RMT Working Group                                 B. Whetten, Talarian
Internet Engineering Task Force                     L. Vicisano, Cisco
INTERNET-DRAFT                                     R.Kermode, Motorola
draft-ietf-rmt-buildingblocks-00.txt                  M.Handley, ACIRI
15 June 1999                                            S.Floyd, ACIRI
Expires 15 December 1999

      Reliable Multicast Transport Building Blocks for One-to-Many
                           Bulk-Data Transfer

Status of this Memo

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

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

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This document describes a framework for the standardization of bulk-data
reliable multicast transport.  It builds upon the experience gained
during the deployment of several classes of contemporary reliable
multicast transport, and attempts to pull out the commonalties between
these classes of protocols into a number of building blocks. To that
end, this document recommends that certain components that are common to
multiple protocol classes be standardized as "building blocks." The
remaining parts of the protocols, consisting of highly protocol specific
tightly intertwined functions shall be designated as "protocol cores."
Thus, each protocol can then be constructed by merging a "protocol core"
with a number of "building blocks" which can be re-used across multiple

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Copyright Notice Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1999).  All Rights

1.  Introduction

RFC2357 lays out the requirements for reliable multicast protocols that
are to be considered for standardization by the IETF.  They include:

o  Congestion Control.  The protocol must be safe to deploy in the
   widespread Internet.  Specifically, it must adhere to three mandates:
   a) it must achieve good throughput (i.e. it must not consistently
   overload links with excess data or repair traffic), b) it must
   achieve good link utilization, and c) it must not starve competing

o  Scalability.  The protocol should be able to work under a variety of
   conditions that include multiple network topologies, link speeds, and
   the receiver set size. It is more important to have a good
   understanding of how and when a protocol breaks than when it works.

o  Security.  The protocol must be analyzed to show what is necessary to
   allow it to cope with security and privacy issues.  This includes
   understanding the role of the protocol in data confidentiality and
   sender authentication, as well as how the protocol will provide
   defenses against denial of service attacks.

These requirements are primarily directed towards making sure that any
standards will be safe for widespread Internet deployment.  The
advancing maturity of current work on reliable multicast congestion
control (TFMCC) [HFW99] in the IRTF Reliable Multicast Research Group
(RMRG) has been one of the events that has allowed the IETF to charter
the RMT working group.  RMCC only addresses a subset of the design space
for reliable multicast.  Fortuitously, the requirements it addresses are
also the most pressing application and market requirements.

A protocol's ability to meet the requirements of congestion control,
scalability, and security is affected by a number of factors that are
described in a separate document [HWKFV99]. In summary, these are:

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o  Ordering Guarantees.  A protocol must offer at least one of either
   source ordered or unordered delivery guarantees.  Support for total
   ordering across multiple senders is not recommended, as it makes it
   more difficult to scale the protocol, and can more easily be
   implemented at a higher level.

o  Receiver Scalability.  A protocol should be able to support a "large"
   number of simultaneous receivers per transport group.  A typical
   receiver set should be on the order of 1,000 - 10,000 simultaneous
   receivers per group.  However, this number may be larger or smaller
   depending upon the factors that follow.

o  Real-Time Feedback.  RMCC requires soft real-time feedback, so a
   protocol must provide some means for this information to be measured
   and returned to the sender.  While this does not require that a
   protocol deliver data in soft real-time, it is an important
   application requirement that can be provided easily given real-time

o  Delivery Guarantees.  A protocol must provide at least statistically
   reliable delivery (it must be able to guarantee delivery of a minimum
   percentage of the data to a minimum percentage of the receiver set).
   It may optionally provide message stability (TCP level delivery
   guarantees), and/or time bounded reliability (attempt repairs for a
   specific amount of time before giving up).

o  Network Topologies.  A protocol must not break the network when
   deployed in the full Internet. However, we recognize that intranets
   will be where the first wave of deployments happen, and so are also
   very important to support.  Thus, support for satellite networks
   (including those with terrestrial return paths or no return paths at
   all) is encouraged, but not required.

o  Group Membership.  The group membership algorithms must be scaleable.
   Membership can be anonymous (where the sender does not know the list
   of receivers), or fully distributed (where the sender receives a
   count of the number of receivers, and optionally a list of failures).

o  Example Applications.  Some of the applications that a RM protocol
   could be designed to support include multimedia broadcasts, real time
   financial market data distribution, multicast file transfer, and
   server replication.

