Payload-assisted Delivery for SIPNAT

Versions: 00                                                            
IETF Behave Working Group                                     C. Perkins
Internet-Draft                                             WiChorus Inc.
Expires: April 22, 2010                                 October 19, 2009

                  Payload-assisted Delivery for SIPNAT

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   SIPNAT has been proposed as an effective method for enabling global
   Internet access to IPv6-only domains.  New methods have been devised
   for accurate delivery of packets from the global Internet into the
   internal domain of destinations that do not share a common address
   space with the majority of the global Internet.  These improvements
   can be used to augment Source-IP NAT so that perfect accuracy can be
   achieved in many common cases of interest.

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1.  Introduction

   Enabling the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 will depend to a large
   extent upon how well businesses and online organizations can depend
   on IPv6 to carry on their daily operations.  One way to justify such
   dependence on IPv6 is to assure businesses that their online services
   will be accessible from the entire existing IPv54 Internet.

   With traditional port-mapped NAT (NAPT), this has not been possible
   because, for each source-destination flow, the translation parameters
   for the flow have had to be established by the internal network node
   (i.e., the node with the IP address that is incompatible with the
   addressing domain of the global Internet).  In particular, for each
   such flow there needs to be an external IP address and an external
   port assigned.  Packets arriving at the external IP address and port
   are then translated and retransmitted with new IP headers containing
   the translated IP address and port number.  This works for
   IPv6-->IPv4 translation, IPv4-->IPv4 translation (e.g., today's
   Internet), and other variations as well.  It is a workable solution
   (with various second-order difficulties) for enabling outgoing
   traffic to be delivered into the global Internet.

   But any business requires global presence and continuous, on-demand
   availability.  The customers have to be able to initiate contact with
   the business services, not the other way around.  Similary for all
   other online service organizations (including governmental, non-
   profit, and family websites).

   One idea for enabling such incoming translations has been proposed,
   called "source-IP NAT" (SIPNAT).  This proposal relies on DNS to
   establish the required parameters for the flow translation.  It has
   the advantage of dynamic allocation and deallocation of global IPv4
   addresses for the potentially huge population of internal (say, IPv6)
   network nodes.  This is essential for scalability.  The more global
   IPv4 addresses, the better SIPNAT works.  With as few as 128 IPv4
   addresses, SIPNAT can offer reliability in excess of 99.99%,
   depending on the arrival rate for new flows, the cohesiveness of each
   flow, and other details about the statistics of the incoming traffic.

   There are other protocol-specific mechanisms that can be used to
   assist with the translation of incoming traffic.  For almost all HTTP
   traffic, the translation can be perfect.  For SIP and peer-to-peer
   traffic, other mechanisms can often be employed.  For some traffic,
   there may not be any additional mechanisms that are conveniently
   realizable, or even available at all.  For example, "ping" and
   "telnet" do not make available the information needed for the
   protocol mechanisms in this document.

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2.  Failure cases for SIPNAT

   SIPNAT relies on DNS Request messages to initialize a pending flow
   translation.  The pending flow translation will become established
   when the first packet of the flow arrives at the external IP address
   on the NAT box which has been allocated for that flow.  The process
   of establishment mainly involves inserting the source IP address of
   that first packet as part of the parameters for the flow translation.
   This also enables correct synthesis of the translated IPv6 address
   that will be reported to the destination, and defines the IPv4 source
   address for responses that are transmitted by the IPv6 destination to
   be translated by the source-IP NAT.

   The newly allocated IP address may already be supporting several (or
   many) existing established flows; at any particular time, SIPNAT
   requires that only one pending flow translation may await
   establishment at the allocated IPv4 address.  Because of this, SIPNAT
   (while effective and generally robust) does have failure modes.

   o  The DNS Request does not identify the actual source computer.
      This means the initial allocation for global Internet address on
      the NAT cannot be established until a packet arrives from the
      actual source.  It is then possible for a flow translation to be
      assigned on a global Internet address that already is hosting a
      previous flow translation for the same requesting source-IP
      address.  In other words, it is possible for a source node, which
      is already getting service from the NAT at a particular IPv4
      address, to be accidentally allocated that same IPv4 address for a
      different internal destination.  But, according to the rules of
      SIPNAT, two different IPv6 destinations for the same global
      Internet source cannot be translated through the same NAT IPv4

   o  Each IPv4 NAT interface to the global Internet can sustain only
      one pending assignment.  If too many new DNS resolutions arrive
      nearly simultaneously, new flow allocations may temporarily become

   o  It is possible for a flow to persist even after the IPv4 address
      allocated for the flow has timed out.  For such flows, incoming
      packets may be lost.  To counter this, flow timeouts should be set
      as long as possible consistent with the target error rate.  This
      amounts to a trade-off against the likelihood that the same
      source-IP address will request a new flow before all of its
      previous flows at the allocated NAT IP address have completed (and
      their flow translation parameters deactivated)

