Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6
RFC 1981

Document Type RFC - Draft Standard (August 1996; Errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 8201
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                                          J. McCann
Request for Comments: 1981                 Digital Equipment Corporation
Category: Standards Track                                     S. Deering
                                                              Xerox PARC
                                                                J. Mogul
                                           Digital Equipment Corporation
                                                             August 1996

                  Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Abstract

   This document describes Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6.  It is
   largely derived from RFC 1191, which describes Path MTU Discovery for
   IP version 4.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction.................................................2
   2. Terminology..................................................2
   3. Protocol overview............................................3
   4. Protocol Requirements........................................4
   5. Implementation Issues........................................5
   5.1. Layering...................................................5
   5.2. Storing PMTU information...................................6
   5.3. Purging stale PMTU information.............................8
   5.4. TCP layer actions..........................................9
   5.5. Issues for other transport protocols......................11
   5.6. Management interface......................................12
   6. Security Considerations.....................................12
   Acknowledgements...............................................13
   Appendix A - Comparison to RFC 1191............................14
   References.....................................................14
   Authors' Addresses.............................................15

McCann, Deering & Mogul     Standards Track                     [Page 1]
RFC 1981              Path MTU Discovery for IPv6            August 1996

1. Introduction

   When one IPv6 node has a large amount of data to send to another
   node, the data is transmitted in a series of IPv6 packets.  It is
   usually preferable that these packets be of the largest size that can
   successfully traverse the path from the source node to the
   destination node.  This packet size is referred to as the Path MTU
   (PMTU), and it is equal to the minimum link MTU of all the links in a
   path.  IPv6 defines a standard mechanism for a node to discover the
   PMTU of an arbitrary path.

   IPv6 nodes SHOULD implement Path MTU Discovery in order to discover
   and take advantage of paths with PMTU greater than the IPv6 minimum
   link MTU [IPv6-SPEC].  A minimal IPv6 implementation (e.g., in a boot
   ROM) may choose to omit implementation of Path MTU Discovery.

   Nodes not implementing Path MTU Discovery use the IPv6 minimum link
   MTU defined in [IPv6-SPEC] as the maximum packet size.  In most
   cases, this will result in the use of smaller packets than necessary,
   because most paths have a PMTU greater than the IPv6 minimum link
   MTU.  A node sending packets much smaller than the Path MTU allows is
   wasting network resources and probably getting suboptimal throughput.

2. Terminology

   node        - a device that implements IPv6.

   router      - a node that forwards IPv6 packets not explicitly
                 addressed to itself.

   host        - any node that is not a router.

   upper layer - a protocol layer immediately above IPv6.  Examples are
                 transport protocols such as TCP and UDP, control
                 protocols such as ICMP, routing protocols such as OSPF,
                 and internet or lower-layer protocols being "tunneled"
                 over (i.e., encapsulated in) IPv6 such as IPX,
                 AppleTalk, or IPv6 itself.

   link        - a communication facility or medium over which nodes can
                 communicate at the link layer, i.e., the layer
                 immediately below IPv6.  Examples are Ethernets (simple
                 or bridged); PPP links; X.25, Frame Relay, or ATM
                 networks; and internet (or higher) layer "tunnels",
                 such as tunnels over IPv4 or IPv6 itself.

   interface   - a node's attachment to a link.

McCann, Deering & Mogul     Standards Track                     [Page 2]
RFC 1981              Path MTU Discovery for IPv6            August 1996

   address     - an IPv6-layer identifier for an interface or a set of
                 interfaces.

   packet      - an IPv6 header plus payload.
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