology and resource information), but also the
 set of computed paths and reserved resources in use in the network.
 In other words, the PCE utilizes information from the TED as well as
 information about existing paths (for example, TE LSPs) in the
 network when processing new requests.  Note that although this allows
 for optimal path computation and increased path computation success,
 stateful PCEs require reliable state synchronization mechanisms, with
 potentially significant control plane overhead and the maintenance of
 a large amount of data/states (for example, full mesh of TE LSPs).
 For example, if there is only one PCE in the domain, all TE LSP
 computation is done by this PCE, which can then track all the
 existing TE LSPs and stay synchronized (each TE LSP state change must

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 23] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 be tracked by the PCE).  However, this model could require
 substantial control plane resources.  If there are multiple PCEs in
 the network, TE LSP computation and information are distributed among
 PCEs and so the resources required to perform the computations are
 also distributed.  However, synchronization issues discussed in
 Section 6.7 also come into play.
 The maintenance of a stateful database can be non-trivial.  However,
 in a single centralized PCE environment, a stateful PCE is almost a
 simple matter of remembering all the TE LSPs the PCE has computed,
 that the TE LSPs were actually set up (if this can be known), and
 when they were torn down.  Out-of-band TED synchronization can also
 be complex, with multiple PCE setup in a distributed PCE computation
 model, and could be prone to race conditions, scalability concerns,
 etc.  Even if the PCE has detailed information on all paths,
 priorities, and layers, taking such information into account for path
 computation could be highly complex.  PCEs might synchronize state by
 communicating with each other, but when TE LSPs are set up using
 distributed computation performed among several PCEs, the problems of
 synchronization and race condition avoidance become larger and more
 There is benefit in knowing which TE LSPs exist, and their routing,
 to support such applications as placing a high-priority TE LSP in a
 crowded network such that it preempts as few other TE LSPs as
 possible (also known as the "minimal perturbation" problem).  Note
 that preempting based on the minimum number of links might not result
 in the smallest number of TE LSPs being disrupted.  Another
 application concerns the construction and maintenance of a Virtual
 Network Topology [MLN].  It is also helpful to understand which other
 TE LSPs exist in the network in order to decide how to manage the
 forward adjacencies that exist or need to be set up.  The cost-
 benefit of stateful PCE computation would be helpful to determine if
 the benefit in path computation is sufficient to offset the
 additional drain on the network and computational resources.
 Conversely, stateless PCEs do not have to remember any computed path
 and each set of request(s) is processed independently of each other.
 For example, stateless PCEs may compute paths based on current TED
 information, which could be out of sync with actual network state
 given other recent PCE-computed paths changes.  Note that a PCC may
 include a set of previously computed paths in its request, in order
 to take them into account, for instance, to avoid double bandwidth
 accounting or to try to minimize changes (minimum perturbation

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 24] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 Note that the stateless PCE does operate on information about network
 state.  The TED contains link state and bandwidth availability
 information as distributed by the IGPs or collected through some
 other means.  This information could be further enhanced to provide
 increased granularity and more detail to cover, for example, the
 current bandwidth usage on certain links according to resource
 affinities or forwarding equivalence classes.  Such information is,
 however, not PCE state information and so a model that uses it is
 still described as stateless in the PCE context.
 A limited form of statefulness might be applied within an otherwise
 stateless PCE.  The PCE may retain some context from paths it has
 recently computed so that it avoids suggesting the use of the same
 resources for other TE LSPs.

6.9. Monitoring

 PCE monitoring is undoubtedly of the utmost importance in any PCE
 architecture.  This must include the collection of variables related
 to the PCE status and operation.  For example, it will be necessary
 to understand the way in which the TED is being kept synchronized,
 the rate of arrival of new requests and the computation times, the
 range of PCCs that are using the PCE, and the operation of any PCC-
 PCE protocol.