   The SIPNAT document describes how to reduce or eliminate these

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   vulnerabilities by appropriate configuration and adjustments for the
   timeout parameters.  The first case is the most difficult case for
   SIPNAT.  Fortunately, according to traffic flows that have been
   analyzed to date, this almost never happens for small-to-medium scale
   websites that constitute the main use case for SIPNAT.  This case
   does happen for very large servers, but even then it is rare, and
   such servers would be more efficiently handled by IVI [3].

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3.  Using the Payload

   The basic proposal in this document is to use information contained
   in the payload to assist in translating the IP header from the global
   Internet for better-assured delivery to the proper internal host.
   This goes beyond previous suggestions for careful configuration and
   management of the NAT interface.

   For instance, almost all HTTP GET traffic has the host destination
   host name as part of the HTTP payload:

   For all such incoming traffic, translation can be performed with 100%
   accuracy.  Current experience with border routers offering DPI
   features indicates that the translation can be done at wire speed.
   It is expected that this one simple observation will, for all
   practical purposes, eliminate any remaining ambiguities about the
   delivery of HTTP traffic.

   Even in the unlikely event that the "" field is not present
   in the HTTP GET traffic, web traffic offers other possibilities for
   guiding correct traffic.  For example, the pathname of the object
   webpage is typically unique to the destination.  In other words, it
   is rarely the case that two different destinations in the same domain
   would use the same pathname to identify any webpages hosted by those
   destinations.  If a database of associations between pathnames and
   actual destinations is maintained, any such traffic containing the
   pathname for a destination can be delivered correctly.  Information
   about rare cases where duplicate pathnames occur can also be
   maintained.  Even if the pathname can narrow down the selection to a
   choice between a few competing websites, the other context for the
   flow translation will typically be sufficient for accurate delivery.

   Other protocols, such as SIP, also typically utilize URIs and URLS
   that provide domain names identifying the desired destination.  For
   each such protocol, the DPI methods required for extracting the
   destination information will be different, but the principle is the

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4.  Peer-to-Peer

   After HTTP traffic, the next major source of traffic on the Internet
   is Peer-to-Peer traffic.  This is typically filesharing traffic,
   often using the BitTorrent protocol.  In order to understand the
   interactions of such traffic with SIPNAT, we will use BitTorrent as
   an example.

   BitTorrent relies on four different kinds of protocol entities.

   o  Directory of trackers

   o  Trackers

   o  Servers

   o  Clients

   A client uses some method for finding a tracker that maintains
   information about servers offering a particular file of interest.
   Once contact with a tracker is established, the client obtains a list
   of file segments, and for each file segment, a list of servers that
   offer availability for that file segment.  A client can select one or
   more servers for each segment of the desired file.  If a transfer for
   a specific file segment from one of the selected servers does not
   complete, the client can pick another server for that file segment.
   Eventually, all segments will be collected together for assembly into
   the complete file of interest.

   With this as context, it should be considered which configurations
   are of most interest.  For example, consider an IPv6-only server
   offering segments to clients on the global Internet.  In many cases,
   this sort of service will work just fine, especially if the clients
   attempt to resolve the server's domain name before issuing the
   request for the file segment.  However, the tracker often supplies
   the IP address of the server instead of the server's domain name.
   For such communications, the client would expect to make contact with
   the server without any intermediate DNS resolution to obtain the IP
   address of the server.  In this case, the SIPNAT would not have the
   opportunity to allocate the necessary IPv4 address for the flow

   Nevertheless, it is still possible to handle such incoming traffic,
   based on detailed methods for inspecting peer-to-peer traffic
   payloads.  This is to be specified in a companion ALG document
   describing mechanisms for handling IPv4-->IPv6 translation for the
   lists of servers provided by trackers.  One simple solution is just
   to set up IVI-style network interfaces for the servers.  For dynamic

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   allocations of IPv4 network interfaces on the NAT router, additional
   payload inspection and alterations are needed.

