Inter-Domain Routing                                            P. Jakma
Internet-Draft                                          Sun Microsystems
Expires: May 22, 2009                                  November 18, 2008

    Revised Default Values for the BGP 'Minimum Route Advertisement

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   This document briefly examines what is known about the effects of the
   BGP MRAI timer, particularly on convergence.  It highlights published
   work which suggests the MRAI interval as deployed has an adverse
   effect on the convergence time of BGP.

   It then recommends revised, lower default values for the MRAI timer,
   thought to be more suited to today's Internet environment.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   2.  Background  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
     2.1.  The MRAI Timer  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
     2.2.  Known effects of the MRAI timer on convergence  . . . . . . 3
     2.3.  Interaction with Flap-Damping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
     2.4.  Current Status of the MRAI  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   3.  Risk Evaluation in the Choice of MRAI Time  . . . . . . . . . . 5
   4.  Recommendations on the MRAI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   7.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   8.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
     8.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
     8.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements  . . . . . . . . . . 9

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1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2.  Background

   The proper functioning of the [BGP] routing protocol is of great
   importance to the Internet.  Issues regarding matters of its
   stability and convergence have been documented widely, such as in
   [BGP-STAB], [bgp-converge] and [Potaroo0607].

   One such issue is the effect of 'Minimum Route Advertisement
   Interval' (MRAI).

2.1.  The MRAI Timer

   The Minimum Route Advertisement Interval (MRAI) timer is specified in
   RFC4271 [BGP].  This timer acts to rate-limit updates, on a per-
   destination basis.  [BGP] suggests values of 30s and 5s for this
   interval for eBGP and iBGP respectively.  The MRAI must also be
   applied to withdrawals according to RFC4271 [BGP], a change from the
   earlier RFC1771.

   Some implementations apply this rate-limiting on a per-peer basis,
   presumably an adequate approximation.  Some implementations apply it
   to withdrawal methods (often called "WRATE" in the literature).  Some
   implementations do not apply MRAI at all.

2.2.  Known effects of the MRAI timer on convergence

   The MRAI timer serves to suppress messages which BGP would otherwise
   send out to describe transitory states, and so allow BGP to converge
   with significantly fewer messages sent.  This beneficial effect of
   the MRAI timer, in terms of # of messages, increases as the timer is
   increased until an optimum value is reached, after which the
   beneficial effect stabilises. [bgp-converge] [mrai-final]

   In terms of convergence time, a similar beneficial effect is seen as
   the MRAI increases to near the same optimum value.  However as the
   timer value is increased past this point, the convergence time
   increases again linearly.  The scale of this increase is
   significantly worse with WRATE, i.e. applying the MRAI to withdrawals
   has an adverse effect on BGP convergence time. [bgp-converge]

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   The optimum MRAI timer value is dependent on several factors, most
   particularly the topology in its layout and propagation times.  The
   optimum value will differ between different subsets of the Internet.

   It is believed to be infeasible to try directly calculate this value.
   However a useful approximation can be made from the diameter of the
   topology if it is known, along with some assumptions about the the
   topology, such as the latency between nodes. [mrai-internet]

   The interaction between extensions to BGP designed to improve
   convergence, such as those that allow propagation of additional
   and/or backup paths, and the MRAI timer is as yet unknown.  However,
   it seems reasonable to speculate these extensions might have the
   effect of leading to a lower optimum MRAI than would be indicated by
   an approximation based on the diameter of the BGP topology.  Further
   work on these questions would be useful.

2.3.  Interaction with Flap-Damping

   As the MRAI helps eliminate some updates, it interacts with flap-
   damping [BGP-DAMP].  The lower the MRAI timer, the greater the risk
   of crossing below the threshold of the optimum value.  If that
   threshold is crossed, there will be an increased number of updates
   somewhere within the BGP system, and hence an increased risk of paths
   being dampened which otherwise would not.

   So, in presence of significant flap-damping deployment and given the
   uncertainty of what the optimum is, it is reasonable to err towards
   selecting a value of the MRAI timer significantly higher than the

   However, given that flap-damping increasingly is discouraged
   [RIPE-378] in Internet routing, this particular need to be
   conservative in the choice of MRAI timer value may be less important.

2.4.  Current Status of the MRAI

   The current recommended value of 30s may be far higher than is
   optimal for the Internet, based on observations of certain parameters
   related to its topology.  In [mrai-final] it is suggested that the
   optimal value may be between 5s ('semi-safe') to 15s ('safe').  The
   estimation of the 'safe' value here is of no relevance if WRATE is
   universally deployed, as in such a case the 'semi-safe' value will be
   the same as the 'safe' value.  Further empirical work by the same
   authors [mrai-internet] suggests that the optimal, Internet MRAI may
   be below 5s.