6.10. Confidentiality

 As stated in [RFC4216], the case of inter-provider TE LSP computation
 requires the ability to compute a path while preserving
 confidentiality across multiple Service Providers cores.  That is,
 one Service Provider must not be required to divulge any information
 about its resources or topology in order to support inter-provider TE
 LSP path computation.  Thus, any PCE architecture solution must
 support the ability to return partial paths by means of loose hops
 (for example, where each loose hop would, for instance, identify a
 boundary LSR).
 This requirement is not a security issue, but relates to Service
 Provider policy.  Confidentiality, integrity, and authentication of
 PCC-PCE and PCE-PCE messages must also be ensured and are described
 in Section 10.
 The ability to compute a path at the request of the head-end PCC, but
 to supply the path in segments to the domain boundary PCCs, may also
 be desirable.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 25] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

6.11. Policy

 Policy impacts multiple aspects of the PCE architecture.  There are
 two applications of policy for consideration:
  1. application of policy within an architectural entity (PCC or PCE)
  1. application of policy to PCE-related communications
 As directly applicable to TE LSPs, policy forms part of the signaling
 mechanism for the establishment of the TE LSPs and is not described
 It is envisioned that policy will be largely applied as a local
 matter within each PCC and PCE.  However, this document needs to
 define policy models that can be supported within the PCE
 architecture and by PCE-related communication.
 Some example policies include:
  1. selection of a PCE by a PCC
  1. rejection of a request by the PCE based on the identity of the

requesting PCC

  1. selection by the PCE of a path or application of additional

constraints to a computation based on the PCC, the computation

   target, the time of day, etc.

6.11.1. PCE Policy Architecture

 Two examples of the use of policy components within the PCE
 architecture are illustrated in Figures 6 and 7.  Policy components
 could equally be applied to the other PCE configurations shown in
 Section 5.  In each configuration, policy may be consulted before a
 response is provided by a PCE and may also be consulted by the
 PCC/PCE that receives the response.
 A PCE may have a local policy that impacts the paths selected to
 satisfy a particular PCE request.  A policy may be applied based on
 any information provided from a PCC.
 In Figure 6, the policy component is shown providing input to the PCE
 component.  This policy component may consult an external policy
 database, but this is outside the scope of this document.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 26] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

  1. —————————–

| ——— | Routing ———-

           |                 |         |  | Protocol |          |
           |                 |   TED   |<-+----------+->        |
           |                 |         |  |          |          |
           |                  ---------   |          |          |
           |                     |        |          |          |
           |                     | Input  |          |          |
           |                     v        |          |          |
           |   ---------      ---------   |          |          |
           |  | Policy  |    |         |  |          | Adjacent |
           |  |Component|--->|   PCE   |  |          |   Node   |
           |  |         |    |         |  |          |          |
           |   ---------      ---------   |          |          |
           |                     ^        |          |          |
           |                     |Request |          |          |
           |                     |Response|          |          |
           |                     v        |          |          |
           |                  ---------   |          |          |
  Service  |                 |         |  | Signaling|          |
   Request |                 |Signaling|  | Protocol |          |
     ------+---------------->| Engine  |<-+----------+->        |
           |                 |         |  |          |          |
           |                  ---------   |           ----------
          Figure 6.  Policy Component in the Composite PCE Node
 Note that policy information may be conveyed on the internal
 interfaces, and on the external protocol interfaces.
 Figure 7 displays the case of a distinct PCE function through the
 example of the multiple PCE with inter-PCE communication example
 (compare with Figure 4).  Each PCE takes input from local policy as
 part of the router computation/determination process.  The local
 policy components may consult external policy components or
 databases, but that is out of the scope of this document.
 Note that policy information may be conveyed on the external protocol
 interfaces, including the inter-PCE interface.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 27] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

  1. —————– ——————

| | Inter-PCE Request/Response| |

   |       PCE        |<------------------------->|       PCE        |
   |                  |                           |                  |
   |  ------   -----  |                           |  ------   -----  |
   | |Policy| | TED | |                           | |Policy| | TED | |
   |  ------   -----  |                           |  ------   -----  |
    ------------------                             ------------------
              | Request/
              | Response
 Service ----------  Signaling   ----------  Signaling   ----------
 Request| Head-End | Protocol   | Adjacent | Protocol   | Adjacent |
   ---->|  Node    |<---------->|   Node   |<---------->|   Node   |
         ----------              ----------              ----------
       Figure 7.  Policy Components in Multiple PCEs

