MPLS Working Group                                              M. Bocci
Internet-Draft                                                     Nokia
Intended status: Informational                                 S. Bryant
Expires: October 13, 2022                      University of Surrey 5GIC
                                                          April 11, 2022

Requirements for MPLS Network Action Indicators and MPLS Ancillary Data


   This draft specifies requirements for indicators in the MPLS label
   stack to support ancillary data in the packet and high level
   requirements on that ancillary data.  This work is the product of the
   IETF MPLS Open Design Team.  Requirements are derived from a number
   of new proposals for additions to the MPLS label stack to allow
   forwarding or other processing decisions to be made, either by a
   transit or terminating LSR (i.e. the LER), based on application data
   that may be in or below the bottom of the label stack.

Status of This Memo

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on October 13, 2022.

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   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.2.  Background  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  MPLS Network Action Indicator Requirements  . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.1.  General Requirements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.2.  Requirements on Network Action Indicators . . . . . . . .   6
     3.3.  Requirements on Ancillary Data  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   6.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   There is significant interest in developing the MPLS data plane to
   address the requirements of new applications
   [I-D.saad-mpls-miad-usecases].  These applications typically require
   the inclusion of ancillary data in the MPLS packet.  This data may be
   encoded either in the label stack or below the bottom of the label
   stack.  This data is then either intercepted and processed, or some
   other forwarding decision is taken by routers processing the packet.
   The ancillary data is added by the ingress LSR, and is then processed
   using mechanisms implemented by intermediate and/or egress LSRs that
   comply with the MPLS base architecture and potentially its
   extensions, including (but not limited to) [RFC3031], [RFC3032],

   This draft specifies requirements for indicators in the MPLS label
   stack to support these applications, as well as the encoding and use
   of the ancillary data.

1.1.  Terminology

   o  Ancillary Data (AD): Data relating to the MPLS packet that may be
      used to affect the forwarding or other processing of that packet,
      either at an Label Edge Router (LER) [RFC4221] or Label Switching
      Router (LSR).  This data may be encoded within a network action

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      sub-stack (see below) (in-stack data), and/or after the bottom of
      the label stack (post-stack data).

   o  Network Action: An operation to be performed on a packet.  A
      network action may affect router state, packet forwarding, or it
      may affect the packet in some other way.
      A network action is said to be present if there is an indicator in
      the packet that invokes the action.

   o  Network Action Indication (NAI): An indication in the packet that
      a certain network action is to be perfomed.  There may be
      associated ancillary data in the packet.

   o  Network Action Sub-Stack (NAS): A set of related, contiguous Label
      Stack Entries (LSEs).
      The first LSE contains the NAI.  The TC and TTL values in the sub-
      stack may be redefined.
      The label field in the second and following LSE may be redefined.
      Solutions MUST NOT redefine the S bit.  See Section 3.1 through
      Section 3.5.

   o  In-Stack Data: Any data within the MPLS label stack including the
      outer LSE and the bottom of stack (the LSE with the S-bit set).

   o  Post-Stack Data: Any data beyond the LSE with the S-Bit set, but
      before the first octet of the user payload.  This document does
      not prescribe whether post-stack data precedes or follows any
      other protocol structure such as a control word or associated
      channel header (ACH).

   o  Scope: The set of nodes that should perform a given action.

1.2.  Background

   The MPLS architecture is specified in [RFC3031] and provides a
   mechanism for forwarding packets through a network without requiring
   any analysis of the packet payload's network layer header by
   intermediate nodes (Label Switching Routers - LSRs).  Formally,
   inspection may only occur at network ingress (the Label edge router -
   LER) where the packet is assigned to a forwarding equivalence class

   MPLS uses switching based on a label pushed on the packet to achieve
   efficient forwarding and traffic engineering of flows associated with
   the FEC.  While originally used for IP traffic, MPLS has been
   extended to support point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and
   multipoint-to-multipoint layer 2 and layer 3 services.  An overview

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   of the development of MPLS is provided in

   A number of applications have emerged which require LSRs to make
   forwarding or other processing decisions based on inspection of the
   network layer header, or some other ancillary information in the
   protocol stack encapsulated deeper in the packet.  An early example
   of this was generation of a hash of the payload header to be used for
   load balancing over Equal Cost Multipath (ECMP) or Link Aggregation
   Group (LAG) next hops.  This is based on an assumption that the
   network layer protocol is IP.  MPLS was extended to avoid the need
   for LSRs to perform this operation if load balancing was needed based
   on the payload and instead use only the MPLS label stack, using the
   Entropy Label / Entropy Label Indicator [RFC6790] which are inserted
   at the LER.  Other applications where the intermediate LSRs may need
   to inspect and process a packet on an LSP include OAM, which can make
   use of mechanisms such the Router Alert Label [RFC3032] or the
   Generic Associated Channel Label (GAL) [RFC5586] to indicate that an
   intercepted packet should be processed locally.  See
   [I-D.bryant-mpls-dev-primer] for detailed list of such applications.