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1.1.  Protocol Families

The design-space document [HWKFV99] also provides a taxonomy of the most
popular approaches that have been proposed over the last ten years.
After congestion control, the primary challenge has been that of meeting
the requirement for receiver scalability.  For protocols that include a
back-channel for recovery of lost packets, the ability to take advantage
of support of elements in the network has been found to be very
beneficial for supporting large numbers of receivers.  ,lp This taxonomy
breaks proposed protocols in to four families.

1  No network assist.  Protocols such as SRM [FJM95] and MDP2 [MA99]
   attempt to limit traffic by only using NACKs for requesting packet
   retransmission.  These protocols provide statistical reliability, but
   do not provide known message stability.  They do not require network
   infrastructure, but this introduces some questions about how well the
   protocols will scale [LESZ97, Kermode98, LDW98, OXB99].

2  Server assist.  Protocols such as RMTP [LP96, PSLM97], RMTP-II
   [WBPM98] and TRAM [KCW98], use positive acknowledgements (ACKs) to
   achieve stronger delivery guarantees.  These ACKs also make it easier
   to implement RMCC.  However, in order to avoid ACK implosion in
   scaled up deployments, the protocol requires that servers be placed
   in the network.

3  Router assist.  Like SRM, protocols such as PGM [FLST98] and [LG97]
   also use negative acknowledgements for packet recovery, and therefore
   do not provide message stability.  These protocols take advantage of
   new router software to do constrained negative acknowledgements and

4  Open-Loop delivery.  For some applications, lower reliability
   guarantees can be accepted. Thus, one can deploy a protocol built
   using sender-based Forward Error Correction (FEC) methods with no
   feedback from the receivers or the network. Such protocols are
   particularly well suited for highly-asymmetric networks (e.g.

2.  Building Blocks Rationale

As specified in RFC2357 [MRBP98], no single reliable multicast protocol
can meet the needs of all applications.  Therefore, the IETF expects to
standardize a number of protocols that are tailored to application and
network specific needs.  This document concentrates on the requirements
for "one-to-many bulk-data transfer", but in the future, additional

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protocols and building-blocks are expected that will address the needs
of other types of applications, including "many-to-many" applications.
Note that bulk-data transfer does not refer to the timeliness of the
data, rather it states that there is a large amount of data transferred
in a session.  The scope and approach taken for the development of
protocols for these additional scenarios will depend upon large part on
the success of the "building-block" approach put forward in this

2.1.  Building Blocks Advantages

Building a large piece of software out of smaller modular components is
a well understood technique of software engineering.  Some of the
advantages that can come from this include:

o  Software Reuse.  Modules can be used in multiple protocols, which
   reduces the amount of development time required.

o  Reduced Complexity.  To the extent that each module can be easily
   defined with a simple API, breaking a large protocol in to smaller
   pieces typically reduces the total complexity of the system.

o  Reduced Verification and Debugging Time.  Reduced complexity results
   in reduced time to debug the modules.  It is also usually faster to
   verify a set of smaller modules than a single larger module.

o  Easier Future Upgrades.  There is still ongoing research in reliable
   multicast, and we expect the state of the art to continue to evolve.
   Building protocols with smaller modules allows them to be more easily
   upgraded to reflect future research.

o  Common Diagnostics.  To the extent that multiple protocols share
   common packet headers, packet analyzers and other diagnostic tools
   can be built which work with multiple protocols.

o  Reduces Effort for New Protocols.  As new application requirements
   drive the need for new standards, some existing modules may be reused
   in these protocols.

o  Parallelism of Development.  If the APIs are defined clearly, the
   development of each module can proceed in parallel.

