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IP over InfiniBand (IPoIB) Architecture
RFC 4392

Document Type RFC - Informational (April 2006)
Author Vivek Kashyap
Last updated 2018-12-20
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
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IESG Responsible AD Margaret Cullen
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RFC 4392
Network Working Group                                         V. Kashyap
Request for Comments: 4392                                           IBM
Category: Informational                                       April 2006

                IP over InfiniBand (IPoIB) Architecture

Status of This Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).


   InfiniBand is a high-speed, channel-based interconnect between
   systems and devices.

   This document presents an overview of the InfiniBand architecture.
   It further describes the requirements and guidelines for the
   transmission of IP over InfiniBand.  Discussions in this document are
   applicable to both IPv4 and IPv6 unless explicitly specified.  The
   encapsulation of IP over InfiniBand and the mechanism for IP address
   resolution on IB fabrics are covered in other documents.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction to InfiniBand ......................................2
      1.1. InfiniBand Architecture Specification ......................2
      1.2. Overview of InfiniBand Architecture ........................2
           1.2.1. InfiniBand Addresses ................................6
         Unicast GIDs ...............................7
         Multicast GIDs .............................7
      1.3. InfiniBand Multicast Group Management ......................9
           1.3.1. Multicast Member Record ............................10
         JoinState .................................10
           1.3.2. Join and Leave Operations ..........................11
         Creating a Multicast Group ................11
         Deleting a Multicast Group ................11
         Multicast Group Create/Delete Traps .......12
   2. Management of InfiniBand Subnet ................................12
   3. IP over IB .....................................................12
      3.1. InfiniBand as Datalink ....................................13

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      3.2. Multicast Support .........................................13
           3.2.1. Mapping IP Multicast to IB Multicast ...............14
           3.2.2. Transient Flag in IB MGIDs .........................14
      3.3. IP Subnets Across IB Subnets ..............................14
   4. IP Subnets in InfiniBand Fabrics ...............................14
      4.1. IPoIB VLANs ...............................................16
      4.2. Multicast in IPoIB subnets ................................16
           4.2.1. Sending IP Multicast Datagrams .....................17
           4.2.2. Receiving Multicast Packets ........................18
           4.2.3. Router Considerations for IPoIB ....................18
           4.2.4. Impact of InfiniBand Architecture Limits ...........19
           4.2.5. Leaving/Deleting a Multicast Group .................19
      4.3. Transmission of IPoIB Packets .............................20
      4.4. Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP) and
           Static ARP Entries ........................................20
      4.5. DHCPv4 and IPoIB ..........................................21
   5. QoS and Related Issues .........................................21
   6. Security Considerations ........................................21
   7. Acknowledgements ...............................................21
   8. References .....................................................21
      8.1. Normative References ......................................21
      8.2. Informative References ....................................22

1.  Introduction to InfiniBand

   The InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) was formed to develop an I/O
   specification to deliver a channel based, switched fabric technology.
   The InfiniBand standard is aimed at meeting the requirements of
   scalability, reliability, availability, and performance of servers in
   data centers.

1.1.  InfiniBand Architecture Specification

   The InfiniBand Trade Association specification is available for
   download from

1.2.  Overview of InfiniBand Architecture

   For a more complete overview, the reader is referred to chapter 3 of
   the InfiniBand specification.

   InfiniBand Architecture (IBA) defines a System Area Network (SAN) for
   connecting multiple independent processor platforms, I/O platforms,
   and I/O devices.  The IBA SAN is a communications and management
   infrastructure supporting both I/O and inter-processor communications
   for one or more computer systems.

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   An IBA SAN consists of processor nodes and I/O units connected
   through an IBA fabric made up of cascaded switches and IB routers
   (connecting IB subnets).  I/O units can range in complexity from a
   single Application-specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) IBA-attached
   device (such as a LAN adapter) to a large, memory-rich Redundant
   Array of Independent Disks (RAID) subsystem.

   An IBA network may be subdivided into subnets interconnected by
   routers.  These are IB routers and IB subnets and not IP routers or
   IP subnets.  This document will refer to InfiniBand routers and
   subnets as 'IB routers' and 'IB subnets' respectively.  The IP
   routers and IP subnets will be referred to as 'routers' and
   'subnets', respectively.

   Each IB node or switch may attach to a single or multiple switches or
   directly with each other.  Each IB unit interfaces with the link by
   way of channel adapters (CAs).  The architecture supports multiple
   CAs per unit with each CA providing one or more ports that connect to
   the fabric.  Each CA appears as a node to the fabric.

