Internet-Draft MNA Usecases February 2024
Saad, et al. Expires 13 August 2024 [Page]
MPLS Working Group
Intended Status:
T. Saad
Cisco Systems, Inc.
K. Makhijani
Futurewei Technologies
H. Song
Futurewei Technologies
G. Mirsky

Use Cases for MPLS Network Action Indicators and MPLS Ancillary Data


This document presents a number of use cases that have a common need for encoding network action indicators and associated ancillary data inside MPLS packets. There has been significant recent interest in extending the MPLS data plane to carry such indicators and ancillary data to address a number of use cases that are described in this document.

The use cases described in this document are not an exhaustive set, but rather the ones that are actively discussed by members of the IETF MPLS, PALS, and DetNet.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 13 August 2024.

1. Introduction

This document describes cases that introduce functions that are based on special processing by forwarding hardware. Previously, that required the allocation of a new special-purpose label or extended special-purpose label. To conserve that limited resource, an MPLS Network Action (MNA) approach was introduced to extend the MPLS architecture. MNA is expected to enable functions that may require carrying additional ancillary data within the MPLS packets, as well as means to indicate the ancillary data is present and a specific action needs to be performed on the packet. The MPLS Ancillary Data (AD) can be classified as:

  • implicit or "no-data" associated with a Network Action Indicator (NAI),

  • residing within the MPLS label stack and referred to as In Stack Data (ISD), and

  • residing after the Bottom of the MPLS label Stack (BoS) and referred to as Post Stack Data (PSD).

1.1. Terminology

The following terminology is used in the document:

RFC XXXX Network Slice:

a well-defined composite of a set of endpoints, the connectivity requirements between subsets of these endpoints, and associated requirements; the term 'network slice' in this document refers to 'RFC XXXX network slice' as defined in [I-D.ietf-teas-ietf-network-slices].

1.2. Conventions used in this document

1.2.1. Keywords

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "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.

1.2.2. Acronyms and Abbreviations

  • ISD: In-stack data

  • PSD: Post-stack data

  • MNA: MPLS Network Action

  • NAI: Network Action Indicator

  • AD: Ancillary Data

  • DEX: Direct Export

  • GDF: Generic Delivery Function

  • E2E: Edge-to-Edge

  • HbH: Hop-by-Hop

  • PW: Pseudowire

  • BoS: Bottom of Stack

  • ToS: Top of Stack

  • NSH: Network Service Header

  • FRR: Fast Reroute

  • IOAM: In-situ Operations, Administration, and Mantenance

  • FAS: Flow Aggregate Selector

  • G-ACh: Generic Associated Channel

2. Use Cases

2.1. No Further Fastreroute

MPLS Fast Reroute (FRR) [RFC4090], [RFC5286] and [RFC7490] is a useful and widely deployed tool for minimizing packet loss in the case of a link or node failure.

Several cases exist where, once an FRR has taken place in an MPLS network and resulted in rerouting a packet away from the failure, a second FRR impacts the same packet on another node, and may result in traffic disruption.

In such a case, the packet impacted by multiple FRR events may continue to loop between the LSRs that activated FRR until the packet's TTL expires. This can lead to link congestion and further packet loss.

2.2. In-situ OAM

In-situ Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (IOAM), defined in [RFC9197] and [RFC9326], might be used to collect operational and telemetry information while a packet traverses a particular path in a network domain.

IOAM can run in two modes: Edge-to-Edge (E2E) and Hop-by-Hop (HbH). In E2E mode, only the encapsulating and decapsulating nodes will process IOAM data fields. In HbH mode, the encapsulating and decapsulating nodes, as well as intermediate IOAM-capable nodes, process IOAM data fields. The IOAM data fields, defined in [RFC9197], can be used to derive the operational state of the network experienced by the packet with the IOAM Header that traversed the path through the IOAM domain.

