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Versions: 00                                                            
Network Working Group              Eric C. Rosen, Cisco Systems, Inc.
Internet Draft                     Andre Fredette, Bay Networks, Inc.
Expiration Date: May 1998          Tony Li, Juniper Networks, Inc.
                                   Keith McCloghrie, Cisco Systems, Inc.
                                   Milan Merhar, Lucent Technologies

                                   November 1997


             Comparison of MPLS LAN Encapsulation Proposals


               draft-rosen-mpls-lan-encaps-compar-00.txt

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
   and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.

   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
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   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
   "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
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   munnari.oz.au (Pacific Rim), ds.internic.net (US East Coast), or
   ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast).


Abstract

   [1] describes how to encode an MPLS label stack as a ''shim'' between
   the data link and network layer headers of a labeled frame, but [1]
   does not require that this encoding be used to encode the top of the
   label stack on LAN media.  This document examines the alternative
   encapsulations that have been proposed for LANs.  One alternative is
   to use the shim as the MPLS encapsulation on LAN interfaces [2].
   Another alternative is to encode the top label in the MAC header,
   rather than in the shim [3].  We describe the implications of each
   approach.







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Table of Contents

    1          Introduction  .......................................   2
    2          Frame Size and Fragmentation  .......................   3
    3          Time to Live  .......................................   4
    4          Interactions with Installed Equipment  ..............   4
    4.1        MAC Address Filtering  ..............................   4
    4.2        Effect on 'Source Address Learning' in LAN Bridges  .   6
    4.3        Size of Bridge Forwarding Tables  ...................   8
    4.4        Environments with Mixed Bridging/Routing  ...........   8
    4.5        Uniqueness of Labels  ...............................  10
    4.6        Protocol Layering  ..................................  10
    5          Hardware Implementation  ............................  11
    6          Leveraging the ATM Encapsulation  ...................  11
    7          Summary  ............................................  12
    8          Authors' Addresses  .................................  13
    9          Bibliography  .......................................  14





1. Introduction

   In [1], there is a proposal for encoding an MPLS label stack as a
   "shim" between the data link layer header and the network layer
   header.  This is sometimes referred to as the "generic" encapsulation
   of MPLS messages, since it is independent of the underlying data
   link.

   It has been proposed to use the generic encapsulation on PPP
   interfaces [1] and on LAN interfaces [2].  In both cases, the data
   link layer header would have a protocol codepoint which identifies
   the frame as containing an MPLS packet.

   In the proposal of [2], the data link layer and MAC layer would
   remain unaffected, with MPLS being, from the data link's point of
   view, just another higher layer.  In this draft, we will refer to
   this proposal as the "MPLS-SHIM proposal", or just "MPLS-SHIM".

   In the proposal of [3], the top of the label stack is encoded
   directly into the MAC layer header.  It is proposed to carry the top
   entry of the label stack in the field of the MAC layer header which
   is conventionally used to hold the MAC Destination Address.  That is,
   the MAC Destination Address field would be redefined as follows:




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          +--------------------+------------+---------+-----------+
          |    OUI Prefix (24) | Label (20) | CoS (3) | Stack (1) |
          +--------------------+------------+---------+-----------+


   where "Label", "CoS",  and "Stack" have the  same meaning as defined
   in [1].  The 24-bit OUI prefix is used to indicate that this 48-bit
   field contains an MPLS label  stack entry, rather  than a real MAC
   address.  In this draft,we will refer to this proposal as the "MPLS-
   MAC proposal", or just "MPLS-MAC".


2. Frame Size and Fragmentation

   An MPLS-MAC frame carrying the same information as an MPLS-SHIM frame
   is four bytes shorter.  If a frame needs to carry one label, and the
   original, unlabeled frame is already at the maximum size (MTU) for
   the LAN, MPLS-SHIM will require the frame to be fragmented, while
   MPLS-MAC will not.  If the frame needs to carry two or more labels,
   however, both schemes require fragmentation.  Thus in either case,
   MPLS must have procedures for fragmenting labeled packets; these
   procedures can be found in [1].