6.11.2. Policy Realization

 There are multiple options for how policy information is coordinated.
  1. Policy decisions may be made by PCCs before consulting PCEs. This

type of decision includes selection of PCE, application of

   constraints, and interpretation of service requests.
  1. Policy decisions may be made independently at a PCE, or at each

cooperating PCE. That is, the PCE(s) may make policy decisions

   independent of other policy decisions made at PCCs or other PCEs.
  1. There may also be explicit communication of policy information

between PCC and PCE, or between PCEs to achieve some level of

   coordination of policy between entities.  The type of information
   conveyed to support policy has important implications on what
   policies may be applied at each PCE, and the requirements for the
   exchange of policy information inform the choice or implementation
   of communication protocols including PCC-PCE, PCE-PCE, and
   discovery protocols.

6.11.3. Type of Policies

 Within the context of PCE, we identify several types of policies:
 o User-specific policies operate on information that is specific to
   the user of a service or the service itself, that is, the service
   for which the path is being computed, not the computation service.
   Examples of such information includes the contents of objects of a

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 28] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

   signaling or provisioning message, the port ID over which the
   message was received, a VPN ID, a reference point type, or the
   identity of the user initiating the request.  User-specific
   policies could be applied by a PCC while building a path
   computation request, or by a PCE while processing the request
   provided that sufficient information is supplied by the PCC to the
 o Request-specific policies operate on information that is specific
   to a path computation request and is carried in the request.
   Examples of such information include constraints, diversities,
   constraint and diversity relaxation strategies, and optimization
   functions.  Request-specific policies directly affect the path
   selection process because they specify which links, nodes, path
   segments, and/or paths are not acceptable or, on the contrary, may
   be desirable in the resulting paths.
 o Domain-specific policies operate on the identify of the domain in
   which the requesting PCC exists, and upon the identities of the
   domains through which the resulting paths are routed.  These
   policies have the same effect as user-specific policies, with the
   difference that they can be applied to a group of users rather than
   an individual user.  One example of domain-specific policy is a
   restriction on what information a PCE publishes within a given
   domain.  In such a case, PCEs in some domains may advertise just
   their presence, while others may advertise details regarding their
   capabilities, client authentication process, and computation
   resource availability.

6.11.4. Relationship to Signaling

 When a path for an inter-domain TE LSP is being computed, it is not
 required to consider signaling plane policy.  However, failure to do
 so may result in the TE LSP failing to be established, or being
 assigned fewer resources than intended resulting in a substandard
 service.  Thus, where a PCE invoked by a head-end LSR has visibility
 into other domains, it should be capable of applying policy
 considerations to the computation and should be aware of the inter-
 domain policy agreements.  Where path computation is the result of
 cooperation between PCEs, each of which is responsible for a
 particular domain, the policy issues should, where possible, be
 resolved at the time of computation so that the TE LSP is more likely
 to be signaled successfully.  In this context, policy violation
 during inter-domain TE LSP computation may lead to path computation
 interruption, about which the requester should be notified along with
 the cause.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 29] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

6.12. Unsolicited Interactions

 It may be that the PCC-PCE communications (see Section 6.6) can be
 usefully extended beyond a simple request/response interaction.  For
 example, the PCE and PCC could exchange capabilities using this
 protocol.  Additionally, the protocol could be used to collect and
 report information in support of a stateful PCE.
 Furthermore, it may be the case that a PCE is able to update a path
 that it computed earlier (perhaps in reaction to a change in the
 network or a change in policy), and in this case the PCE-PCC
 communication could support an "unsolicited" path computation message
 to supply this new path to the PCC.  Note, however, that this
 function would require that the PCE retained a record of previous
 computations and had a clear trigger for performing recomputations.
 The PCC would also need to be able to identify the new path with the
 old path and determine whether it should act on the new path.
 Further, the PCC should be able to report the outcome of such path
 changes to the requesting PCE.  Note that the PCE-PCC interaction is
 not a management interaction and the PCC is not obliged to utilize
 any additional path supplied by the PCE.
 These functions fit easily within the architecture described here but
 are left for further discussion within separate requirements

