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Next steps in signaling                                   H. Schulzrinne
Internet-Draft                                               Columbia U.
Expires: December 22, 2003                                 June 23, 2003

       GIMPS:  General Internet Messaging Protocol for Signaling

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2003). All Rights Reserved.


   The Generic Internet Messaging Protocol for Signaling (GIMPS)
   provides a generic transport messaging service to set up, modify and
   tear down signaling state in signaling nodes.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Requirements notation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   3.  Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Overview of Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   5.  Transport Usage  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
   6.  Message Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
   7.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   7.1 Confidentiality  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   7.2 Integrity  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   7.3 Authentication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   7.4 Denial of Service Prevention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
       Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
       Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
       Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements . . . . . . . . 17

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1. Requirements notation

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [1].

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2. Introduction

   Alternate name: GIST: Generic Internet Signaling Transport

   Application-neutral: GIMPS is designed to support the largest range
      of signaling applications.  While a number of such applications
      have been identified, it appears likely that new applications will
      emerge.  (This was the case after the development of RSVP, for

   Mobility support: End systems can change their network attachment
      point and network address during a session.

   Efficient: Signaling often occurs before an application such as an IP
      telephone conversation can commence, so that any signaling delay
      becomes noticeable to the application.  Signaling delays are
      incurred by the delay in finding signaling nodes along the path
      (peer discovery), in retransmitting lost signaling messages and in
      setting up security associations between nodes, among other

   IP version neutral: GIMPS supports both IPv4 and IPv6.

   Transport neutral: GIMPS can operate over any message or
      stream-oriented transport layer, including UDP, DCCP, TCP and
      SCTP. [TBD:  support raw IP?] Messages sent over protocols that do
      not offer a native fragmentation service, such as UDP, are
      strictly limited in size and rate to avoid network congestion and
      loss-amplification problems. [TBD:  The 'transport' terminology
      tends to confuse readers.  Maybe we should rename the NTLP as a
      messaging layer; this document uses the term messaging instead.]

   Proxy support: The end systems in a session may not be capable of
      handling either the signaling transport or the application and may
      instead rely on proxies to initiate and terminate signaling

   Signaling involves the setting up, modifying and tearing down of
   state in network elements.  GIMPS maintains state along the data path
   of a data session [ref].  Examples of such state include network
   resource allotments (for "resource reservation"), a firewall
   configuration and active network state.  Each of these applications
   is considered a signaling service that uses the transport service
   defined in this document.  Different applications may make use of
   different services provided by GTSP.

   Signaling establishes state sessions, which have a defined beginning
   and end. While the beginning of a session is always established by

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   explicit protocol action, a session may end by a signaling teardown
   message or a time-out ("soft state").

   Not every router along the datapath needs to be involved in the
   signaling session. Indeed, it appears likely that only a subset of
   nodes will be aware of any given signaling application.

   A related set of applications visits nodes along the data path, to
   discover path properties, for example, but does not leave any state
   behind. This can be considered a signaling application that
   establishes and tears down state in the same message and thus is
   within the scope of this effort.

   GIMPS is not an end-to-end transport mechanism for a higher-layer
   signaling.  An example of the latter would be SCTP, used to transport
   ISUP (SS7 signaling) messages between two nodes.  In GIMPS, there are
   almost always more than two participants in a signaling session, as
   there is not much point in using a signaling protocol just to
   communicate between two end points.

   GIMPS is not meant to manage application-layer state, but rather to
   manage state related to data transport. Thus, GIMPS messages need to
   follow the path of the data. In that crucial respect, it differs from
   application signaling protocols such as the control component of ftp,
   SIP [4] and RTSP.

   A more detailed discussion can be found in the Next Steps in
   Signaling Framework [6].