   The use of shorter packets on the LAN may reduce the number of
   packets which need to get fragmented.  However, as is discussed in
   [1], packets would in fact never need to get fragmented unless they
   came from one of the relatively small number of end systems which (a)
   do not support Path MTU discovery, and (b) emit 1500-byte IP
   datagrams even when the source and destination are not on the same
   subnet (normally this implies that the source and destination have
   the same classful network number).  Thus the difference between the
   amount of fragmentation caused by MPLS-SHIM and the amount caused by
   MPLS-MAC is quite small.


















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3. Time to Live

   Unlike MPLS-SHIM, MPLS-MAC does not propose to carry an 8-bit TTL
   value in the top label stack entry.  However, doing so is not ruled
   out by the use of the MAC header to carry the label stack entry.  For
   example, if MPLS were assigned 256 OUI prefixes, the TTL could
   certainly be encoded therein.  Whether this particular technique is
   practical, given IEEE fees and policies with respect to OUI
   assignment, is certainly arguable.  The point though is that the
   presence or absence of TTL is not a fundamental difference between
   MPLS-SHIM and MPLS-MAC.




4. Interactions with Installed Equipment

   The  ethernet and IEEE 802.3 data  link protocols assume  that the
   "address" fields in  the  frame headers  contain MAC   addresses.  In
   MPLS-MAC,  these fields  carry a completely  different  kind of
   information, with  completely different semantics.   On a LAN  in
   which MPLS-MAC  is in use, there  is not one data link protocol being
   used, but two:

     - The existing data link layer protocol (ethernet or 802.3), which
       continues to be used for unlabeled packets.

     - A new data link layer protocol (specified, e.g., in [3]) for
       carrying labeled packets.

   Existing LAN networks, existing LAN bridges and switches, existing
   LAN troubleshooting and administrative tools and procedures, have all
   been designed around the assumption that all frames on the LAN use
   certain data link layer protocols.  To add a new data link layer
   protocol which assigns different semantics to the addressing fields
   is extremely likely to cause problems.  We cannot hope to exhibit all
   such problems here, but we can certainly point out a few of them.


4.1. MAC Address Filtering

   Ordinarily, a LAN device (such as a host or a router) does not
   receive a frame unless the frame's MAC Destination Address field ("DA
   field", or just "DA") satisfies one of the following conditions:







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     - contains the 48-bit MAC address of the device itself, or

     - contains the broadcast address or a multicast address.

   Bridges and switches, on the other hand, run in "promiscuous mode";
   they receive all frames.

   In MPLS-MAC, if one needs to send a labeled packet to an LSR, one
   does not put the LSR's MAC address in the DA; rather, one puts in one
   of the labels assigned and distributed by the LSR.  So how does the
   LSR receive the frame?

   In general, LAN NICs can be programmed with a small number of unicast
   MAC addresses (often only one, certainly less than a dozen) which
   they will receive.  That is, the number of unicast addresses which
   can be programmed into a LAN NIC is MUCH smaller than the number of
   labels which an LSR can assign and distribute.  Therefore, if one is
   using MPLS-MAC, one must operate every LSR LAN interface in
   promiscuous mode.

   Running in promiscuous mode can be quite costly, especially if the
   LAN is heavily loaded, as every frame must be examined.  Generally
   one does not run a system in promiscuous mode unless it has been
   explicitly designed to run in that mode (e.g., is a bridge or a
   switch).

   It must be possible however to run MPLS in devices which attach to a
   LAN but which are not bridges or switches, such as routers.  Using
   promiscuous mode for LSRs on LANs may have significant additional
   development costs on new equipment, and may not be practical on
   installed systems.