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2.2.  Building Block Risks

Like most software engineering, this technique of breaking down a
protocol in to smaller components also brings tradeoffs.  After a
certain point, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, and it is not
worthwhile to further subdivide a problem.  These risks include:

o  Delaying Development.  Defining the API for how each two modules
   inter-operate takes time and effort.  As the number of modules
   increases, the number of APIs can increase at more than a linear
   rate.  The more tightly coupled and complex a component is, the more
   difficult it is to define a simple API, and the less opportunity
   there is for reuse.  In particular, the problem of how to build and
   standardize fine grained building blocks for a transport protocol is
   a difficult one, and in some cases requires fundamental research.

o  Increased Complexity.  If there are too many modules, the total
   complexity of the system actually increases, due to the preponderance
   of interfaces between modules.

o  Reduced Performance.  Each extra API adds some level of processing
   overhead.  If an API is inserted in to the "common case" of packet
   processing, this risks degrading total protocol performance.

o  Abandoning Prior Work.  The development of robust transport protocols
   is a long and time intensive process, which is heavily dependent on
   feedback from real deployments.  A great deal of work has been done
   over the past five years on components of protocols such as RMTP-II,
   SRM, and PGM.  Attempting to dramatically re-engineer these
   components risks losing the benefit of this prior work.

2.3.  Building Block Requirements

Given these tradeoffs, we propose that a building block must meet the
following requirements:

o  Wide Applicability.  In order to have confidence that the component
   can be reused, it must be clear that the component can apply across
   the majority of the protocol classes.  We note that the fourth class
   (with no back-channel) is fundamentally different than the first
   three, and so may be less amenable to building blocks.

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o  Simplicity.  In order to have confidence that the specification of
   the component APIs will not dramatically slow down the standards
   process, APIs must be simple and straight forward to define.  No new
   fundamental research should be done in defining these APIs.

o  Performance.  To the extent possible, the building blocks should
   attempt to avoid breaking up the "fast track", or common case packet

3.  Protocol Components

This section proposes a functional decomposition of RM bulk-data
protocols from the perspective of the functional components provided to
an application by a transport protocol.  It also covers some components
that while not necessarily part of the transport protocol, are directly
impacted by the specific requirements of a reliable multicast transport.
The next section then specifies recommended building blocks that can
implement these components.

Although this list tries to cover all the most common transport-related
needs of one-to-many bulk-data transfer applications, new application
requirements may arise during the process of standardization, hence this
list must not be interpreted as a statement of what the transport layer
should provide and what it should not.  Nevertheless, it must be pointed
out that some functional components have been deliberately omitted since
they have been deemed irrelevant to the type of application considered
(i.e. one-to-many bulk-data transfer).  Among these are advanced message
ordering (i.e. those which cannot be implemented through a simple
sequence number) and atomic delivery.

It is also worth mentioning that some of the functional components
listed below may be required by other functional components and not
directly by the application (e.g. membership knowledge is usually
required to implement ACK-based reliability).

The following list covers various transport functional components and
splits them in sub-components.

  o Data Reliability    |
                        | - Loss Detection/Notification
                        | - Loss Recovery
                        | - Loss Protection

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  o Congestion Control  |
                        | - Congestion Feedback
                        | - Rate Regulation
                        | - Receiver Controls

  o Security

  o Group membership    |
                        | - Membership Notification
                        | - Membership Management

  o Session Management  |
                        | - Group Membership Tracking
                        | - Session Advertisement
                        | - Session Start/Stop
                        | - Session Configuration/Monitoring

  o Tree Configuration

Note that not all components are required by all protocols.  In
particular, the fourth class of protocols defined above does not require
many of these functions, including loss notification, loss recovery, and
group membership.

3.1.  Sub-Components Definition

Loss Detection/Notification.  This includes how missing packets are
detected during transmission and how knowledge of these events are
propagated to one or more agents which are designated to recover from
the transmission error.  This task raises major scalability issues and
can led to feedback implosion if not properly handled.  Mechanisms based
on HACKs (hierarchical positive acknowledgements) or NAKs (negative
acknowledgements) are the most widely used to perform this function.
Mechanisms based on a combination of HACKs and NAKs are also possible.

Loss Recovery.  This function responds to loss notification events
through the transmission of additional packets, either in the form of
copies of those packets lost or in the form of FEC parity packets.  The
manner in which this function is implemented can significantly affect
the scalability of a protocol.

