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Versions: (draft-swallow-mpls-ecmp-bcp) 00 01 02 03 RFC 4928

Network Working Group                                     George Swallow
Internet Draft                                       Cisco Systems, Inc.
Category: Standards Track
Expiration Date: March 2005
                                                          Stewart Bryant
                                                     Cisco Systems, Inc.

                                                           Loa Andersson
                                                                   Acreo

                                                          September 2004


        Avoiding Equal Cost Multipath Treatment in MPLS Networks


                    draft-ietf-mpls-ecmp-bcp-00.txt

Status of this Memo

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, the authors certify that any
   applicable patent or other IPR claims of which we are aware have been
   disclosed, and any of which we become aware will be disclosed, in
   accordance with RFC 3668.

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 5 of RFC3667.  Internet-Drafts are working
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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).

   Abstract




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      This document describes the Equal Cost Multipath (ECMP) behavior
      of currently deployed MPLS networks and makes best practice
      recommendations for anyone defining an application to run over an
      MPLS network and wishes to avoid such treatment.



Contents

    1      Introduction  ...........................................   3
    2      Current EMCP Practices  .................................   3
    3      Recommendations for Avoiding ECMP Treatment  ............   4
    4      Security Considerations  ................................   5
    5      References  .............................................   5
    5.1    Normative References  ...................................   5
    6      Authors' Addresses  .....................................   6
    7      Full Copyright and Intellectual Property Statements  ....   6


































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1. Introduction

   This document describes the Equal Cost Multipath (ECMP) behavior of
   currently deployed MPLS networks and makes best practice
   recommendations for anyone defining an application to run over an
   MPLS network and wishes to avoid such treatment.  While turning ECMP
   off is an option open to most operators, few (if any) have chosen to
   do so.  Thus ECMP behavior is a reality that must be reckoned with.



2. Current EMCP Practices

   The MPLS label stack and Fowarding Equivalence Classes are defined in
   [RFC3031].  The MPLS label stack does not carry a Protocol
   Identifier.  Instead the payload of an MPLS packet is identified by
   the Forwarding Equivalence Class (FEC) of the bottom most label.
   Thus it is not possible to know the payload type if one does not know
   the label binding for the bottom most label.  Since an LSR which is
   processing a label stack need only know the binding for the label(s)
   it must process, it is very often the case that LSRs along an LSP are
   unable to determine the payload type of the carried contents.

   IP networks have taken advantage of multiple paths through a network
   by splitting traffic flows across those paths.  The general name for
   this practice is Equal Cost Multipath or ECMP.  In general this is
   done by hashing on various fields on the IP or contained headers.  In
   practice, within a network core, the hashing in based mainly or
   exclusively on the IP source and destination addresses.  The reason
   for splitting aggregated flows in this manner is to minimize the
   mis-ordering of flows between individual IP hosts contained with in
   the aggregated flow.

   In the early days of MPLS, the payload was almost exclusively IP.
   Even today the overwhelming majority of carried traffic remains IP.
   Providers of MPLS equipment sought to continue this behavior.  As
   shown above, it is not possible to know whether the payload of an
   MPLS packet is IP at every place where ECMP needs to be performed.
   Thus vendors have taken the liberty of guessing what the payload is.
   By inspecting the first nibble beyond the label stack, it can be
   inferred that a packet is not IPv4 or IPv6 if the value of the nibble
   (where the IP version number would be found) is not 0x4 or 0x6
   respectively.  Most deployed LSRs will treat a packet whose first
   nibble is equal to 0x4 as if the payload were IPv4 for purposes of
   ECMP.

   A consequence of this is that any application which defines a FEC
   which does not take measures to prevent the values 0x4 and 0x6 from



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   occurring in the first nibble of the payload may be subject to ECMP
   and thus having their flows take multiple paths and arriving with
   considerable jitter and possibly out of order.  While none of this is
   in violation of the basic service offering of IP, it is detrimental
   to the performance of various classes of applications.  It also
   complicates the measurement, monitoring and tracing of those flows.

   New MPLS payload types are emerging such as those specified by the
   IETF PWE3 and AVT working groups. These payloads are not IP and, if
   specified without constraint might be mistaken for IP.

   Note that for some applications being mistaken for IPv4 may not be
   detrimental.  The trivial case where the payload behind the top label
   is a packet belonging to an MPLS IPv4 VPN.  Here the real payload is
   IP and most (if not all) deployed equipment will locate the end of
   the label stack and correctly perform ECMP.

   A less obvious case is when the packets of a given flow happen to
   have constant values in the fields upon which ECMP will be performed.
   Consider an MPLS PSN that only does ECMP on IPv4 (i.e. not on IPv6).
   If an ethernet frame immediately follows the label stack, then either
   the first nibble will be 0x4 or it will be something else.  If the
   nibble is not 0x4 then no ECMP is performed.  If it is 0x4, that is
   it is mistaken for IPv4, then the constant values of the MAC
   addresses overlay the fields that would be occupied by the source and
   destination addresses of an IP header.  Thus all packets of the flow
   receive the same ECMP treatment.


3. Recommendations for Avoiding ECMP Treatment

   The field in the figure below tagged "Application Label" is a label
   of the FEC Type used/defined by the application.  It is the bottom
   most label in the label stack.  As such its FEC Type defines the
   payload which follows.  Anyone defining an application to be
   transported over MPLS is free to define new FEC Types and the format
   of the payload which will be carried.














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     0                   1                   2                   3
     0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    |                Label                  | Exp |0|       TTL     |
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    .                                       .     . .               .
    .                                       .     . .               .
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    |                Label                  | Exp |0|       TTL     |
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    |          Application Label            | Exp |1|       TTL     |
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    |1st Nbl|                                                       |
    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

              Figure 1: Label Stack and one Word of Payload

   In order to avoid ECMP treatment it is necessary that an application
   take precautions to not be mistaken as IP by deployed equipment that
   snoops on the presumed location of the IP Version field.  Thus, at a
   minimum that the chosen format must disallow the values 0x4 and 0x6
   in the first nibble of their payload.

   It is strongly recommended, however, that applications restrict the
   first nibble values to 0x0 and 0x1.  This will ensure that that their
   traffic flows will not be affected if some future routing equipment
   does similar snooping on some future version of IP.



4. Security Considerations

   This memo documents current practices.  As such it creates no new
   security considerations.



5. References

5.1. Normative References

   [RFC3031]  Rosen, E. et al., "Multiprotocol Label Swithing
              Architecture", January 2001.








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6. Authors' Addresses

      Loa Andersson
      Acreo

      Email:  loa@pi.se


      Stewart Bryant
      Cisco Systems
      250, Longwater,
      Green Park,
      Reading, RG2 6GB, UK

      Email: stbryant@cisco.com


      George Swallow
      Cisco Systems, Inc.
      1414 Massachusetts Ave
      Boxborough, MA 01719

      Email:  swallow@cisco.com



7. Full Copyright and Intellectual Property Statements

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is subject
   to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78, and
   except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an
   "AS IS" basis and THE CONTRIBUTOR, THE ORGANIZATION HE/SHE REPRESENTS
   OR IS SPONSORED BY (IF ANY), THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET
   ENGINEERING TASK FORCE DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED,
   INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE
   INFORMATION HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED
   WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Intellectual Property

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has



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   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
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   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
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Acknowledgement

   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.






























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