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   Further, [BGP-STAB] and [Potaroo0607] argue that operational
   conditions (e.g. different routers using different MRAI values) mean
   the MRAI is having an adverse effect even on the number of messages
   sent, and so further exacerbating convergence problems in the global
   BGP system, such as path hunting.  The [BGP-STAB] document goes
   further still and argues that MRAI be deprecated in favour of some
   better way of damping BGP UPDATES, however there are no clear
   proposals before the IDR as of this writing for such changes to BGP.

3.  Risk Evaluation in the Choice of MRAI Time

   Though there is an optimum value for the MRAI, it's unlikely that it
   can be determined empirically or otherwise for the general Internet.
   It may even not be possible, as the optimum MRAI will differ for
   different subsets of the Internet.  Some degree of guesstimation at a
   reasonable value for the MRAI is required, which is an exercise in
   risk; whether to err towards fast convergence at the risk of a
   disproportionate increase in BGP messaging, or to err to the side of
   an optimal number of messages at the expense of convergence.

   Arguably, economising on bandwidth and control-plane processing power
   is of less importance than the convergence time of BGP, compared to
   times past.  Presuming this, any new recommendations for the MRAI
   should seek to err slightly to the side of convergence, rather than
   erring towards minimising BGP traffic.

   Further, if we assume most implementations apply the MRAI to
   withdrawals, then the Internet BGP topology effectively is WRATE-
   enabled, and [mrai-final] suggests there is even less benefit to
   erring toward a higher MRAI.

   There may be risks in mismatched MRAI values between speakers in an
   AS as revised MRAI values are deployed.  The MRAI values in RFC4271
   [BGP] were deliberately specified to be lower for iBGP than for eBGP,
   so as to allow interior routing to converge while minimising the
   effect on eBGP state.  So with mismatched values there is an
   increased risk that the external stability of an AS's routes would be
   affected by transient, internal states.

   This last risk suggests that the existing iBGP/VPN values should be
   the lower-bound for any conservative revision of the eBGP MRAI value.

   The most definite risk of lowering the MRAI is the increased risk of
   flap-damping, if the value is set too much below the optimum.
   Therefore, taking into account estimations of that optimum is
   required.  That said, at least one BGP implementation by default does
   not apply any MRAI at all.

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4.  Recommendations on the MRAI

   The suggested default values for the
   MinRouteAdvertisementIntervalTimer given in RFC4271 [BGP] are revised
   to be 5s or less for eBGP connections, and 1s or less for iBGP
   connections, for use on Internet topologies.

   These values may not be suitable for topologies which differ from the
   Internet, be that in scale, arrangement or otherwise.  Such non-
   Internet, BGP topologies likely would have lower optimum values,
   assuming they are always significantly smaller in scale than the
   Internet BGP topology.  Hence, implementations SHOULD allow the MRAI
   value to be configured administratively on a per-AFI/SAFI basis, as
   well as a per-peer basis.

   Given the beneficial effects on convergence time, implementations MAY
   exempt withdrawals from the MRAI timer.

5.  IANA Considerations

   There are no requests made to IANA in this document.

6.  Security Considerations

   This document raises no new security considerations.

7.  Acknowledgements

   The author would like to thank Manav Bhatia for his helpful review
   and comments; as well as Robert Raszuk, Samita Chakrabarti, Danny
   McPherson and Jeffrey Haas for their useful comments; dissenting or

   The authors of the cited documents are thanked for their
   contributions to the understanding of BGP, of which this document is
   a simple summary.

8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [BGP]      Rekhter, Y., Li, T., and S. Hares, "A Border Gateway
              Protocol 4 (BGP-4)", RFC 4271, January 2006.

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   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", RFC 2119, BCP 14, February 2001.

8.2.  Informative References

              Li, T. and G. Huston, "BGP Stability Improvements",
              I-D draft-li-bgp-stability, June 2007.

              Villamizar, C., Chandra, R., and R. Govindan, "BGP Route
              Flap Damping", RFC 2439, November 1998.

              Huston, G., "Damping BGP", June 2007,

              Smith, P. and P. Panigl, "RIPE RRG: Recommendations on
              Route-flap Damping", May 2006,

              Griffin, T. and B. Premore, "An Experimental Analysis of
              BGP Convergence Time", In Proceedings of ICNP pages 53-61,
              November 2001,

              Qiu, J., Hao, R., and X. Li, "An Experimental Study of the
              BGP Rate-limiting Timer", Bell Labs Technical Memo ITD-03-
              44604H, June 2003,

              Qiu, J., Hao, R., and X. Li, "The Optimal Rate-Limiting
              Timer of BGP for Routing Convergence", IEICE TRANS.
              Comm. Vol.E88-B, No. 4, April 2005,

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Author's Address

   Paul Jakma
   Sun Microsystems
   Linlithgow, West Lothian  EH49 7LR

   Phone: +44 1506 673150

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