Loss Protection.  This function attempts to eliminate packet-losses so
that they don't become Loss Notification events.  This function can be
realized through the pro-active transmission of additional FEC packets.

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Each additional FEC packet is redundantly constructed from multiple data
packets, a fact that allows a receiver to recover from some packet loss
without further retransmissions. The number of losses that can be
recovered from without requiring retransmission depends on the amount of
FEC provided in the first place. Loss protection can also be pushed to
the extreme when reliability is achieved without any Loss
Detection/Notification and Loss Recovery functionality, as in the fourth
class of open loop protocols defined above.

Congestion Feedback.  For sender driven congestion control protocols,
the receiver must provide some type of feedback on congestion to the
sender.  This typically involves loss rate and round trip time

Rate Regulation.  Given the congestion feedback, the sender then must
adjust its rate in a way that is fair to the network.  One proposal that
defines this notion of fairness and other congestion control
requirements is [Whetten99].

Receiver Controls.  In order to avoid allowing an extremely slow
receiver to stop all progress, a congestion control algorithm will often
involve having receivers leave groups in this case.  For multi-layered
schemes, the receivers may choose which layers of data they subscribe

Security.  Security for reliable Multicast contains a number of complex
and tricky issues that stem in large part from the IP multicast service
model.  In this service model, hosts do not send traffic to another
host, but instead elect to receive traffic from a multicast group. This
means that any host may join a group and receive its traffic.
Conversely, hosts may also leave a group at any time.  Therefore, the
protocol must address how it impacts the following security issues:

o  sender authentication (since any host can send to a group),

o  data encryption (since any host can join a group)

o  denial of service attacks (through corruption of transport state, or
   requests for unauthorized resources)

o  group key management (since hosts may join and leave a group at any
   time) [WHA98]

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In particular, a transport protocol needs to pay particular attention to
how it protects itself from denial of service attacks, through
mechanisms such as lightweight authentication of control packets. [HW99]

Data Authentication and Encryption.  While data authentication and
encryption is not typically part of the transport layer per se, a
protocol needs to understand what ramifications it has on data security,
and may need to have special interfaces to the security layer in order
to accommodate these ramifications.

Transport Protection.  The primary security task for a transport layer
is that of protecting the transport layer itself from attack.  The most
important function for this is typically lightweight authentication of
control packets in order to prevent corruption of state and other denial
of service attacks.

Membership Notification.  This is the function through which the data
source--or upper level agent in a possible hierarchical organization--
learns about the identity and/or number of receivers or lower level
agents.  To be scaleable, this typically will not provide total
knowledge of the identity of each receiver.

Membership Management.  This implements the mechanisms for members to
join and leave the group, to accept/refuse new members, or to terminate
the membership of existing members.

Group Membership Tracking.  As an optional feature, a protocol may
interface with a component which tracks the identity of each receiver in
a large group.  If so, this feature will typically be implemented out of
band, and may be implemented by an upper level protocol.

Session Advertisement.  This publishes the session name/contents and the
parameters needed for its reception. This function is usually performed
by an upper layer protocol (e.g. [HPW99] and [HJ98]).

Session Start/Stop.  These functions determine the start/stop time of
sender and/or receivers. In many cases this is implicit or performed by
an upper level application or protocol. In some protocols, however, this
is a task best performed by the transport layer due to scalability
requirements. As an example, in the case of the "data fountain"
approach, where receivers can complete their reception by tuning in
asynchronously and leaving the group when done, the source must be
notified when it can stop transmitting because there are no receivers

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Session Configuration/Monitoring.  Due to the potentially far reaching
scope of a multicast session, it is particularly important for a
protocol to include tools for configuring and monitoring the protocols

Tree Configuration.  For protocols which include hierarchical elements
(such as PGM and RMTP-II), it is important to configure these elements
in a way that has approximate congruence with the multicast routing
topology.  While tree configuration could be included as part of the
session configuration tools, it is clearly better if this configuration
can be made automatic.

4.  Building Block Recommendations

The families of protocols introduced in section 1.1 generally use
different mechanisms to implement the protocol functional components
described in section 3.  This section tries to group these mechanisms in
macro components that define protocol building blocks.

