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Network Working Group P. Traina Request for Comments: 1773 cisco Systems Obsoletes: 1656 March 1995 Category: Informational

                 Experience with the BGP-4 protocol

Status of this Memo

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


 The purpose of this memo is to document how the requirements for
 advancing a routing protocol to Draft Standard have been satisfied by
 Border Gateway Protocol version 4 (BGP-4).  This report documents
 experience with BGP.  This is the second of two reports on the BGP
 protocol.  As required by the Internet Architecure Board (IAB) and
 the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), the first report will
 present a performance analysis of the BGP protocol.
 The remaining sections of this memo document how BGP satisfies
 General Requirements specified in Section 3.0, as well as
 Requirements for Draft Standard specified in Section 5.0 of the
 "Internet Routing Protocol Standardization Criteria" document [1].
 This report is based on the initial work of Peter Lothberg (Ebone),
 Andrew Partan (Alternet), and several others.  Details of their work
 were presented at the Twenty-fifth IETF meeting and are available
 from the IETF proceedings.
 Please send comments to


 The BGP protocol has been developed by the IDR (formerly BGP) Working
 Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force.  I would like to
 express deepest thanks to Yakov Rekhter and Sue Hares, co-chairs of
 the IDR working group.  I'd also like to explicitly thank Yakov
 Rekhter and Tony Li for the review of this document as well as
 constructive and valuable comments.

Traina [Page 1] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995


 BGP is an inter-autonomous system routing protocol designed for
 TCP/IP internets.  Version 1 of the BGP protocol was published in RFC
 1105. Since then BGP Versions 2, 3, and 4 have been developed.
 Version 2 was documented in RFC 1163. Version 3 is documented in RFC
 1267.  The changes between versions 1, 2 and 3 are explained in
 Appendix 2 of [2].  All of the functionality that was present in the
 previous versions is present in version 4.
 BGP version 2 removed from the protocol the concept of "up", "down",
 and "horizontal" relations between autonomous systems that were
 present in version 1.  BGP version 2 introduced the concept of path
 attributes.  In addition, BGP version 2 clarified parts of the
 protocol that were "under-specified".
 BGP version 3 lifted some of the restrictions on the use of the
 NEXT_HOP path attribute, and added the BGP Identifier field to the
 BGP OPEN message.  It also clarifies the procedure for distributing
 BGP routes between the BGP speakers within an autonomous system.
 BGP version 4 redefines the (previously class-based) network layer
 reachability portion of the updates to specify prefixes of arbitrary
 length in order to represent multiple classful networks in a single
 entry as discussed in [5].  BGP version 4 has also modified the AS-
 PATH attribute so that sets of autonomous systems, as well as
 individual ASs may be described.  In addition, BGP version for has
 redescribed the INTER-AS METRIC attribute as the MULTI-EXIT
 Possible applications of BGP in the Internet are documented in [3].
 The BGP protocol was developed by the IDR Working Group of the
 Internet Engineering Task Force. This Working Group has a mailing
 list,, where discussions of protocol features and
 operation are held. The IDR Working Group meets regularly during the
 quarterly Internet Engineering Task Force conferences. Reports of
 these meetings are published in the IETF's Proceedings.


 A BGP-4 Management Information Base has been published [4].  The MIB
 was written by Steve Willis (Wellfleet), John Burruss (Wellfleet),
 and John Chu (IBM).
 Apart from a few system variables, the BGP MIB is broken into two
 tables: the BGP Peer Table and the BGP Received Path Attribute Table.

Traina [Page 2] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 The Peer Table reflects information about BGP peer connections, such
 as their state and current activity. The Received Path Attribute
 Table contains all attributes received from all peers before local
 routing policy has been applied. The actual attributes used in
 determining a route are a subset of the received attribute table.