   There have been a number of new proposals for how ancillary data is
   carried in MPLS and how its presence is indicated to the LSR or
   egress LER, for example In-situ OAM and Service Function Chaining
   (SFC).  A summary of these proposals is contained in
   [I-D.bryant-mpls-dev-primer], an overview of use cases is provided in
   [I-D.saad-mpls-miad-usecases].  []
   summarises some of the issues with existing solutions to address
   these new applications (note that this document draws on the
   requirements and issues without endorsing a specific solution from

   These solutions rely on either the built-in next-protocol
   indicator in the header or the knowledge of the format and size of
   the header to access the following packet data.  The node is
   required to be able to parse the new header, which is unrealistic
   in an incremental deployment environment.

   A piecemeal solution often assumes the new header is the only
   extra header and its location in the packet is fixed by default.
   It is impossible or difficult to support multiple new headers in
   one packet due to the conflicted assumption.  An example of this
   is that the GAL/G-ACH mechanism assumes that if the GAL is
   present, only a single G-ACH header follows.

   New applications therefore require the definition of extensions to
   the MPLS architecture and label stack operations that can be used

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   across these applications in order to minimise implementation
   complexity and promote interoperability and extensibility.

2.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

3.  MPLS Network Action Indicator Requirements

   This document specifies requirements of MPLS Network Action
   Indicators, and the associated Ancillary Data.  The requirements are
   for the behavior of the protocol mechanisms and procedures that
   constitute building blocks out of which indicators for network
   actions and associated ancillary data are constructed.
   It does not specify the detailed actions and processing that may be
   required by an application for any ancillary data by an LSR or LER.
   The requirements in this document do not describe what functions an
   implementation must support.  The purpose of this document is to
   identify the toolkit and any new protocol work that is required.
   This new protocol work MUST be based on the existing MPLS

3.1.  General Requirements

   1.  MPLS combines extensibility, flexibility and efficiency by using
       control plane context combined with a simple data plane mechanism
       to allow the network to make forwarding decisions about a packet.
       Any solution MUST maintain these properties of MPLS.

   2.  Any solutions to these requirements MUST NOT restrict the
       generality of MPLS architecture [RFC3031], [RFC3032].

   3.  If extensions to the MPLS data plane are required, they MUST NOT
       be inconsistent with the MPLS architecture [RFC3031], [RFC3032].

   4.  Solutions meeting the requirements set out in this document MUST
       be able to coexist with and MUST NOT obsolete existing MPLS

   5.  The design of any mechanism SHOULD be such that an LSR is able to
       efficiently parse the label stack.

   6.  Mechanisms MUST NOT increase the size of the MPLS label stack
       more than is necessary.

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   7.  The design of solutions MUST NOT expose confidential information
       [RFC6973] [RFC3552] to the LSRs.

   8.  Solution specifications MUST document any changes to the existing
       MPLS data plane security model that they introduce.

3.2.  Requirements on Network Action Indicators

   1.   When an MPLS Network Action is required, and indicator is
        REQUIRED in the label stack.

   2.   An MPLS Network Action MUST specify whether ancillary data is
        required in the label stack and/or post-stack data.

   3.   Any solution MUST respect the principle that Special Purpose
        Labels are the mechanism of last resort and therefore must
        minimise the number of new SPLs that are allocated.

   4.   Insertion, parsing, processing and disposition of Network Action
        Indicators SHOULD make use of existing MPLS data plane

   5.   An NAI MUST NOT be delivered to a node that is not capable of
        processing in the way in a way that is acceptable to the
        imposing LER.

   6.   NAI MUST NOT become top of stack at a node that does not
        understand how to perform a disposition operation on it.
        Disposition includes both processing and ignoring.

   7.   The NAI design MUST support scoping of network actions.

   8.   A given NAI specification MUST specify if the scope is end-to-
        end, hop-by-hop, or directed at one or more selected nodes.

   9.   If a design allows more than one scope, a mechanism MUST be
        provided to specify the precedence of the scopes.

   10.  A mechanism is REQUIRED to enable an LER inserting NAIs to
        determine if the far-end LER can accept and process a packet
        containing a given NAI.

   11.  NAIs SHOULD be supported for both P2P and P2MP paths, but any
        specific NAI may only be supported for one or the other.

   12.  Data plane mechanisms for NAIs MUST be consistent across
        different control plane protocol types.

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   13.  A mechanism MUST be defined for control / management planes in
        use to determine the ability of downstream LSRs/LERs to accept/
        process a given NAI.

   14.  A mechanism is REQUIRED to enable an LSR to determine if an NAI
        is present in a packet.

   15.  NAIs can only be inserted at LERs, but MAY be processed at LSRs
        and LERs.  If it is required to insert an NAI at a transit LSR
        on an LSP, then a new label stack MUST be pushed.

   16.  It SHOULD be possible to include indicators for multiple network
        actions in the same packet.

   17.  The solution MUST allow NAI-carrying and non-NAI-carrying
        packets to coexist on the same LSP.

   18.  The solution MUST support the processing of a subset of the NAIs
        on a packet.

   19.  Any specification of a solution that inserts or modifies the NAI
        MUST discuss the possible ECMP consequences.