A building block is defined as
   "a logical protocol component that results in explicit APIs for use
   by other building blocks or by the protocol client."

Building blocks are generally specified in terms of the set of
algorithms and packet formats that implement protocol functional
components.  A building block may also have API's through which it
communicates to applications and/or other building blocks.  Most
building blocks should also have a management API, through which it
communicates to SNMP and/or other management protocols.

In the following section we will list a number of building blocks which,
at this stage, seem to cover most of the functional components needed to
implement the protocol families presented in section 1.1.  Nevertheless
this list represent the "best current guess", and as such it is not
meant to be exhaustive.  The actual building block decomposition, i.e.
the division of functional components into building blocks, may also
have to be revised in the future.

4.1.  NAK-based Reliability

This building block defines NAK-based loss detection/notification and
recovery.  The major issues it addresses are implosion prevention
(suppression) and NAK semantics (i.e. how packets to be retransmitted
should be specified, both in the case of selective and FEC loss repair).

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Suppression mechanisms to be considered are:

  o Multicast NAKs
  o Unicast NAKs and Multicast confirmation

These suppression mechanisms primarily need to both minimize delay while
also minimizing redundant messages.  They may also need to have special
weighting to work with Congestion Feedback.

4.2.  FEC Repair

This building block is concerned with packet level FEC repair.  It
specifies the FEC codec selection and the FEC packet naming (indexing)
for both on-demand FEC and pro-active FEC.

4.3.  Congestion Control

There will likely be multiple versions of this building block,
corresponding to different design policies in addressing congestion
control.  Two main approaches are considered for the time being: a
source-based rate regulation with a single rate provided to all the
receivers in the session, and a multiple rate receiver-driven approach
based on layered transmission.

Both approaches are still in the phase of study, however the first seems
to be mature enough [HFW99] to allow the standardization process to

At the time of writing this document, a third class of congestion
control algorithm based on router support is beginning to emerge in the
IRTF RMRG. This work may lead to the future standardization of one or
more additional building blocks for congestion control.

4.4.  Generic Router Support

The task of designing RM protocols can be made much easier by the
presence of some specific support in routers. In some application-
specific cases, the increased benefits afforded by the addition of
special router support can justify the resulting additional complexity
and expense [FLST98].

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Functional components which can take advantage of router support include
feedback aggregation/suppression (both for loss notification and
congestion control) and constrained retransmission of repair packets.

The process of designing and deploying these mechanisms inside router
can be much slower than the one required for end-host protocol
mechanisms.  Therefore, it would be highly advantageous to define these
mechanisms in a generic way that multiple protocols can use if it is
available, but do not necessarily need to depend on.

This component has two halves, a signaling protocol and actual router
algorithms.  The signaling protocol allows the transport protocol to
request from the router the functions that it wishes to perform, and the
router algorithms actually perform these functions.  It is more urgent
to define the signaling protocol, since it will likely impact the common
case protocol headers.

An important component of the signaling protocol is some level of
commonality between the packet headers of multiple protocols, which
allows the router to recognize and interpret the headers.

4.5.  Tree Configuration

It has been shown that the scalability of RM protocols can be greatly
enhanced by the insertion of some kind of retransmission or feedback
aggregation agents between the source and receivers.  These agents are
then used to form a tree with the source at (or near) the root, the
receivers at the leaves of the tree, and the aggregation/local repair
nodes in the middle.  The internal nodes can either be dedicated
software for this task, or they may be receivers that are performing
dual duty.

The effectiveness of these agents to assist in the delivery of data is
highly dependent upon on how well the logical tree they use to
communicate matches the underlying routing topology.  The purpose of
this building block would be to construct and manage the logical tree
connecting the agents.  Ideally, this building block would perform these
functions in a manner that adapts to changes in session membership,
routing topology, and network availability.

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4.6.  Security

At the time of writing, the security issues are the subject of research
within the IRTF Secure Multicast Group (SMuG).  Solutions for these
requirements will be standardized within the IETF when ready.

4.7.  Common Headers

As pointed out in the generic router support section, it is important to
have some level of commonality across packet headers.  It may also be
useful to have common data header formats for other reasons.  This
building block would consist of recommendations on fields in their
packet headers that protocols should make common across themselves.