   What if the labels were encoded not as unicast addresses, but as
   multicast addresses?  The same problem occurs, in that most LAN NICs
   cannot be programmed to receive ONLY multicasts whose DA fields
   contain one of a specified set of values.  When these NICs are
   programmed to receive a particular multicast address, they receive
   all frames with that address in the DA, but they also receive frames
   with other multicast DAs, and software must be used to filter out the
   undesired frames.  The more multicast addresses one programs into the
   NIC, the more undesired multicast addresses one will receive.  Some
   NICs could even end up receiving all multicast frames.  If the
   traffic on the LAN large consists largely of labeled frames, this is
   essentially no different than running in promiscuous mode, and may be
   prohibitively expensive.






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4.2. Effect on 'Source Address Learning' in LAN Bridges

   Suppose it is desired to send a labeled packet from one LSR to
   another, where both are on the same 802.1D extended LAN (bridged
   Ethernet), and where traffic from one to the other must traverse one
   or more bridges.  The LSRs do not recognize the presence of the
   bridges; 802.1D defines transparent bridges.  Since the DA contains a
   label instead of the MAC address of the target LSR, the bridges will
   flood such frames until such time as their forwarding databases have
   entries which are keyed by label values, where those label values are
   used as if they were MAC addresses.  The (bridged) LAN would have a
   serious performance problem if it were necessary to flood all such
   frames.

   Bridges populate their forwarding databases by "learning".  They
   learn which MAC addresses are reachable over which ports by looking
   at the MAC Source Address fields (SA fields, or just "SA") in frames
   which they see on the ethernets to which they are attached.  This
   mapping between MAC addresses and ports is maintained in a forwarding
   table entry.  These entries are aged out after some period (a
   configurable parameter with a default of 300 seconds) of non-use.

   Thus to enable MPLS-MAC to be used in a bridged LAN environment, it
   is necessary to send frames which carry labels in their SA fields, as
   well as in their DA fields.  In order to keep the bridge forwarding
   tables properly populated, an LSR must transmit, for each label it is
   using, (or more accurately, for each label/TTL/Cos combination) at
   least one frame every aging period which has that label value in its
   SA field.  Failure to do this would result in the flooding of labeled
   frames along the spanning tree, which would have a significant
   detrimental impact on LAN performance.

   There are a number of different ways to do this, but all are
   problematical:

     - When one sends the control message (an LDP message) which
       distributes a particular label, one can put that label in the SA
       field of the control message.  However, this requires that a
       separate control message be sent for each label, and that each
       such message be refreshed every aging period.  Given a large
       number of labels, this creates the need for high control
       overhead.  It also requires that all the LSRs and bridges be
       configured with the same aging period.

     - It is sometimes suggested that some new protocol, such as GARP,
       be used for populating the bridge forwarding tables with labels.
       However, the existing installed base of bridges does not support
       GARP.  Many existing bridges cannot be upgraded to support GARP.



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       This would have a significant negative impact on the ability to
       deploy MPLS in existing bridged environments.

     - As an LSR sends ordinary data frames out a particular interface,
       it could cycle through the list of labels it has distributed out
       that interface, writing one such label into the SA of each frame.
       This does not create any extra overhead on the ethernet itself,
       but does create additional processing overhead for each
       transmitted frame (i.e., additional processing in the "fast
       path").  It also impacts certain administrative tools and
       procedures:


         * When one is having LAN ethernet problems, one frequently
           troubleshoots by using a sniffer to find the frames that are
           causing problems.  Then one looks at the SA of the frames to
           find the system that is at fault, so that the system can be
           located, examined and repaired.  If the SA is overwritten
           with a label, this sort of troubleshooting technique can no
           longer be used.

         * Administrators frequently filter the SA values at hub and
           switch ports, in order to ensure that only specific systems
           can access portions of the network.  If the SA is overwritten
           with a label, this sort of filtering can no longer be done,
           and a valuable security tool is removed from the
           administrator's portfolio.

         * A variety of automated topology discovery tools depend on the
           SA of a frame containing the actual MAC address of the system
           which originated the frame.  If the SA is overwritten with a
           label, these tools will no longer produce correct results.