Several IOAM Trace Options have been defined:

  • Pre-allocated and Incremental

  • Edge-to-Edge

  • Proof-of-Transit

  • Direct Export (DEX)

In all IOAM Trace Options except for the Direct Export (DEX), the collected information is transported in the trigger IOAM packet. In the IOAM DEX Option [RFC9326], the operational state and telemetry information are collected according to a specified profile and exported in a manner and format defined by a local policy. In IOAM DEX, the user data packet is only used to trigger the IOAM data to be directly exported or locally aggregated without being carried in the IOAM trigger packets.

2.3. Network Slicing

An RFC XXXX Network Slice service ([I-D.ietf-teas-ietf-network-slices]) provides connectivity coupled with a set of network resource commitments and is expressed in terms of one or more connectivity constructs. [I-D.ietf-teas-ietf-network-slices] also defines a Network Resource Partition (NRP) Policy as a policy construct that enables the instantiation of mechanisms to support one or more network slice services. The packets associated with an NRP may carry a marking in their network layer header to identify this association, which is referred to as an NRP Selector. The NRP Selector is used to map a packet to the associated set of network resources and provide the corresponding forwarding treatment onto the packet.

A router that requires the forwarding of a packet that belongs to an NRP may have to decide on the forwarding action to take based on selected next-hop(s), and the forwarding treatment (e.g., scheduling and drop policy) to enforce based on the associated per-hop behavior.

In this case, the routers that forward traffic over resources that are shared by multiple NRPs need to identify the slice aggregate packets in order to enforce their respective forwarding action and treatment.

A dedicated identifier that is independent of forwarding can be carried and used in the packet as an NRP Selector. In MPLS, the NRP Selector can be carried in a packet in the MPLS header.

2.4. NSH-based Service Function Chaining

[RFC8595] describes how Service Function Chaining can be realized in an MPLS network by emulating the Network Service Header (NSH) using only MPLS label stack elements.

The approach in [RFC8595] introduces some limitations that are discussed in [I-D.lm-mpls-sfc-path-verification]. This approach, however, can benefit from the framework introduced with MNA in [I-D.ietf-mpls-mna-fwk].

For example, it may be possible to extend NSH emulation using MPLS labels [RFC8595] to support the functionality of NSH Context Headers, whether fixed or variable-length. One of the use cases could support Flow ID [RFC9263] that may be used for load-balancing among Service Function Forwarders and/or the Service Function within the same Service Function Path.

2.5. Network Programming

In SR, an ingress node steers a packet through an ordered list of instructions called "segments". Each one of these instructions represents a function to be called at a specific location in the network. A function is locally defined on the node where it is executed and may range from simply moving forward in the segment list to any complex user-defined behavior.

Network Programming combines Segment Routing (SR) functions to achieve a networking objective that goes beyond mere packet routing.

It may be desirable to encode a pointer to a function and its arguments within an MPLS packet transport header. For example, in MPLS, we can encode the FUNC::ARGs within the label stack or after the Bottom of Stack (BoS) to support the equivalent of FUNC::ARG in SRv6 as described in [RFC8986].

3. Existing MPLS Use cases

There are several services that can be transported over MPLS networks today. These include providing Layer-3 (L3) connectivity (e.g., for unicast and multicast L3 services), and Layer-2 (L2) connectivity (e.g., for unicast Pseudowires (PWs), multicast E-Tree, and broadcast E-LAN L2 services). In those cases, the user service traffic is encapsulated as the payload in MPLS packets.

For L2 service traffic, it is possible to use A Control Word (CW) [RFC4385] and [RFC5085] immediately after the MPLS header to disambiguate the type of MPLS payload, prevent possible packet misordering, and allow for fragmentation. In this case, the first nibble the data that immediately follows after the MPLS BoS is set to 0000b to identify the presence of PW CW.