6.13. Relationship with Crankback

 Crankback routing is a mechanism whereby a failure to establish a
 path or a failure of an existing path may be corrected by a new path
 computation and fresh signaling.  Crankback routing relies on the
 distribution of crankback information along with the failure
 notification so that the new computation can be performed avoiding
 the failure or blockage point.
 In the context of PCE, crankback information may be passed back to
 the head-end where the process of computation and signaling can be
 repeated using the failed resource as an exclusion in the computation
 process.  But crankback may be used to attempt to correct the problem
 at intermediate points along the path.  Such crankback recomputation
 nodes are most likely to be domain boundaries where the PCC had
 already invoked a PCE.  Thus, a failure within a domain is reported
 to the ingress domain boundary, which will attempt to compute an
 alternate path across the domain.  Failing this, the problem may be
 reported to the previous domain and communicated to the ingress
 boundary for that domain, which may attempt to select a more

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 30] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 successful path either by choosing a different entry point into the
 next domain, or by selecting a route through a different set of

7. The View from the Path Computation Client

 The view of the PCE architecture, and particularly the functional
 model, is subtly different from the PCC's perspective.  This is
 partly because the PCC has limited knowledge of the way in which the
 PCEs cooperate to answer its requests, but depends more on the fact
 that the PCC is concerned with different questions.
 The PCC is interested in the following:
  1. Selecting a PCE that is able to promptly provide a computed path

that meets the supplied constraints.

  1. How many computation requests will the PCC have to send? Will the

desired path be computed by the first PCE contacted (possibly in

   cooperation with other PCEs), or will the PCC have to consult other
   PCEs to fill in gaps in the path?
  1. How many other path computations will need to be issued from within

the network in order to establish the TE LSP?

 This last question might be considered out of scope for the head-end
 LSR, but an important constraint that the PCC may wish to apply is
 that the path should be computed in its entirety and supplied without
 loose hops or non-simple abstract nodes.
 Thus, with its limited perspective, the PCC will see Multiple PCE
 Path Computation (Section 5.3) as important and will distinguish two
 subcases.  The first is as shown in Figure 3 with subsequent
 computation requests made by other PCCs along the path of the TE LSP.
 In the second, multiple computation requests are issued by the head-
 end LSR.  On the other hand, the PCC will not be aware of Multiple
 PCE Path Computation with Inter-PCE Communication (Section 5.4),
 which it will perceive as no different from the simple External PCE
 Node case (Section 5.2).
 The PCC, therefore, will be acutely aware that a Centralized PCE
 Model (Section 6.1) might still require Multiple PCE Path
 Computations with the head-end or subsequent PCCs required to issue
 further requests to the central PCE.  Conversely, the PCC may be
 protected from the Distributed PCE Model (Section 6.2) because the
 first PCE it consults uses inter-PCE communication to achieve a
 complete computation result so that no further computation requests
 are required.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 31] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

 These distinctions can be completely classified by determining
 whether the computation response includes all necessary paths, and
 whether those paths are fully explicit (that is, containing only
 strict hops between simple abstract nodes).

8. Evaluation Metrics

 Evaluation metrics that may be used to evaluate the efficiency and
 applicability of any PCE-based solution are listed below.  Note that
 these metrics are not being used to determine paths, but are used to
 evaluate potential solutions to the PCE architecture.
  1. Optimality: The ability to maximize network utilization and

minimize cost, considering QoS objectives, multiple regions, and

   network layers.  Note that models that require the sequential
   involvement of multiple PCEs (for example, the multiple PCE model
   described in Section 5.3) might create path loops unless careful
   policy is applied.
  1. Scalability: The implications of routing, TE LSP signaling, and PCE

communication overhead, such as the number of messages and the size

   of messages (including LSAs, crankback information, queries,
   distribution mechanisms, etc.).
  1. Load sharing: The ability to allow multiple PCEs to spread the path

computation load by allowing multiple PCEs each to take

   responsibility for a subset of the total path computation requests.
  1. Multi-path computation: The ability to compute multiple and

potentially diverse paths to satisfy load-sharing of traffic and

   protection/restoration needs including end-to-end diversity and
   protection within individual domains.
  1. Reoptimization: The ability to perform TE LSP path reoptimization.