   To summarize this section:

     - Since MPLS-SHIM does not alter the use of the SA and DA, it has
       no effect on the source address learning procedures, or upon
       tools which examine the SA.

     - MPLS-MAC must include some sort of "source address spoofing"
       procedure so that existing bridges do not flood all labeled
       packets down the spanning tree.  If the SA is overwritten in data
       frames, there are issues of compatibility with existing tools.
       If the SA is overwritten in control frames, additional overhead
       is required.






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4.3. Size of Bridge Forwarding Tables

   In many large bridged LANs, the bridges operate with forwarding
   tables that are very nearly full to their maximum size, containing
   just the actual MAC addresses of systems that are on the bridged LAN.
   There simply may not be enough space in the bridge forwarding tables
   to accommodate labels as well as MAC addresses, especially if the
   number of labels in use in the LAN is large.

   If the table size overflows, packets with DA field values that did
   not make it into the table will get flooded along the spanning tree.
   That is, MPLS-MAC could result in many packets, labeled or unlabeled,
   getting flooded along the spanning tree.

   One could of course encode the labels as if they were "multicast
   addresses"; this would keep them out of bridge forwarding tables
   (unless the bridge has a VLAN implementation which keeps multicast
   addresses in the same forwarding table as unicast addresses). While
   this would prevent the table size from increasing, the cost would be
   that all labeled packets get flooded along the spanning tree.

   Any time frames need to get flooded along the spanning tree, there is
   a significant degradation in LAN performance, which affects both
   labeled and unlabeled frames.


4.4. Environments with Mixed Bridging/Routing

   Consider the following topology (which is part of a larger topology):


   RI1       RX1
   |         |
   -----------------------------LAN1
                    |       |
                    RI2     B         RX2
                    |       |         |
   LAN2  -------------------------------


   In this topology:

     - There are two LANs, LAN1 and LAN2.

     - B is a conventional bridge connecting them.






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     - B is configured to filter (i.e., discard) IP packets, but to pass
       packets of other protocols.

     - LAN1 and LAN2 are both in the spanning tree.

     - All the R systems are LSRs running IP routing:

         * RI1, RX1, and RI2 are IP routing neighbors.

         * RI2 and RX2 are IP routing neighbors.

     - There is an LDP connection between every pair of IP routing
       neighbors.

     - RX1 and RX2 are LSRs running IPX routing in addition to IP
       routing.  They are NOT IP routing neighbors, but they ARE IPX
       routing neighbors.

     - There is an LDP connection between every pair of IPX routing
       neighbors.

   This topology represents a fairly common situation in which IP is
   being routed between two LANs, but IPX (for example) is being
   bridged.

   Since RI1 and RX2, for example, are NOT in the same broadcast domain
   with respect to IP (and with respect to the Label Distribution
   Protocol, LDP, which sits on top of IP), there is nothing to stop
   them from assigning the same label.  That is, there is no way they
   can coordinate their label assignments.  Suppose L is a label which
   they both use.  Then each will generate frames with L in the MPLS-MAC
   Source Address field.  This means that bridge B will "learn" that L
   is located on each of the two LANs.

   Suppose that RX1 sends a frame with L in the MAC Destination Address
   field, intending the frame for RI1.  There is no way to prevent B
   from relaying that frame to LAN2, where it will be received by RX2.
   This causes unintended packet duplication.  RX2 will of course
   misinterpret the frame, but eventually that frame will reach a point
   where it gets unlabeled, and forwarded according to the IP address.
   If the packet makes it back to RX1 somehow, we have created a loop.
   (Though even in the absence of a loop, the packet duplication is bad
   enough.)

   One might think that this problem could be avoided by telling B not
   to learn from frames with labels in the SA.  But remember that RX1
   and RX2 have an LDP connection between them, and each will be
   distributing labels to the other, where the labels correspond to IPX



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   routes.  B MUST learn from frames with labels in the SA, or else the
   labeled IPX frames will not be passed from one LAN to the other.