3.3.  Requirements on Ancillary Data

   1.   Solutions for in-stack ancillary data MUST be able to coexist
        with and MUST NOT obsolete existing MPLS mechanisms.

   2.   A common preamble for ancillary data MUST be defined so that a
        node receiving the ancillary data can determine whether to
        process, ignore, skip over or discard it according to network or
        local policies.

   3.   Any specification of a mechanism MUST describe whether it can
        coexist with existing post-stack data mechanisms e.g. control
        words and G-ACH, and if so how this coexistence operates.

   4.   A mechanism MUST be defined for an LER inserting ancillary data
        to determine that each node that needs to process the ancillary
        data can read the required distance into the packet at that
        node, for example [RFC9088].

   5.   Ancillary data MAY be associated with control or maintenance
        information for traffic carried by an LSP, and/or it MAY be
        associated with the user traffic itself.

   6.   For scoped ancillary data, a mechanism is REQUIRED to enable an
        LER inserting NAIs whose network actions make use of that

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        ancillary data, to determine if the NAI and ancillary data will
        be processed by LSRs within the scope along the path.  Such a
        mechanism MAY need to determine if LSRs along the path can
        process a specific type of AD implied by the NAI at the depth in
        the stack that it will be presented to the LSR.

   7.   Network action specifications MUST specify if the ancillary data
        needs to be processed as a part of the immediate forwarding
        operation and whether packet mis-ordering is allowed to occur as
        a result of the time taken to process the ancillary data.

   8.   In order to prevent unnecessary scanning of the packet, care
        needs to be taken in the location of post stack ancillary data,
        for example it SHOULD be located as close to the bottom of the
        label stack as possible.

   9.   A solution MUST be provided to verify the authenticity of
        ancillary data processed to LSRs [RFC3552].

   10.  The design of the ancillary data MUST NOT expose confidential
        information [RFC6973] [RFC3552] to the LSRs.

4.  IANA Considerations

   This document makes no request of IANA.

   Note to RFC Editor: this section may be removed on publication as an

5.  Security Considerations

   The mechanisms required by this document introduce new security
   considerations to MPLS.  Individual solution specifications meeting
   these requirements MUST address any security considerations.

6.  Acknowledgements

   The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Greg
   Mirsky, Yingzhen Qu, Haoyu Song, Tarek Saad, Loa Andersson, Tony Li,
   John Drake and Bruno Decraene.

   The authors also gratefully acknowledge the input of the members of
   the MPLS Open Design Team.

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7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

7.2.  Informative References

              Bryant, S., "A Primer on the Development of MPLS", draft-
              bryant-mpls-dev-primer-01 (work in progress), December

              Saad, T., Makhijani, K., Song, H., and G. Mirsky, "Use
              Cases for MPLS Function Indicators and Ancillary Data",
              draft-saad-mpls-miad-usecases-01 (work in progress), March

              Song, H., Li, Z., Zhou, T., Andersson, L., and Z. Zhang,
              "MPLS Extension Header", draft-song-mpls-extension-
              header-06 (work in progress), January 2022.

   [RFC3031]  Rosen, E., Viswanathan, A., and R. Callon, "Multiprotocol
              Label Switching Architecture", RFC 3031,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3031, January 2001,

   [RFC3032]  Rosen, E., Tappan, D., Fedorkow, G., Rekhter, Y.,
              Farinacci, D., Li, T., and A. Conta, "MPLS Label Stack
              Encoding", RFC 3032, DOI 10.17487/RFC3032, January 2001,

   [RFC3552]  Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, "Guidelines for Writing RFC
              Text on Security Considerations", BCP 72, RFC 3552,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3552, July 2003,

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   [RFC4221]  Nadeau, T., Srinivasan, C., and A. Farrel, "Multiprotocol
              Label Switching (MPLS) Management Overview", RFC 4221,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4221, November 2005,

   [RFC5586]  Bocci, M., Ed., Vigoureux, M., Ed., and S. Bryant, Ed.,
              "MPLS Generic Associated Channel", RFC 5586,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5586, June 2009,

   [RFC6790]  Kompella, K., Drake, J., Amante, S., Henderickx, W., and
              L. Yong, "The Use of Entropy Labels in MPLS Forwarding",
              RFC 6790, DOI 10.17487/RFC6790, November 2012,

   [RFC6973]  Cooper, A., Tschofenig, H., Aboba, B., Peterson, J.,
              Morris, J., Hansen, M., and R. Smith, "Privacy
              Considerations for Internet Protocols", RFC 6973,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6973, July 2013,

   [RFC9088]  Xu, X., Kini, S., Psenak, P., Filsfils, C., Litkowski, S.,
              and M. Bocci, "Signaling Entropy Label Capability and
              Entropy Readable Label Depth Using IS-IS", RFC 9088,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9088, August 2021,

Authors' Addresses

   Matthew Bocci


   Stewart Bryant
   University of Surrey 5GIC


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