In addition to providing connectivity to user traffic, MPLS may also transport OAM data (e.g., over MPLS Generic Associated Channels (G-AChs) [RFC5586]). In this case, the first nibble of the data that immediately follows after the MPLS BoS is set to 0001b. It indicates the presence of a control channel associated witha PW, LSP, or Section.

Bit Index Explicit Replication (BIER) [RFC8296] traffic can also be encapsulated over MPLS. In this case, BIER has defined 0101b as the value for the first nibble in the data that immediately appears after the bottom of the label stack for any BIER encapsulated packet over MPLS.

For pseudowires, the G-ACh uses the first four bits of the PW control word to provide the initial discrimination between data packets and packets belonging to the associated channel, as described in [RFC4385].

It is expected that new use cases described in this document will allow for the co-existance and backward compatibility with all such existing MPLS services.

4. Co-existence of the MNA Usecases

Two or more of the aforementioned use cases MAY co-exist in the same packet. This may require the presence of multiple ancilary data (whether In-stack or Post-stack ancillary data) to be present in the same MPLS packet.

For example, IOAM may provide key functions along with network slicing to help ensure that critical network slice SLOs are being met by the network provider. In this case, IOAM is able to collect key performance measurement parameters of network slice traffic flow as it traverses the transport network.

5. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

6. Security Considerations

This document introduces no new security considerations.

7. Acknowledgement

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

8. References

8.1. Normative References

Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

Andersson, L., Bryant, S., Bocci, M., and T. Li, "MPLS Network Actions Framework", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-mpls-mna-fwk-06, , <>.
Farrel, A., Drake, J., Rokui, R., Homma, S., Makhijani, K., Contreras, L. M., and J. Tantsura, "A Framework for Network Slices in Networks Built from IETF Technologies", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-teas-ietf-network-slices-25, , <>.
Liu, Y. and G. Mirsky, "MPLS-based Service Function Path(SFP) Consistency Verification", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-lm-mpls-sfc-path-verification-03, , <>.
Stein, Y. J., "Segment Routed Time Sensitive Networking", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-stein-srtsn-01, , <>.
Zhang, Z. J., Bonica, R., Kompella, K., and G. Mirsky, "Generic Delivery Functions", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-zzhang-intarea-generic-delivery-functions-03, , <>.
Pan, P., Ed., Swallow, G., Ed., and A. Atlas, Ed., "Fast Reroute Extensions to RSVP-TE for LSP Tunnels", RFC 4090, DOI 10.17487/RFC4090, , <>.
Bryant, S., Swallow, G., Martini, L., and D. McPherson, "Pseudowire Emulation Edge-to-Edge (PWE3) Control Word for Use over an MPLS PSN", RFC 4385, DOI 10.17487/RFC4385, , <>.
Nadeau, T., Ed. and C. Pignataro, Ed., "Pseudowire Virtual Circuit Connectivity Verification (VCCV): A Control Channel for Pseudowires", RFC 5085, DOI 10.17487/RFC5085, , <>.
Atlas, A., Ed. and A. Zinin, Ed., "Basic Specification for IP Fast Reroute: Loop-Free Alternates", RFC 5286, DOI 10.17487/RFC5286, , <>.
Bocci, M., Ed., Vigoureux, M., Ed., and S. Bryant, Ed., "MPLS Generic Associated Channel", RFC 5586, DOI 10.17487/RFC5586, , <>.
Bryant, S., Filsfils, C., Previdi, S., Shand, M., and N. So, "Remote Loop-Free Alternate (LFA) Fast Reroute (FRR)", RFC 7490, DOI 10.17487/RFC7490, , <>.
Wijnands, IJ., Ed., Rosen, E., Ed., Dolganow, A., Tantsura, J., Aldrin, S., and I. Meilik, "Encapsulation for Bit Index Explicit Replication (BIER) in MPLS and Non-MPLS Networks", RFC 8296, DOI 10.17487/RFC8296, , <>.
Farrel, A., Bryant, S., and J. Drake, "An MPLS-Based Forwarding Plane for Service Function Chaining", RFC 8595, DOI 10.17487/RFC8595, , <>.
Filsfils, C., Ed., Camarillo, P., Ed., Leddy, J., Voyer, D., Matsushima, S., and Z. Li, "Segment Routing over IPv6 (SRv6) Network Programming", RFC 8986, DOI 10.17487/RFC8986, , <>.
Brockners, F., Ed., Bhandari, S., Ed., and T. Mizrahi, Ed., "Data Fields for In Situ Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (IOAM)", RFC 9197, DOI 10.17487/RFC9197, , <>.
Wei, Y., Ed., Elzur, U., Majee, S., Pignataro, C., and D. Eastlake 3rd, "Network Service Header (NSH) Metadata Type 2 Variable-Length Context Headers", RFC 9263, DOI 10.17487/RFC9263, , <>.
Song, H., Gafni, B., Brockners, F., Bhandari, S., and T. Mizrahi, "In Situ Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (IOAM) Direct Exporting", RFC 9326, DOI 10.17487/RFC9326, , <>.