   The ports are the endpoints to which the data is sent.  However, each
   of the ports may include multiple QPs (Queue Pairs) that may be
   directly addressed from a remote peer.  From the point of view of
   data transfer the QP number (QPN) is part of the address.

   IBA supports both connection-oriented and datagram service between
   the ports.  The peers are identified by QPN and the port identifier.
   There are a two exceptions.  QPNs are not used when packets are
   multicast.  QPNs are also not used in the Raw Datagram mode.

   A port, in a data packet, is identified by a Local Identifier (LID)
   and optionally a Global Identifier (GID).  The GID in the packet is
   needed only when communicating across an IB subnet, though it may
   always be included.

   The GID is 128 bits long and is formed by the concatenation of a 64-
   bit IB subnet prefix and a 64-bit EUI-64-compliant portion.  The
   EUI-64 portion of a GID is referred to as the Global Unique
   Identifier (GUID; EUI stands for Extended Unique Identifier).  The
   LID is a 16-bit value that is assigned when the port becomes active.
   The GUID is the only persistent identifier of a port.  However, it
   cannot be used as an address in a packet.  If the prefix is modified,
   then the GID may change.  The subnet manager may attempt to keep the
   LID values constant across reboots, but that is not a requirement.

   The assignment of the GID and the LID is done by the subnet manager.
   Every IB subnet has at least one subnet manager component that
   controls the fabric.  It assigns the LIDs and GIDs.  The subnet

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   manager also programs the switches so that they route packets between
   destinations.  The subnet manager (SM) and a related component, the
   subnet administrator (SA), are the central repository of all
   information that is required to set-up and bring up the fabric.

   IB routers are components that route packets between IB subnets based
   on the GIDs.  Thus, within an IB subnet a packet may or may not
   include a GID but when going across an IB subnet the GID must be
   included.  A LID is always needed in a packet since the destination
   within a subnet is determined by it.

   A CA and a switch may have multiple ports.  Each CA port is assigned
   its own LID or a range of LIDs.  The ports of a switch are not
   addressable by LIDs/GIDs or, in other words, are transparent to other
   end nodes.  Each port has its own set of buffers.  The buffering is
   channeled through virtual lanes (VL) where each VL has its own flow
   control.  There may be up to 16 VLs.

   VLs provide a mechanism for creating multiple virtual links within a
   single physical link.  All ports must support VL15 which is reserved
   exclusively for subnet management datagrams and hence does not
   concern the IP over Infiniband (IPoIB) discussions.  The actual VL
   that a packet uses is configured by the SM in the switch/channel
   adapter tables and is determined based on the Service Level (SL)
   specified in every packet.  There are 16 possible SLs.

   In addition to the features described above viz.  QPs, SLs, and
   addressing (GID/LID), IBA also defines the following:


      Every packet, but for the raw datagrams, carries the partition key
      (P_Key).  These values are used for isolation in the fabric.  A
      switch (this is an optional feature) may be programmed by the SM
      to drop packets not having a certain key.  The CA ports always
      check for the P_Keys.  A CA port may belong to multiple
      partitions.  P_Key checking is optional at IB routers.

      A P_Key may be described as having 'limited membership' or 'full
      membership'.  For a packet to be accepted, at least one of the
      P_Keys (i.e., the P_Key in the packet or the P_Key in the port)
      must be 'full membership' P_Keys.


      Q_Keys are used to enforce access rights for reliable and
      unreliable IB datagram services.  Raw datagram services do not use
      Q_Keys.  At communication establishment, the endpoints exchange

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      the Q_Keys and must always use the relevant Q_Keys when
      communicating with one another.  Multicast packets use the Q_Key
      associated with the multicast group.

      Q_Keys with the most significant bit set are considered controlled
      Q_Keys (such as the General Service Interface (GSI) Q_Key
      [IB_ARCH]) and a Host Channel Adapter (HCA) does not allow a
      consumer to arbitrarily specify a controlled Q_Key.  An attempt to
      send a controlled Q_Key results in using the Q_Key in the QP
      context.  Thus, the Operating System maintains control since it
      can configure the QP context for the controlled Q_Key for
      privileged consumers.  It must be noted that though the notion of
      a 'controlled Q_Key' is suggested by IB specification, it does not
      require its use or implementation.