4.5. Uniqueness of Labels

   In MPLS-SHIM, there is no need for the LSRs on a LAN to coordinate
   their use of labels; each label has only local significance.  In
   MPLS-MAC, the set of labels that can be used on a LAN must be
   partitioned, and each LSR on the LAN must be assigned a distinct set
   of labels which it can use.  The reason is that the labels will
   appear in the SA field, and bridge learning presupposes that the SA
   field contains a value which is unique throughout the LAN.

   The need to partition the set of labels this way imposes scaling
   limitations, either in the number of LSRs that can exist on the LAN,
   or the number of labels that each can use.

   As LSRs are added to or removed from the LAN, it will be necessary to
   change the way the labels are partitioned, and/or the way the labels
   are assigned to particular LSRs.  This may result in periods of time
   during which labels are not unique throughout the LAN.  This can have
   a negative effect on bridge learning, causing additional flooding of
   packets, as well as packet duplication and looping.

   In the section 4.4, we exhibited a realistic scenario in which MPLS-
   MAC can cause packet duplication and/or looping to occur, even though
   everything is properly configured and operating correctly.  It is
   also worth considering the effects if the coordination procedures for
   partitioning labels were to fail.  The result could be uncontrollable
   packet duplication and/or looping.  Distributed coordination
   procedures like this have certainly been known to fail in practice.


4.6. Protocol Layering

   A fundamental design approach that has aided the specification and
   deployment of new networking protocols is the maintenance of protocol
   layer separation.  When this design approach is followed, lower
   layers can be reused as is.  This enables one to take advantage of
   the many years of testing and debugging of the lower layers, and it
   minimizes the amount of new work that must be done, and new
   alternatives that must be considered.

   MPLS-SHIM maintains this layered approach.  MPLS-MAC overloads and
   changes the semantics of the data link layer, by stealing fields from
   the data link header and assigning them semantics which are different
   than the semantics which the data link layer assigns them.  In



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   section 4, we have given several examples of how this overloading can
   cause problems that may not have been foreseen.  Even if it is
   possible to consider each such problem one at a time and develop a
   fix, the risk is high that some problems will go undiscovered until
   the protocol is deployed in some unforeseen way.


5. Hardware Implementation

   An important consideration is the ability to implement an LSR out of
   standard hardware.  It is clear that MPLS-SHIM, if implemented in
   hardware, would require hardware that differs significantly from that
   in standard LAN switches and bridges.  MPLS requires that the top
   label change each time a transit frame is switched.  For MPLS-SHIM,
   the Destination Address must also match the address of the next LSR
   in the path, so at every hop at least the Destination Address and the
   top label would change.

   Similarly, MPLS-MAC, if implemented in hardware, would require
   hardware that replaced the Destination Address field every time a
   transit labelled packet were switched.  Replacing the Destination
   Address is not a function of either existing 802.1D bridges or the
   newer  802.1p and 802.1Q bridges.

   MPLS-MAC also requires that the MAC Source Address field be
   overwritten as packets pass through (see section 4).  This is another
   function that does not exist in current bridges/switches, and is not
   envisioned to exist in future bridges/switches.

   It does not appear that there is any way to use standard LAN
   switching/bridging hardware to provide MPLS functionality, regardless
   of the proposal adopted.


6. Leveraging the ATM Encapsulation

   The MPLS encoding for ATM is rather analogous to the MPLS-MAC
   procedures.  In MPLS over ATM, the top of the stack is encoded in the
   VPI/VCI field of the AAL5 cell header, and processed by standard ATM
   switching hardware.  Shouldn't it be possible to do the same thing
   for LANs?

   The functionality provided by MPLS is very similar to the
   functionality provided by the ATM "forwarding plane".  Both sets of
   procedures are based on the lookup of a "label", and the replacement
   of the label by another label before forwarding.  Both the MPLS label
   and the AAL5 VPI/VCI have the the semantics of a "connection"
   identifier.  Thus it is very easy to map MPLS functionality onto ATM



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   forwarding plane functionality, by mapping the MPLS label swap
   directly to ATM's VPI/VCI replacement.  MPLS does not change the
   semantics of any of the fields used by the ATM forwarding plane.