Appendix A. Use Cases for Continued Discussion

A number of use cases for which MNA can provide a viable solution have been brought up. The discussion of these aspirational cases is ongoing.

A.1. Generic Delivery Functions

The Generic Delivery Functions (GDFs), defined in [I-D.zzhang-intarea-generic-delivery-functions], provide a new mechanism to support functions analogous to those supported through the IPv6 Extension Headers mechanism. For example, GDF can support fragmentation/reassembly functionality in the MPLS network by using the Generic Fragmentation Header. MNA can support GDF by placing a GDF header in an MPLS packet within the Post-Stack Data block [I-D.ietf-mpls-mna-fwk]. Multiple GDF headers can also be present in the same MPLS packet organized as a list of headers.

A.2. Delay Budgets for Time-Bound Applications

The routers in a network can perform two distinct functions on incoming packets, namely forwarding (where the packet should be sent) and scheduling (when the packet should be sent). IEEE-802.1 Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) and Deterministic Networking provide several mechanisms for scheduling under the assumption that routers are time-synchronized. The most effective mechanisms for delay minimization involve per-flow resource allocation.

Segment Routing (SR) is a forwarding paradigm that allows encoding forwarding instructions in the packet in a stack data structure rather than being programmed into the routers. The SR instructions are contained within a packet in the form of a First-in First-out stack dictating the forwarding decisions of successive routers. Segment routing may be used to choose a path sufficiently short to be capable of providing a bounded end-to-end latency but does not influence the queueing of individual packets in each router along that path.

When carried over the MPLS data plane, a solution is required to enable the delivery of such packets that can be delivered to their final destination within a given time budget. One approach to address this usecase in SR-MPLS was described in [I-D.stein-srtsn].

A.3. Stack-Based Methods for Latency Control

One efficient data structure for inserting local deadlines into the headers is a "stack", similar to that used in Segment Routing to carry forwarding instructions. The number of deadline values in the stack equals the number of routers the packet needs to traverse in the network, and each deadline value corresponds to a specific router. The Top-of-Stack (ToS) corresponds to the first router's deadline, while the BoS refers to the last. All local deadlines in the stack are later or equal to the current time (upon which all routers agree), and times closer to the ToS are always earlier or equal to times closer to the BoS.

The ingress router inserts the deadline stack into the packet headers; no other router needs to be aware of the requirements of the time-bound flows. Hence, admitting a new flow only requires updating the information base of the ingress router.

MPLS LSRs that expose the ToS label can also inspect the associated "deadline" carried in the packet (either in the MPLS stack as ISD or after BoS as PSD).

Contributors' Addresses

Loa Anderssen
Bronze Dragon Consulting

Authors' Addresses

Tarek Saad
Cisco Systems, Inc.
Kiran Makhijani
Futurewei Technologies
Haoyu Song
Futurewei Technologies
Greg Mirsky