   Multicast support:

      A switch may support multicasting, that is, replication of packets
      across multiple output ports.  This is an optional feature.
      Similarly, support for sending/receiving multicast packets is
      optional in CAs.  A multicast group is identified by a GID.  The
      GID format is as defined in RFC 2373 on IPv6 addressing [IB_ARCH].
      Thus, from an IPv6-over-InfiniBand point of view, the data link
      multicast address looks like the network address.  An IB port must
      explicitly join a multicast group by sending a request to the SM
      to receive multicast packets.  A port may send packets to any
      multicast group.  In both cases, the multicast LID to be used in
      the packets is received from the SM.

   There are six methods for data transfer in IB architecture:

      1.  Unreliable Datagram (unacknowledged - connectionless)

         The Unreliable Datagram (UD) service is connectionless and
         unacknowledged.  It allows the QP to communicate with any
         unreliable datagram QP on any node.

         The switches and hence each link can support only a certain
         MTU.  The MTU ranges are 256 octets, 512 octets, 1024 octets,
         2048 octets, and 4096 octets.  A UD packet cannot be larger
         than the link MTU between the two peers.

      2.  Reliable Datagram    (acknowledged - multiplexed)

         The Reliable Datagram (RD) service is multiplexed over
         connections between nodes called End-to-End Contexts (EEC),
         which allows each RD QP to communicate with any RD QP on any
         node with an established EEC.  Multiple QPs can use the same

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         EEC and a single QP can use multiple EECs (one for each remote
         node per reliable datagram domain).

      3.  Reliable Connected (acknowledged - connection oriented)

         The Reliable Connected (RC) service associates a local QP with
         one and only one remote QP.  The message sizes maybe as large
         as 2^31 octets in length.  The CA implementation takes care of
         segmentation and assembly.

      4.  Unreliable Connected (unacknowledged - connection oriented)

         The Unreliable Connected (UC) service associates one local QP
         with one and only one remote QP.  There is no acknowledgement
         and hence no resend of lost or corrupted packets.  Such packets
         are therefore simply dropped.  It is similar to RC otherwise.

      5.  Raw Ethertype (unacknowledged - connectionless)

         The Ethertype raw datagram packet contains a generic transport
         header that is not interpreted by the CA but it specifies the
         protocol type.  The values for ethertype are the same as
         defined by Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) [IANA]
         for ethertype.

      6.  Raw IPv6 (unacknowledged - connectionless)

         Using IPv6 raw datagram service, the IBA CA can support
         standard protocol layers atop IPv6 (such as TCP/UDP).  Thus,
         native IPv6 packets can be bridged into the IBA SAN and
         delivered directly to a port and to its IPv6 raw datagram QP.

   The first four types are referred to as IB transports.  The latter
   two are classified as raw datagrams.  There is no indication of the
   QP number in the raw datagram packets.  The raw datagram packets are
   limited by the link MTU in size.

   The two connected modes and the Reliable Datagram mode may also
   support Automatic Path Migration (APM).  This is an optional facility
   that provides for a hardware based path fail over.  An alternate path
   is associated with the QP when the connection/EE context is first
   created.  If unrecoverable errors are encountered, the connection
   switches to using the alternative path.

1.2.1.  InfiniBand Addresses

   The InfiniBand architecture borrows heavily from the IPv6
   architecture in terms of the InfiniBand subnet structure and GIDs.

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   The InfiniBand architecture defines the GID associated with a port as
   a 128-bit unicast or multicast identifier.  IBA derives the GID
   address format, as defined in RFC 2373 [IB_ARCH], with some
   additional properties/restrictions defined to facilitate efficient
   discovery, communication, and routing.

   Note:  The IBA explicitly refers to RFC 2373, which is obsolete
      [RFC3513].  It must be noted that IBA is therefore unaffected by
      any further changes that are introduced in IPv6 addressing

   IBA defines two types of GIDs: unicast and multicast.  Unicast GIDs

   The unicast GIDs are defined, as in IPv6, with three scopes.  The IB
   specification states the following:

   a.  link local: FE80/10.

                   The IB routers will not forward packets with a link-
                   local address in source or destination beyond the IB

   b.  site local: FEC0/10

                   A unicast GID used within a collection of subnets
                   that is unique within that collection (e.g., a data
                   center or campus) but is not necessarily globally
                   unique.  IB routers must not forward any packets with
                   either a site-local Source GID or a site-local
                   Destination GID outside of the site.

   c.  global:

                   A unicast GID with a global prefix; an IB router may
                   use this GID to route packets throughout an
                   enterprise or internet.  Multicast GIDs

   The multicast GIDs also parallel the IPv6 multicast addresses.  The
   IB specification defines the multicast GIDs as follows:

      FFxy:<112 bits>

      Flag bits:

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         The nibble, denoted by x above, are the 4 flag bits: 000T.