This also includes the ability to perform inter-layer correlation

   when considering the reoptimization at any specific layer.
  1. Path computation time: The time to compute individual paths and

multiple diverse paths and to satisfy bulk path computation

   requests.  (Note that such a metric can only be applied to problems
   that are not NP-complete.)
  1. Network stability: The ability to minimize any perturbation on

existing TE state resulting from the computation and establishment

   of new TE paths.
  1. Ability to maintain accurate synchronization between TED and

network topology and resource states.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 32] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

  1. Speed with which TED synchronization is achieved.
  1. Impact of the synchronization process on the data flows in the


  1. Ability to deal with situations where paths satisfying a required

set of constraints cannot be found by the PCE.

  1. Policy: Application of policy to the PCC-PCE and PCE-PCE

communications as well as to the computation of paths that respect

   inter-domain TE LSP establishment policies.
 Note that other metrics may also be considered.  Such metrics should
 be used when evaluating a particular PCE-based architecture.  The
 potential tradeoffs of the optimization of such metrics should be
 evaluated (for instance, increasing the path optimality is likely to
 have consequences on the computation time).

9. Manageability Considerations

 The PCE architecture introduces several elements that are subject to
 manageability.  The PCE itself must be managed, as must its
 communications with PCCs and other PCEs.  The mechanism by which PCEs
 and PCCs discover each other are also subject to manageability.
 Many of the issues of manageability are already covered in other
 sections of this document.

9.1. Control of Function and Policy

 It must be possible to enable and disable the PCE function at a PCE,
 and this will lead to the PCE accepting, rejecting, or simply not
 receiving requests from PCCs.  Graceful shutdown of the PCE function
 should also be considered so that in controlled circumstances (such
 as software upgrade) a PCE does not just 'disappear' but warns its
 PCCs and gracefully handles any queued computation requests (perhaps
 by completing them, forwarding them to another PCE, or rejecting
 Similarly it must be possible to control the application of policy at
 the PCE through configuration.  This control may include the
 restriction of certain functions or algorithms, the configuration of
 access rights and priorities for PCCs, and the relationships with
 other PCEs both inside and outside the domain.
 The policy configuration interface is yet to be determined.  The
 interface may be purely a local matter, or it may be supported via a
 standardized interface (such as a MIB module).

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 33] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

9.2. Information and Data Models

 It is expected that the operations of PCEs and PCCs will be modeled
 and controlled through appropriate MIB modules.  The tables in the
 new MIB modules will need to reflect the relationships between
 entities and to control and report on configurable options.
 Statistics gathering will form an important part of the operation of
 PCEs.  The operator must be able to determine the historical
 interactions of a PCC with its PCEs, the performance that it has
 seen, and the success rate of its requests.  Similarly, it is
 important for an operator to be able to inspect a PCE and determine
 its load and whether an individual PCC is responsible for a
 disproportionate amount of the load.  It will also be important to be
 able to record and inspect statistics about the communications
 between the PCC and PCE, including issues such as malformed messages,
 unauthorized messages, and messages discarded because of congestion.
 In this respect, there is clearly an overlap between manageability
 and security.
 Statistics for the PCE architecture can be made available through
 appropriate tables in the new MIB modules.
 The new MIB modules should also be used to provide notifications when
 key thresholds are crossed or when important events occur.  Great
 care must be exercised to ensure that the network is not flooded with
 Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) notifications.  Thus, it
 might be inappropriate to issue a notification every time a PCE
 receives a request to compute a path.  In any case, full control must
 be provided to allow notifications to be disabled using, for example,
 the mechanisms defined in the SNMP-NOTIFICATION-MIB module in

9.3. Liveness Detection and Monitoring

 Section 6.5 discusses the importance of a PCC being able to detect
 the liveness of a PCE.  PCE-PCC communications techniques must enable
 a PCC to determine the liveness of a PCE both before it sends a
 request and in the period between sending a request and receiving a
 It is less important for a PCE to know about the liveness of PCCs,
 and within the simple request/response model, this is only helpful
  1. to gain a predictive view of the likely loading of a PCE in the

future, or

  1. to allow a PCE to abandon processing of a received request.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 34] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