4.8.  Protocol Cores

The above building blocks consist of the functional components listed in
section 3 that appear to meet the requirements for being implemented as
building blocks presented in section 2.

The other functions from section 3, which are not covered above, should
be implemented as part of "protocol cores", specific to each protocol

5.  Conclusions

In this document, we briefly described a number of building blocks that
may be used for the generation of reliable multicast protocols to be
used in the application space of one-to-many reliable bulk-data
transfer.  The list of building blocks presented was derived from
considering the functions that a protocol in this space must perform and
how these functions should be grouped.  This list is not intended to be
all-inclusive but instead to act as guide as to which building blocks
are considered during the standardization process within the Reliable
Multicast Transport WG.

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6.  Acknowledgements

This document represents an overview of a number of building blocks for
one to many bulk data transfer that may be ready for standardization
within the RMT working group.  The ideas presented are not those of the
authors, they are a summarization of many years of research into
multicast transport combined with the varied presentations and
discussions in the IRTF Reliable Multicast Research Group.  Although
they are too numerous to list here, we thank everyone who has
participated in these discussions for their contributions.

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     M. Handley, V. Jacobson, "SDP: Session Description Protocol,"
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     A. Mankin, A. Romanow, S.Brander, V.Paxson, "IETF Criteria for
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     L. Rizzo, L. Vicisano, "A Reliable Multicast Data Distribution
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     Performance Communication Systems (HPCS'97), Sani Beach,
     Chalkidiki, Greece June 23-25, 1997.

     B. Whetten, M. Basavaiah, S. Paul, T. Montgomery, N. Rastogi, J.
     Conlan, and T. Yeh, "THE RMTP-II PROTOCOL," Internet Draft,
     Internet Engineering Task Force, Apr. 1998. Work in progress

     D. Wallner, E. Hardler, R. Agee, `"Key Management for Multicast:
     Issues and  Architectures," Internet Draft, work in progress, Sept

     B. Whetten,  "A Proposal for Reliable Multicast Congestion Control
     Requirements," work in progress.  http://www.talarian.com/rmtp-

8.  Authors' Addresses

Brian Whetten
Talarian Corporation,
333 Distel Circle,
Los Altos, CA 94022, USA

Lorenzo Vicisano
Cisco Systems,
170 West Tasman Dr.
San Jose, CA 95134, USA

Roger Kermode
Motorola Australian Research Centre
Level 3, 12 Lord St,
Botany  NSW  2019,

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Mark Handley, Sally Floyd
ATT Center for Internet Research at ICSI,
International Computer Science Institute,
1947 Center Street, Suite 600,
Berkeley, CA 94704, USA
mjh@aciri.org, floyd@aciri.org

9.  Full Copyright Statement

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it or
assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published and
distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any kind,
provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are included
on all such copies and derivative works. However, this document itself
may not be modified in any way, such as by removing the copyright notice
or references to the Internet Society or other Internet organizations,
except as needed for the purpose of developing Internet standards in
which case the procedures for copyrights defined in the Internet
languages other than English.

The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

This document and the information contained herein is provided on an "AS

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction ....................................................    2
1.1 Protocol Families .............................................    4
2 Building Blocks Rationale .......................................    4
2.1 Building Blocks Advantages ....................................    5
2.2 Building Block Risks ..........................................    6
2.3 Building Block Requirements ...................................    6
3 Protocol Components .............................................    7
3.1 Sub-Components Definition .....................................    8
4 Building Block Recommendations ..................................   11
4.1 NAK-based Reliability .........................................   11
4.2 FEC Repair ....................................................   12
4.3 Congestion Control ............................................   12
4.4 Generic Router Support ........................................   12
4.5 Tree Configuration ............................................   13
4.6 Security ......................................................   14
4.7 Common Headers ................................................   14
4.8 Protocol Cores ................................................   14
5 Conclusions .....................................................   14
6 Acknowledgements ................................................   15
7 References ......................................................   15
8 Authors' Addresses ..............................................   17
9 Full Copyright Statement ........................................   18

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