   However, the semantics of a MAC address field is that of an "address"
   which identifies either a unique physical device, or a unique virtual
   device within one particular physical device.  In either case, this
   is expected to be a globally unique mapping.  This is very different
   than the semantics of an MPLS label, which is an identifier having
   only local significance.  As we have shown, the forwarding
   functionality of LAN switches is very different than the forwarding
   functionality of MPLS, as no LAN address replacement operation exists
   which is equivalent to the VPI/VCI replacement in ATM.  So it does
   not appear to be possible to map MPLS functionality directly into LAN
   switching functionality.


7. Summary

     - Frame Size

       MPLS-MAC generates frames which are four bytes shorter than those
       generated by MPLS-SHIM.

     - Time to Live

       Although MPLS-MAC, as proposed in [3], does not have a TTL field,
       such a field could added; the handling of TTL is not a
       fundamental difference between the proposals.

     - Installed Equipment

         * MPLS-MAC requires ALL LSRS on a LAN to run in promiscuous
           mode; MPLS-SHIM does not.  Running in promiscuous mode may
           have a significant performance impact.

         * MPLS-MAC causes a large increase in the size of the
           forwarding tables in existing bridges/switches.  MPLS-SHIM
           does not.  If the maximum forwarding table size is reached,
           flooding down the spanning tree results, reducing the
           effective forwarding capacity for both MPLS and non-MPLS
           traffic.

         * MPLS-SHIM does not overwrite the SA.  MPLS-MAC does.  This
           has an effect on source address learning in existing bridges.
           The procedures introduced to compensate for this effect may
           impact the use of existing administrative tools, or may cause
           extra overhead.  It also appears that such procedures will



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           not produce correct results in LANs with mixed
           bridging/routing.

         * MPLS-SHIM maintains protocol layering, allowing the LAN data
           link protocol to be used without changes.  MPLS-MAC overloads
           fields of the LAN data link protocol by assigning them new
           semantics, thereby introducing significant risk of additional
           unforeseen problems.

     - Hardware Implementation

       Neither MPLS-SHIM nor MPLS-MAC enable one to implement MPLS on
       standard (or soon-to-be-standard) bridging/switching hardware.


8. Authors' Addresses

   Eric C. Rosen
   Cisco Systems, Inc.
   250 Apollo Drive
   Chelmsford, MA, 01824
   E-mail: erosen@cisco.com

   Andre N. Fredette
   Bay Networks, Inc.
   3 Federal St.
   Billerica, MA 01821
   Phone: (978) 916-8524
   email: fredette@baynetworks.com

   Tony Li
   Juniper Networks, Inc.
   385 Ravendale Dr.
   Mountain View, CA 94043
   Email: tli@juniper.net
   Voice: +1 650 526 8006
   Fax:   +1 650 526 8001

   Keith McCloghrie
   Cisco Systems, Inc.
   170 Tasman Drive
   San Jose, CA, 95134
   E-mail: kzm@cisco.com

   Milan J. Merhar
   Lucent Technologies
   300 Baker Ave.
   Concord, MA, 01742-2168



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   Voice: (978) 287-2841
   Fax: (978) 287-2810
   E-mail: milan@lucent.com


9. Bibliography

   [1] "MPLS Label Stack Encoding," draft-ietf-mpls-label-encaps-00.txt,
   Rosen, Rekhter, Tappan, Farinacci, Fedorkow, Li, Conta

   [2] "MPLS Label Stack Encoding on LAN Media", draft-rosen-mpls-lan-
   encaps-00.txt, Rosen, Rekhter, Tappan, Farinacci, Fedorkow, Li, Conta

   [3] "Labels for MPLS over LAN Media", draft-srinivasan-mpls-lans-
   label-00.txt, Bussiere, Esaki, Ghanwani, Matsuzawa, Pace, Srinivasan.




































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