9.4. Verifying Correct Operation

 Correct operation for the PCE architecture can be classified as
 determining the correct point-to-point connectivity between PCCs and
 PCEs, and as assessing the validity of the computed paths.  The
 former is a security issue that may be enhanced by authentication and
 monitored through event logging and records as described in Section
 9.1.  It may also be a routing issue to ensure that PCC-PCE
 connectivity is possible.
 Verifying computed paths is more complex.  The information to perform
 this function can, however, be made available to the operator through
 MIB tables, provided that full records are kept of the constraints
 passed on the request, the path computed and provided on the
 response, and any additional information supplied by the PCE such as
 the constraint relaxation policies applied.

9.5. Requirements on Other Protocols and Functional Components

 At the architectural stage, it is impossible to make definitive
 statements about the impact on other protocols and functional
 components since the solution's work has not been completed.
 However, it is possible to make some observations.
  1. Dependence on underlying transport protocols
   PCE-PCC communications may choose to utilize underlying protocols
   to provide transport mechanisms.  In this case, some of the
   manageability considerations described in the previous sections may
   be devolved to those protocols.
  1. Re-use of existing protocols for discovery
   Without prejudicing the requirements and solutions work for PCE
   discovery (see Section 6.4), it is possible that use will be made
   of existing protocols to facilitate this function.  In this case
   some of the manageability considerations described in the previous
   sections may be devolved to those protocols.
  1. Impact on LSRs and TE LSP signaling
   The primary example of a PCC identified in this architecture is an
   MPLS or a GMPLS LSR.  Consideration must therefore be given to the
   manageability of the LSRs and the additional manageability
   constraints applicable to the TE LSP signaling protocols.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 35] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

   In addition to allowing the PCC management described in the
   previous sections, an LSR must be configurable to determine whether
   it will use a remote PCE at all, the options being to use hop-by-
   hop routing or to supply the PCE function itself.  It is likely to
   be important to be able to distinguish within an LSR whether the
   route used for a TE LSP was supplied in a signaling message from
   another LSR, by an operator, or by a PCE, and, in the case where it
   was supplied in a signaling message, whether it was enhanced or
   expanded by a PCE.
  1. Reuse of existing policy models and mechanisms
   As policy support mechanisms can be quite extensive, it is
   worthwhile to explore to what extent this prior work can be
   leveraged and applied to PCE.  This desire to leverage prior work
   should not be interpreted as a requirement to use any particular
   solution or protocol.

9.6. Impact on Network Operation

 This architecture may have two impacts on the operation of a network.
 It increases TE LSP setup times while requests are sent to and
 processed by a remote PCE, and it may cause congestion within the
 network if a significant number of computation requests are issued in
 a small period of time.  These issues are most severe in busy
 networks and after network failures, although the effect may be
 mitigated if the protection paths are precomputed or if the path
 computation load is distributed among a set of PCEs.
 Issues of potential congestion during recovery from failures may be
 mitigated through the use of pre-established protection schemes such
 as fast reroute.
 It is important that network congestion be managed proactively
 because it may be impossible to manage it reactively once the network
 is congested.  It should be possible for an operator to rate limit
 the requests that a PCC sends to a PCE, and a PCE should be able to
 report impending congestion (according to a configured threshold)
 both to the operator and to its PCCs.

9.7. Other Considerations

 No other management considerations have been identified.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 36] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

10. Security Considerations

 The impact of the use of a PCE-based architecture must be considered
 in the light of the impact that it has on the security of the
 existing routing and signaling protocols and techniques in use within
 the network.  The impact may be less likely to be an issue in the
 case of intra-domain use of PCE, but an increase in inter-domain
 information flows and the facilitation of inter-domain path
 establishment may increase the vulnerability to security attacks.
 Of particular relevance are the implications for confidentiality
 inherent in a PCE-based architecture for multi-domain networks.  It
 is not necessarily the case that a multi-domain PCE solution will
 compromise security, but solutions MUST examine their effects in this
 Applicability statements for particular combinations of signaling,
 routing and path computation techniques are expected to contain
 detailed security sections.
 Note that the use of a non-local PCE (that is, one not co-resident
 with the PCC) does introduce additional security issues.  Most
 notable among these are:
  1. interception of PCE requests or responses;
  1. impersonation of PCE or PCC;
  1. falsification of TE information, policy information, or PCE

capabilities; and

  1. denial-of-service attacks on PCE or PCE communication mechanisms.
 It is expected that PCE solutions will address these issues in detail
 using authentication and security techniques.