         The first 3 bits are reserved and are set to zero.  The last
         bit is defined as follows:

            T=0: denotes a permanently assigned, that is, well-known GID
            T=1: denotes a transient group

      Scope bits:

         The 4 bits, denoted by y in the GID above, are the scope bits.
         These scope values are described in Table 1.

                 scope value        Address value

                 0                        Reserved
                 1                        Unassigned
                 2                        Link-local
                 3                        Unassigned
                 4                        Unassigned
                 5                        Site-local
                 6                        Unassigned
                 7                        Unassigned
                 8                        Organization-local
                 9                        Unassigned
                 0xA                      Unassigned
                 0xB                      Unassigned
                 0xC                      Unassigned
                 0xD                      Unassigned
                 0xE                      Global
                 0xF                      Reserved

                         Table 1

   The IB specification further refers to RFC 2373 and RFC 2375 while
   defining the well-known multicast addresses.  However, it then states
   that the well-known addresses apply to IB raw IPv6 datagrams only.
   It must be noted though that a multicast group can be associated with
   only a single Multicast Global Identifier (MGID).  Thus the same MGID
   cannot be associated with the UD mode and the Raw Datagram mode.

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1.3.  InfiniBand Multicast Group Management

   IB multicast groups, identified by MGIDs, are managed by the SM.  The
   SM explicitly programs the IB switches in the fabric to ensure that
   the packets are received by all the members of the multicast group
   that request the reception of packets.  The SM also needs to program
   the switches such that packets transmitted to the group by any group
   member reach all receivers in the multicast group.

   IBA distinguishes between multicast senders and receivers.  Though
   all members of a multicast group can transmit to the group (and
   expect their packets to be correctly forwarded), not all members of
   the group are receivers.  A port needs to explicitly request that
   multicast packets addressed to the group be forwarded to it.

   A multicast group is created by sending a join request to the SM.  As
   will be explained later, IBA defines multiple modes for joining a
   multicast group.  The subnet manager records the group's multicast
   GID and the associated characteristics.  The group characteristics
   are defined by the group path MTU, whether the group will be used for
   raw datagrams or unreliable datagrams, the service level, the
   partition key associated with the group, the Local Identifier (LID)
   associated with the group, and so on.  These characteristics are
   defined at the time of the group creation.  The interested reader may
   look up the 'MCMemberRecord' attribute in the IB architecture
   specification [IB_ARCH] for the complete list of characteristics that
   define a group.

   A LID is associated with the multicast group by the SM at the time of
   the multicast group creation.  The SM determines the multicast tree
   based on all the group members and programs the relevant switches.
   The Multicast LID (MLID) is used by the switches to route the

   Any member IB port wanting to participate in the multicast group must
   join the group.  As part of the join operation, the node receives the
   group characteristics from the SM.  At the same time, the subnet
   manager ensures that the requester can indeed participate in the
   group by verifying that it can support the group MTU and its
   accessibility to the rest of the group members.  Other group
   characteristics may need verification too.

   The SM, for groups that span IB subnet boundaries, must interact with
   IB routers to determine the presence of this group in other IB
   subnets.  If present, the MTU must match across the IB subnets.

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   P_Key is another characteristic that must match across IB subnets
   since the P_Key inserted into a packet is not modified by the IB
   switches or IB routers.  Thus, if the P_Keys did not match the IB
   router(s) itself might drop the packets or destinations on other
   subnets might drop the packets.

   A join operation may cause the SM to reprogram the fabric so that the
   new member can participate in the multicast group.  By the same
   token, a leave may cause the SM to reprogram the fabric to stop
   forwarding the packets to the requester.