Security Considerations

 BGP provides flexible and extendible mechanism for authentication and
 security.  The mechanism allows to support schemes with various
 degree of complexity.  All BGP sessions are authenticated based on
 the BGP Identifier of a peer.  In addition, all BGP sessions are
 authenticated based on the autonomous system number advertised by a
 peer.  As part of the BGP authentication mechanism, the protocol
 allows to carry encrypted digital signature in every BGP message.
 All authentication failures result in sending the NOTIFICATION
 messages and immediate termination of the BGP connection.
 Since BGP runs over TCP and IP, BGP's authentication scheme may be
 augmented by any authentication or security mechanism provided by
 either TCP or IP.
 However, since BGP runs over TCP and IP, BGP is vulnerable to the
 same denial of service or authentication attacks that are present in
 any other TCP based protocol.


 There are multiple independent interoperable implementations of BGP
 currently available.  This section gives a brief overview of the
 implementations that are currently used in the operational Internet.
 They are:
  1. cisco Systems
  2. gated consortium
  3. 3COM
  4. Bay Networks (Wellfleet)
  5. Proteon
 To facilitate efficient BGP implementations, and avoid commonly made
 mistakes, the implementation experience with BGP-4 in with cisco's
 implementation was documented as part of RFC 1656 [4].
 Implementors are strongly encouraged to follow the implementation
 suggestions outlined in that document and in the appendix of [2].

Traina [Page 3] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 Experience with implementing BGP-4 showed that the protocol is
 relatively simple to implement. On the average BGP-4 implementation
 takes about 2 man/months effort, not including any restructuring that
 may be needed to support CIDR.
 Note that, as required by the IAB/IESG for Draft Standard status,
 there are multiple interoperable completely independent

Operational experience

 This section discusses operational experience with BGP and BGP-4.
 BGP has been used in the production environment since 1989, BGP-4
 since 1993.  This use involves at least two of the implementations
 listed above.  Production use of BGP includes utilization of all
 significant features of the protocol.  The present production
 environment, where BGP is used as the inter-autonomous system routing
 protocol, is highly heterogeneous.  In terms of the link bandwidth it
 varies from 28 Kbits/sec to 150 Mbits/sec.  In terms of the actual
 routes that run BGP it ranges from a relatively slow performance
 PC/RT to a very high performance RISC based CPUs, and includes both
 the special purpose routers and the general purpose workstations
 running UNIX.
 In terms of the actual topologies it varies from a very sparse
 (spanning tree of ICM) to a quite dense (NSFNET backbone).
 At the time of this writing BGP-4 is used as an inter-autonomous
 system routing protocol between ALL significant autonomous systems,
 including, but by all means not limited to: Alternet, ANS, Ebone,
 ICM, IIJ, MCI, NSFNET, and Sprint.  The smallest know backbone
 consists of one router, whereas the largest contains nearly 90 BGP
 speakers.  All together, there are several hundred known BGP speaking
 BGP is used both for the exchange of routing information between a
 transit and a stub autonomous system, and for the exchange of routing
 information between multiple transit autonomous systems.  There is no
 distinction between sites historically considered backbones vs
 "regional" networks.
 Within most transit networks, BGP is used as the exclusive carrier of
 the exterior routing information.  At the time of this writing within
 a few sites use BGP in conjunction with an interior routing protocol
 to carry exterior routing information.

Traina [Page 4] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 The full set of exterior routes that is carried by BGP is well over
 20,000 aggregate entries representing several times that number of
 connected networks.
 Operational experience described above involved multi-vendor
 deployment (cisco, and "gated").
 Specific details of the operational experience with BGP in Alternet,
 ICM and Ebone were presented at the Twenty-fifth IETF meeting
 (Toronto, Canada) by Peter Lothberg (Ebone), Andrew Partan (Alternet)
 and Paul Traina (cisco).
 Operational experience with BGP exercised all basic features of the
 protocol, including authentication, routing loop suppression and the
 new features of BGP-4, enhanced metrics and route aggregation.
 Bandwidth consumed by BGP has been measured at the interconnection
 points between CA*Net and T1 NSFNET Backbone. The results of these
 measurements were presented by Dennis Ferguson during the Twenty-
 first IETF, and are available from the IETF Proceedings. These
 results showed clear superiority of BGP as compared with EGP in the
 area of bandwidth consumed by the protocol. Observations on the
 CA*Net by Dennis Ferguson, and on the T1 NSFNET Backbone by Susan
 Hares confirmed clear superiority of the BGP protocol family as
 compared with EGP in the area of CPU requirements.