11. Acknowledgements

 The authors would like to extend their warmest thanks to (in
 alphabetical order) Arthi Ayyangar, Zafar Ali, Lou Berger, Mohamed
 Boucadair, Igor Bryskin, Dean Cheng, Vivek Dubey, Kireeti Kompella,
 Jean-Louis Le Roux, Stephen Morris, Eiji Oki, Dimitri Papadimitriou,
 Richard Rabbat, Payam Torab, Takao Shimizu, and Raymond Zhang for
 their review and suggestions.  Lou Berger provided valuable and
 detailed contributions to the discussion of policy in this document.
 Thanks also to Pekka Savola, Russ Housley and Dave Kessens for review
 and constructive discussions during the final stages of publication.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 37] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

12. Informative References

 [RFC2702]  Awduche, D., Malcolm, J., Agogbua, J., O'Dell, M., and J.
            McManus, "Requirements for Traffic Engineering Over MPLS",
            RFC 2702, September 1999.
 [RFC4364]  Rosen, E. and Y. Rekhter, "BGP/MPLS IP Virtual Private
            Networks (VPNs)", RFC 4364, February 2006.
 [RFC3209]  Awduche, D., Berger, L., Gan, D., Li, T., Srinivasan, V.,
            and G. Swallow, "RSVP-TE: Extensions to RSVP for LSP
            Tunnels", RFC 3209, December 2001.
 [RFC3630]  Katz, D., Kompella, K., and D. Yeung, "Traffic Engineering
            (TE) Extensions to OSPF Version 2", RFC 3630, September
 [RFC3413]  Levi, D., Meyer, P., and B. Stewart, "Simple Network
            Management Protocol (SNMP) Applications", STD 62, RFC
            3413, December 2002.
 [RFC3473]  Berger, L., "Generalized Multi-Protocol Label Switching
            (GMPLS) Signaling Resource ReserVation Protocol-Traffic
            Engineering (RSVP-TE) Extensions", RFC 3473, January 2003.
 [RFC3748]  Smit, H. and T. Li, "Intermediate System to Intermediate
            System (IS-IS) Extensions for Traffic Engineering (TE)",
            RFC 3784, June 2004.
 [RFC3812]  Srinivasan, C., Viswanathan, A., and T. Nadeau,
            "Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Traffic Engineering
            (TE) Management Information Base (MIB)", RFC 3812, June
 [RFC4105]  Le Roux, J.-L., Vasseur, J.-P., and J. Boyle,
            "Requirements for Inter-Area MPLS Traffic Engineering",
            RFC 4105, June 2005.
 [RFC4216]  Zhang, R. and J.-P. Vasseur, "MPLS Inter-Autonomous System
            (AS) Traffic Engineering (TE) Requirements", RFC 4216,
            November 2005.
 [MLN]      Shiomoto, K., Papdimitriou, D., Le Roux, J.-L., Vigoureux,
            M., and D. Brungard, "Requirements for GMPLS-based multi-
            region and multi-layer networks (MRN/MLN)", Work in
            Progress, June 2006.

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 38] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

Authors' Addresses

 Adrian Farrel
 Old Dog Consulting
 Jean-Philippe Vasseur
 1414 Massachussetts Avenue
 Boxborough, MA 01719
 Jerry Ash
 Room MT D5-2A01
 200 Laurel Avenue
 Middletown, NJ 07748,
 Phone: (732)-420-4578
 Fax:   (732)-368-8659

Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 39] RFC 4655 PCE Architecture August 2006

Full Copyright Statement

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 contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
 retain all their rights.
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Farrel, et al. Informational [Page 40]

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