1.3.1.  Multicast Member Record

   The multicast group is maintained by the SM with each of the group
   members represented by an MCMemberRecord [IB_ARCH].  Some of its
   components are the following:

   MGID      - Multicast GID for this multicast group
   PortGID   - Valid GID of the port joining this multicast group
   Q_Key     - Q_Key to be used by this multicast group
   MLID      - Multicast LID for this multicast group
   MTU       - MTU for this multicast group
   P_Key     - Partition key for this multicast group
   SL        - Service level for this multicast group
   Scope     - Same as MGID address scope
   JoinState - Join/Leave status requested by the port:
               bit 0: FullMember
               bit 1: NonMember
               bit 2: SendOnlyNonMember  JoinState

   The JoinState indicates the membership qualities a port wishes to add
   while joining/creating a group or delete when leaving a group.  The
   meaning of the JoinState bits are as follows:

         Messages destined for the group are routed to and from the
         port.  A group may be deleted by the SM if there are no
         FullMembers in the group.

         Messages destined for the group are routed to and from the
         port.  The port is not considered a member for purposes of
         group creation/deletion.

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         Group messages are only routed from the port but not to the
         port.  The port is not considered a member for purposes of
         group creation/deletion.

   A port may have multiple bits set in its record.  In such a case, the
   membership qualities are a union of the JoinStates.  A port may leave
   the multicast group for each of the JoinStates individually or in any
   combination of JoinState bits [IB_ARCH].

1.3.2.  Join and Leave Operations

   An IB port joins a multicast group by sending a join request
   (SubnAdmSet() method) and leaves a multicast group by sending a leave
   message (SubnAdmDelete() method) to the SM.  The IBA specification
   [IB_ARCH] describes the methods and attributes to be used when
   sending these messages.  Creating a Multicast Group

   There is no 'create' command to form a new multicast group.  The
   FullMember bit in the JoinState must be set to create a multicast
   group.  In other words, the first FullMember join request will cause
   the group to be created as a side effect of the join request.
   Subsequent join or leave requests may contain any combination of the
   JoinState bits.

   The creator of the group specifies the Q_Key, MTU, P_Key, SL,
   FlowLabel, TClass, and the Scope value.  A creator may request that a
   suitable MGID be created for it.  Alternatively, the request can
   specify the desired MGID.  In both cases, the MLID is assigned by the

   Thus, a group will be created with the specified values when the
   requester sets the FullMember bit and no such group already exists in
   the subnet.  Deleting a Multicast Group

   When the last FullMember leaves the multicast group the SM may delete
   the multicast group releasing all resources, including those that
   might exist in the fabric itself, associated with the group.

   Note that a special 'delete' message does not exist.  It is a side
   effect of the last FullMember 'leave' operation.

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RFC 4392                   IPoIB Architecture                 April 2006  Multicast Group Create/Delete Traps

   The SA may be requested by the ports to generate a report whenever a
   multicast group is created or deleted.  The port can specify the
   multicast group(s) it is interested in by using its MGID or by
   submitting a wild card request.  The SA will report these events
   using traps 66 (for creates) and 67 (for deletes)[IB_ARCH].

   Therefore, a port wishing to join a group but not create it by itself
   may request a create notification or a port might even request a
   notification for all groups that are created (a wild card request).
   The SA will diligently inform them of the creation utilizing the
   aforementioned traps.  The requester can then join the multicast
   group indicated.  Similarly, a SendOnlyNonMember or a NonMember might
   request the SA to inform it of group deletions.  The endnode, on
   receiving a delete report, can safely release the resources
   associated with the group.  The associated MLID is no longer valid
   for the group and may be reassigned to a new multicast group by the

2.  Management of InfiniBand Subnet

   To aid in the monitoring and configuration of InfiniBand subnet
   components, a set of MIB modules needs to be defined.  MIB modules
   are needed for the channel adapters, InfiniBand interfaces,
   InfiniBand subnet manager, and InfiniBand subnet management agents
   and to allow the management of specific device properties.  It must
   be noted that the management objects addressed in the IPoIB documents
   are for all of the IB subnet components and are not limited to IP
   (over IB).  The relevant MIB modules are described in separate
   documents and are not covered here.

3.  IP over IB

   As described in section 1.0, the InfiniBand architecture provides a
   broad set of capabilities to choose from when implementing IP over
   InfiniBand networks.

   The IPoIB specification must not, and does not, require changes in IP
   and higher-layer protocols.  Nor does it mandate requirements on IP
   stacks to implement special user-level programs.  It is an aim of
   IPoIB specification that the IPoIB changes be amenable to
   modularization and incorporation into existing implementations at the
   same level as other media types.