Migration to BGP version 4

 On multiple occasions some members of IETF expressed concern about
 the migration path from classful protocols to classless protocols
 such as BGP-4.
 BGP-4 was rushed into production use on the Internet because of the
 exponential growth of routing tables and the increase of memory and
 CPU utilization required by BGP.  As such,  migration issues that
 normally would have stalled deployment were cast aside in favor of
 pragmatic and intelligent deployment of BGP-4 by network operators.
 There was much discussion about creating "route exploders" which
 would enumerate individual class-based networks of CIDR allocations
 to BGP-3 speaking routers,  however a cursory examination showed that
 this would vastly hasten the requirement for more CPU and memory
 resources for these older implementations.  There would be no way
 internal to BGP to differentiate between known used networks and the
 unused portions of the CIDR allocation.
 The migration path chosen by the majority of the operators was known
 as "CIDR, default, or die!"

Traina [Page 5] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 To test BGP-4 operation, a virtual "shadow" Internet was created by
 linking Alternet, Ebone, ICM, and cisco over GRE based tunnels.
 Experimentation was done with actual live routing information by
 establishing BGP version 3 connections with the production networks
 at those sites.  This allowed extensive regression testing before
 deploying BGP-4 on production equipment.
 After testing on the shadow network, BGP-4 implementations were
 deployed on the production equipment at those sites.  BGP-4 capable
 routers negotiated BGP-4 connections and interoperated with other
 sites by speaking BGP-3.  Several test aggregate routes were injected
 into this network in addition to class-based networks for
 compatibility with BGP-3 speakers.
 At this point, the shadow-Internet was re-chartered as an
 "operational experience" network.  tunnel connections were
 established with most major transit service operators so that
 operators could gain some understanding of how the introduction of
 aggregate networks would affect routing.
 After being satisfied with the initial deployment of BGP-4, a number
 of sites chose to withdraw their class-based advertisements and rely
 only on their CIDR aggregate advertisements.  This provided
 motivation for transit providers who had not migrated to either do
 so, accept a default route, or lose connectivity to several popular


 BGP version 4 re-defined the old INTER-AS metric as a MULTI-EXIT-
 DISCRIMINATOR.  This value may be used in the tie breaking process
 when selecting a preferred path to a given address space.  The MED is
 meant to only be used when comparing paths received from different
 external peers in the same AS to indicate the preference of the
 originating AS.
 The MED was purposely designed to be a "weak" metric that would only
 be used late in the best-path decision process.  The BGP working
 group was concerned that any metric specified by a remote operator
 would only affect routing in a local AS if no other preference was
 specified.  A paramount goal of the design of the MED was insure that
 peers could not "shed" or "absorb" traffic for networks that they
 The LOCAL-PREFERENCE attribute was added so a local operator could
 easily configure a policy that overrode the standard best path
 determination mechanism without configuring local preference on each