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5.  Other traffic

   Aside from HTTP, peer-to-peer, and SIP traffic, other protocol
   services should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

   For instance, DNS traffic is extremely common on the Internet.
   However, it is most likely not a suitable candidate for such protocol
   translations as typically handled by NATs.  Therefore, for the
   purposes of this document, we may consider DNS traffic to be out of
   scope for the translation problem.

   Mobile IP signaling is not a good candidate for such protocol
   translations, because a client is either a Mobile IPv4 mobile node or
   a Mobile IPv6 mobile node, and there are already methods specified by
   which a Mobile IPv6 mobile node can access its home agent by way of
   IPv4 addresses.

   It needs to be determined whether or not mail servers that have IPv6
   addresses only should be accessible by way of SIPNAT.  It seems more
   likely, even if they should be accessible at all to the existing IPv4
   global Internet, they would be either dual-stack already, or else
   good candidates for assignment of a permanent (IVI-style) IPv4
   address on the NAT.

   FTP does not seem to offer a good way to identify the destination by
   way of the payload-oriented mechanisms described earlier in this
   document.  Such FTP services are better handled by way of IVI-style
   static address assignment.  For most of the cases of interest, file
   access is more likely mediated by HTTP access instead of FTP, and the
   remaining cases are typically those more appropriate for static
   assignment anyway.

   Telnet is not used very often any more, and anyway is likely to be
   handled very well by SIPNAT except for cases when the client attempts
   to contact a destination by using the raw IP address.  SIPNAT does
   not offer a solution for that case.

   IKEv2 [2] has been designed to work across NAT boundaries.
   Consequently, it does not require the use of IP addresses as part of
   the IKEv2 message payload.  In the case of SIPNAT, the Notify
   will correctly indicate the presence of address translation.  If use
   of a well-known IPv6 prefix is used to translate the IPv4 address,
   there may be an opportunity to precisely identify the type of NAT as

   ... think about SSH ...

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6.  Segregation by access type

   HTTP is a particularly common case that is easy for SIPNAT to handle
   with the extensions described in this document.  For destinations
   that only offer services by way of HTTP, all traffic can be delivered
   accurately based on the payload.  This means that many different
   allocations could be made at the same time without danger of
   ambiguity.  Effectively, the restriction for only one pending
   allocation at a time could be removed.

   Suppose, then, that there is a special class of destinations that
   only offer HTTP service.  Also suppose that the NAT is equipped to
   detect the "" field of incoming HTTP GET requests.  For
   every destination in this special class, each DNS Request could
   return the same IPv4 address in the DNS Reply.  The same sort of flow
   translation would be set up for each HTTP destination assigned to the
   IPv4 address, but the destination IP address parameter would be
   determined by the payload, and matched against the initial allocation
   as determined by the DNS entity.  However, packet delivery should
   still be granted only for destinations that had been allocated to the
   IPv4 address by way of a preceding DNS request.  This eligibility
   requirement should be a matter of operator policy.  For such traffic,
   the flow timeout parameter could be configured to a much larger

   This scheme could potentially be extended to allow HTTP access to
   some destinations identified by IP address (not hostname) in URLs.
   In other words, the pathname is located at a raw IP address instead
   of the usual domain name for the destination node.  For these cases,
   the payload can be delivered accurately, but no DNS Request would be
   received to trigger the allocation of a pending flow translation.

   Such unusual URLs can be supported under the typical configuration
   choice for HTTP servers as has been described.  Again, it is a matter
   for operator choice whether it should be appropriate to provide that
   support.  Moreover, it is not clear how a source would ever get such
   a URL with an IPv4 address to represent the IPv6-only destination.

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7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [1]  Perkins, C., "Translating IPv4 to IPv6 based on source IPv4
        address", draft-perkins-sourceipnat-00 (work in progress),
        October 2009.

7.2.  Informative References

   [2]  Kaufman, C., "Internet Key Exchange (IKEv2) Protocol", RFC 4306,
        December 2005.

   [3]  Li, X., Bao, C., Chen, M., Zhang, H., and J. Wu, "The CERNET IVI
        Translation Design and Deployment for the IPv4/IPv6  Coexistence
        and Transition", draft-xli-behave-ivi-02 (work in progress),
        June 2009.

   [4]  Bagnulo, M., Sullivan, A., Matthews, P., and I. Beijnum, "DNS64:
        DNS extensions for Network Address Translation from IPv6 Clients
        to  IPv4 Servers", draft-ietf-behave-dns64-00 (work in
        progress), July 2009.

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Author's Address

   Charles E. Perkins
   WiChorus Inc.
   3590 N. 1st Street, Suite 300
   San Jose  CA 95134


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