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3. Objectives

   The signaling transport mechanism has to accomplish two fundamental

   1.  Discover the set of nodes along the path from the data sender to
       the receiver (peer discovery);

   2.  Deliver signaling information along this chain of nodes.

   In many cases, signaling information needs to be delivered reliably
   between the signaling initiator and responder.  Some applications may
   implement their own reliability mechanism, but experience with RSVP
   has shown [3] that relying on soft-state refreshes itself may yield
   unsatisfactory performance if signaling messages are lost even

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4. Overview of Operations

   GIMPS does not attempt to replicate a full-featured transport
   protocol such as TCP or SCTP.  It does not support congestion
   control, message fragmentation, flow control, acknowledgment windows
   and selective acknowledgements (SACK).  Thus, its "raw" efficiency in
   more demanding network conditions is likely to be low. Instead, GIMPS
   leverages the continuing advances in transport protocols such as TCP
   and SCTP for messages where these features are useful. For small
   messages and discovery, it uses UDP [or raw IP.]

   Each node maintains a forwarding state table that includes

   session identifier: Cryptographically random and globally unique
      session identifier;

   destination address: The destination address of the message,
      contained in the GIMPS message.  (This is not necessarily the IP
      address in the message.)

   Generally, each session will have at least two entries, one for the
   initiator-to-responder direction, the other for the
   responder-to-initiator message flow.  If the end points are mobile,
   additional entries may be added.  The forwarding state table entries
   are discarded after the Rediscovery Period (RDP).

   For efficiency, GIMPS offers two modes a operation, a "datagram" mode
   for small, infrequent messages with modest delay constraint and a
   "connection" mode for larger data objects or where fast setup in the
   face of packet loss is desirable. The datagram mode can use any
   lower-layer unreliable datagram transport mechanism, with UDP as the
   initial choice. The connection mode can use any stream or
   message-oriented transport protocol, including TCP and SCTP.

   On receiving a GIMPS message, a node performs the operations
   described below.  (It does not matter whether the message arrived
   over a reliable or unreliable lower-layer transport mechanism.)

   Below, we call the GIMPS node that tries to determine the next-hop
   peer the querying node.

   1.  The GIMPS node compares the GIMPS destination network address
       (not the lower-layer network address) to its own address.  If it
       matches one of its addresses, the message has arrived and is
       passed to the signaling application for further processing.

   2.  The GIMPS node inspects the session identifier in the incoming
       message and determines if it matches an existing session.  It

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       also compares the responder address to the responder contained in
       the state record.  If both match and the rediscovery period (RDP)
       has not expired, the node forwards the message to the next node
       on the existing transport and security association (e.g., TCP
       connection, TLS session, or IPsec session).

       If there is no known next-hop, the node checks the message size
       and compares it against the maximum datagram size (MDS, below), a
       global constant.  (Since the message may be forwarded across
       multiple hops, knowledge of the link MTU size is not sufficient.)
       If the message size falls below MDS, the message is forwarded
       towards the network address contained in the GIMPS message, i.e.,
       the current responder and marked with an IP router-alert option
       that causes it to be intercepted by the next GIMPS-capable node.
       The GIMPS message uses the source address of this node, to
       facilitate the discovery of network problems and to allow the
       next node to return a confirmation message (see below).

       If the message size exceeds MDS, the node constructs a discovery
       message that has the same message type, session identifier and
       client-layer identifier as the GIMPS message triggering it. It
       then transmits it in the same manner described in the last

       Messages that arrive during the discovery phase can be queued or
       also sent forth as discovery messages.  Messages that exceed MDS
       in size MUST be queued.  To avoid network congestion, a node MUST
       NOT have more than one message outstanding at any given time. If
       no response is received within the retransmission interval (RTI,
       default 1 s), the message is retransmitted. (No instance
       identifier is used since round-trip time estimation is unlikely
       to be successful.)

       The node records the transport association or network address of
       the previous hop. This information is used for messages that are
       sent by the responder to the initiator.

   3.  When the next node receives a GIMPS message with the
       'response-requested' flag, it sends a response to the IP address
       of that message, confirming receipt.  The response uses the
       source address of the next-hop node and is addressed to the
       querying node.  The response includes a cookie that is used to
       prevent denial-of-service (state-exhaustion) attacks by nodes
       spoofing the source address in the GIMPS message.  The node only
       establishes the GIMPS session if it contains a valid cookie.