Traina [Page 6] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 One shortcoming in the BGP4 specification was a suggestion for a
 default value of LOCAL-PREF to be assumed if none was provided.
 Defaults of 0 or the maximum value each have range limitations, so a
 common default would aid in the interoperation of multi-vendor
 routers in the same AS (since LOCAL-PREF is a local administration
 knob, there is no interoperability drawback across AS boundaries).
 Another area where more exploration is required is a method whereby
 an originating AS may influence the best path selection process.  For
 example, a dual-connected site may select one AS as a primary transit
 service provider and have one as a backup.
                  /---- transit B ----\
      end-customer                     transit A----
                  \---- transit C ----/
 In a topology where the two transit service providers connect to a
 third provider,  the real decision is performed by the third provider
 and there is no mechanism for indicating a preference should the
 third provider wish to respect that preference.
 A general purpose suggestion that has been brought up is the
 possibility of carrying an optional vector corresponding to the AS-
 PATH where each transit AS may indicate a preference value for a
 given route.  Cooperating ASs may then chose traffic based upon
 comparison of "interesting" portions of this vector according to
 routing policy.
 While protecting a given ASs routing policy is of paramount concern,
 avoiding extensive hand configuration of routing policies needs to be
 examined more carefully in future BGP-like protocols.

Internal BGP in large autonomous systems

 While not strictly a protocol issue, one other concern has been
 raised by network operators who need to maintain autonomous systems
 with a large number of peers.  Each speaker peering with an external
 router is responsible for propagating reachability and path
 information to all other transit and border routers within that AS.
 This is typically done by establishing internal BGP connections to
 all transit and border routers in the local AS.
 In a large AS, this leads to an n^2 mesh of TCP connections and some
 method of configuring and maintaining those connections.  BGP does
 not specify how this information is to be propagated,  so
 alternatives, such as injecting BGP attribute information into the
 local IGP have been suggested.  Also, there is effort underway to
 develop internal BGP "route reflectors" or a reliable multicast

Traina [Page 7] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 transport of IBGP information which would reduce configuration,
 memory and CPU requirements of conveying information to all other
 internal BGP peers.

Internet Dynamics

 As discussed in [7], the driving force in CPU and bandwidth
 utilization is the dynamic nature of routing in the Internet.  As the
 net has grown, the number of changes per second has increased.  We
 automatically get some level of damping when more specific NLRI is
 aggregated into larger blocks, however this isn't sufficient.  In
 Appendix 6 of [2] are descriptions of dampening techniques that
 should be applied to advertisements.  In future specifications of
 BGP-like protocols,  damping methods should be considered for
 mandatory inclusion in compliant implementations.


 The BGP-4 protocol has been developed by the IDR/BGP Working Group of
 the Internet Engineering Task Force.  I would like to express thanks
 to Yakov Rekhter for providing RFC 1266.  I'd also like to explicitly
 thank Yakov Rekhter and Tony Li for their review of this document as
 well as their constructive and valuable comments.

Author's Address

 Paul Traina
 cisco Systems, Inc.
 170 W. Tasman Dr.
 San Jose, CA 95134


 [1] Hinden, R., "Internet Routing Protocol Standardization Criteria",
     RFC 1264, BBN, October 1991.
 [2] Rekhter, Y., and T. Li, "A Border Gateway Protocol 4 (BGP-4)",
     RFC 1771, T.J. Watson Research Center, IBM Corp., cisco Systems,
     March 1995.
 [3] Rekhter, Y., and P. Gross, Editors, "Application of the Border
     Gateway Protocol in the Internet", RFC 1772, T.J. Watson Research
     Center, IBM Corp., MCI, March 1995.

Traina [Page 8] RFC 1773 Experience with the BGP-4 Protocol March 1995

 [4] Willis, S., Burruss, J., and J. Chu, "Definitions of Managed
     Objects for the Fourth Version of the Border Gateway Protocol
     (BGP-4) using SMIv2", RFC 1657, Wellfleet Communications Inc.,
     IBM Corp., July 1994.
 [5] Fuller V., Li. T., Yu J., and K. Varadhan, "Classless Inter-
     Domain Routing (CIDR): an Address Assignment and Aggregation
     Strategy", RFC 1519, BARRNet, cisco, MERIT, OARnet, September
 [6] Traina P., "BGP-4 Protocol Document Roadmap and Implementation
     Experience", RFC 1656, cisco Systems, July 1994.
 [7] Traina P., "BGP Version 4 Protocol Analysis", RFC 1774, cisco
     Systems, March 1995.

Traina [Page 9]

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