   4.  When a node receives a message, regardless of the transport
       protocol, the node records the transport association that the

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       message arrived on in the state table.  This information is then
       used to route messages in the opposite direction.  For example,
       if a discovery message arrived with a source address of A and a
       destination address of B, the node records that any message with
       destination address B can reach B via that association.

   5.  When a node receives a response to a pending discovery message,
       it determines if there is an existing transport and/or security
       association with that node.  If not, it establishes such a
       connection or association.  (The response indicates the types of
       security and transport mechanisms that are available, e.g.,
       TLS-over-SCTP, UDP, etc.)

       In either case, the GIMPS node sends any queued messages on that
       new or existing association. If the message indicates the error
       condition that no state was established, the node extracts the
       cookie from the message and tries again, this time addressing the
       message to the correct next-hop destination.

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5. Transport Usage

   As noted above, GIMPS can operate in a datagram mode, for peer
   discovery and short-message delivery, and in connection mode, for
   messages that exceed the size threshold MDS (typically, 500 bytes).
   Nodes MUST support both modes, but applications can be structured so
   that they only use one or the other mode.  Connection mode requires
   the datagram mode for data-path peer discovery; in the future, there
   may be other peer-discovery mechanism that do not require sending
   data. However, these are beyond the scope of this document.

   It is possible to combine these two modes along a chain of nodes,
   without coordinationor manual configuration.  This allows, for
   example, the use of datagram modes at the edges of the network and
   connection-oriented operation in the core of the network.  Such
   combinations may make operation more efficient for mobile endpoints,
   while allowing multiplexing of signaling messages across shared
   security and transport associations between core routers.

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6. Message Format

   The following items are contained in each GIMPS message:

   Initiator address: The current network (IPv4 or IPv6) address of the
      initiator of the signaling session.  The initiator may change
      during a session, e.g., if the initiator moves to a different

   Responder address: The current network (IPv4 or IPv6) address of the
      destination (responder) of the signaling session.  The responder
      may change during a session, e.g., if the initiator moves to a
      different network.

   Session identifier: The GIMPS session identifier is a long,
      cryptographically random identifier chosen by the initiator.  The
      length is TBD, but 128 bits should be more than sufficient to make
      the probability of collisions orders of magnitude lower than other
      failure reasons.

   Hop counter: A hop counter prevents a message from looping
      indefinitely. (Since messages may get translated between different
      lower-layer transport protocols, the IP hop count cannot be relied

   Service identifier: The service identifier [TBD: application
      identifier?] describes the signaling application, such as resource
      reservation or firewall control.

   Message identifier: A four-octet message counter, used to associate
      messages with their confirmations.

   Cookies: Each message contains two X-octet cookies, generated for
      each hop.  The cookie in the next request with the same session
      identifier and needs to be designed so that a node can determine
      the validity of a cookie without keeping state.

   Flags: A number of flags define protocol operations, such as
      "confirmation requested" (hop-by-hop confirmation message).

   Message type: The operation code defines three operations:

      establish: Establish or refresh a session.

      refresh: Refresh only if the session exists [TBD: is this useful?]

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      failure: A message-layer failure occurred, such as a mis-formatted
         message or an authentication or integrity check failure.

      teardown: Tear down.

      confirmation: Confirms the receipt of an earlier message, with the
         message number included.

   The following items are optional:

   Lifetime: The lifetime of a session in the absence of refreshes,
      measured in seconds. Defaults to 30 seconds. Cannot be changed by
      any intermediate node.

   Confirm: Confirms receipt of a message. [May not be needed if
      'confirmation' automatically means that the message number is

   The message content is encoded in an RSVP-style format, i.e.,
   consisting of type-length-value (TLV) objects. If transported on a
   bytestream-oriented protocol, the whole message is preceded by a
   four-octet length field.

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7. Security Considerations

7.1 Confidentiality

   GIMPS can use lower-layer transport functionality, such as TLS or
   IPsec, to ensure message confidentiality.  In many cases,
   confidentiality of messages is not likely to be a prime concern at
   the messaging layer, in particular since messages are often sent to
   parties which are unknown ahead of time.  Signaling applications will
   likely have their own mechanism for securing content as necessary.

7.2 Integrity

   GIMPS can use lower-layer hop-by-hop transport functionality, such as
   TLS or IPsec, to ensure message integrity.  Message-layer
   cryptographic integrity protection requires a shared secret or that
   the receiver knows the public key of the sender.  Some components of
   the message, such as the hop count, will need to be modified by GIMPS
   nodes, so that only hop-by-hop integrity is likely to be useful for
   the messaging layer part.  The use of CMS [5] encapsulation is

7.3 Authentication

   GIMPS nodes can assure themselves of the identity of the next hop via
   the the lower-layer transport functionality.  However, with
   discovery, there is no effective way to know what is the legitimate
   next hop as opposed to an impostor.

7.4 Denial of Service Prevention

   GIMPS is designed so that each connection-less discovery message only
   generates at most one response, so that a GIMPS node cannot become
   the source of a denial of service attack.

   However, GIMPS can still be subjected to denial-of-service attacks
   where an attacker using forged source addresses forces a note to
   establish state without return routability, causing a problem similar
   to TCP SYN flood attacks.  There are two types of state attacks and
   one computational resource attack.  In the first state attack, an
   attacker floods a node with messages that the node has to store until
   it can determine the next hop.  If the destination address is chosen
   so that there is no next hop, the node would accumulate messages for
   several seconds until the discovery retransmission attempt times out.
   The second type of state-based attack causes GIMPS state to be
   established by bogus messages.  A related computational/
   network-resource attack uses unverified messages to cause a node to
   make AAA queries or attempt to cryptographically verify a digital

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   signature.  (RSVP is vulnerable to this type of attack.)

   There are at least three defenses against these attacks:

   1.  The receiving node does not establish a session or discover its
       next hop on receiving the unreliable (discovery) message, but
       rather waits for a setup message on a reliable channel.  If the
       reliable channel exists, the additional delay is one one-way
       delay and is no more than the minimal theoretically possible
       delay of a three-way handshake, i.e., 1.5 node-to-node round-trip
       times.  The delay gets significantly larger if a new connection
       needs to be established first.

   2.  The response to the initial discovery message contains a cookie.
       The previous hop repeats the discovery with the cookie included.
       State is only established for messages that contain a valid
       cookie.  The setup delay is also 1.5 round-trip times.  (This
       mechanism is similar to that in SCTP [2].)

   3.  If there is a chance that the next-hop nodes shares a secret with
       the previous hop, the sender could include a hash of the session
       ID and the sender's secret. The receiver can then verify that the
       message was likely sent by the purported source. This does not
       scale well, but may work if most nodes tend to communicate with a
       small peer clique of nodes. (In that case, however, they might as
       well establish more-or-less permanent transport sessions with
       each other.)

   These techniques are complementary; we chose a combination of the
   first and second method.

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Normative References

   [1]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
        Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [2]  Stewart, R., Xie, Q., Morneault, K., Sharp, C., Schwarzbauer,
        H., Taylor, T., Rytina, I., Kalla, M., Zhang, L. and V. Paxson,
        "Stream Control Transmission Protocol", RFC 2960, October 2000.

   [3]  Berger, L., Gan, D., Swallow, G., Pan, P., Tommasi, F. and S.
        Molendini, "RSVP Refresh Overhead Reduction Extensions", RFC
        2961, April 2001.

   [4]  Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, G., Johnston, A.,
        Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M. and E. Schooler, "SIP:
        Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261, June 2002.

   [5]  Housley, R., "Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS)", RFC 3369,
        August 2002.

   [6]  Hancock, R., "Next Steps in Signaling: Framework",
        draft-ietf-nsis-fw-02 (work in progress), March 2003.

Author's Address

   Henning Schulzrinne
   Columbia University
   Department of Computer Science
   450 Computer Science Building
   New York, NY  10027

   Phone: +1 212 939 7042
   EMail: hgs+nsis@cs.columbia.edu
   URI:   http://www.cs.columbia.edu

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Appendix A. Acknowledgements

   This document is based on the discussions within the IETF NSIS
   working group.  The comments by ...  helped improve the document.

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