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3.1. InfiniBand as Datalink

   InfiniBand architecture provides multiple methods of data exchange
   between two endpoints as was noted above.  These are the following:

           Reliable Connected (RC)
           Reliable Datagram  (RD)
           Unreliable Connected (UC)
           Unreliable Datagram (UD)
           Raw Datagram : Raw IPv6 (R6)
                        : Raw Ethertype (RE)

   IPoIB can be implemented over any, multiple, or all of these
   services.  A case can be made for support on any of the transport
   methods depending on the desired features.

   The IB specification requires Unreliable Datagram mode to be
   supported by all the IB nodes.  The host channel adapters (HCAs) are
   specifically required to support Reliable connected (RC) and
   Unreliable connected (UC) modes but the same is not the case with
   target channel adapters (TCAs).  Support for the two Raw Datagram
   modes is entirely optional.  The Raw Datagram mode supports a 16-bit
   Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) as compared to the better protection
   provided by the use of a 32-bit CRC in other modes.

   For the sake of simplicity, ease of implementation and integration
   with existing stacks, it is desirable that the fabric support
   multicasting.  This is possible only in Unreliable datagram (UD) and
   IB's Raw datagram modes.

   Thus, it is only the UD mode that is universal, supports multicast,
   and supports a robust CRC.  Given these conditions it is the obvious
   choice for IP over InfiniBand [RFC4391].

   Future documents might consider the connected modes.  In contrast to
   the limited link MTU offered by UD mode, the connected modes can
   offer significant benefit in terms of performance by utilizing a
   larger MTU.  Reliability is also enhanced if the underlying feature
   of automatic path migration of connected modes is utilized.

3.2.  Multicast Support

   InfiniBand specification makes support of multicasting in the
   switches optional.  Multicast however, is a basic requirement in IP
   networks.  Therefore, IPoIB requires that multicast-capable
   InfiniBand fabrics be used to implement IPoIB subnets.

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3.2.1.  Mapping IP Multicast to IB Multicast

   Well-known IP multicast groups are defined for both IPv4 and IPv6
   [IANA, RFC3513].  Multicast groups may also be dynamically created at
   any time.  To avoid creating unnecessary duplicates of multicast
   packets in the fabric, and to avoid unnecessary handling of such
   packets at the hosts, each of the IP multicast groups needs to be
   associated with a different IB multicast group as far as possible.  A
   process is defined in [RFC4391] for mapping the IP multicast
   addresses to unique IB multicast addresses.

3.2.2.  Transient Flag in IB MGIDs

   The IB specification describes the flag bits as discussed in section
   1.2.  The IB specification also defines some well-known IB MGIDs.
   The MGIDs are reserved for the IB's Raw Datagram mode which is
   incompatible with the other transports of IB.  Any mapping that is
   defined from IP multicast addresses therefore must not fall into IB's
   definition of a well-known address.

   Therefore all IPoIB related multicast GIDs always set the transient

3.3.  IP Subnets Across IB Subnets

   Some implementations may wish to support multiple clusters of
   machines in their own IB subnets but otherwise be part of a common IP
   subnet.  For such a solution, the IB specification needs multiple
   upgrades.  Some of the required enhancements are as follows:

   1) A method for creating IB multicast GIDs that span multiple IB
      subnets.  The partition keys and other parameters need to be
      consistent across IB subnets.

   2) Develop IB routing protocol to determine the IB topology across IB

   3) Define the process and protocols needed between IB nodes and IB

   Until the above conditions are met, it is not possible to implement
   IPoIB subnets that span IB subnets.  The IPoIB standards have
   however, been defined with this possibility in mind.

4.  IP Subnets in InfiniBand Fabrics

   The IPoIB subnet is overlaid over the IB subnet.  The IPoIB subnet is
   brought up in the following steps:

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   Note: the join/leave operation at the IP level will be referred to as
         IP_join/IP_leave and the join/leave operations at the IB level
         will be referred to as IB_join in this document.

   1.  The all-IPoIB nodes IB multicast group is created

      The fabric administrator creates an IB multicast group (henceforth
      called 'broadcast group') when the IP subnet is set up.  The
      'broadcast group' is defined in [RFC4391].  The method by which
      the broadcast group is setup is not defined by IPoIB.  The group
      may be setup at the SM by the administrator or by the first

      As noted earlier, at the time of creating an IB multicast group,
      multiple values such as the P_Key, Q_Key, Service Level, Hop
      Limit, Flow ID, TClass, MTU, etc.  have to be specified.  These
      values should be such that all potential members of the IB
      multicast group are able to communicate with one another when
      using them.  In the future, as the IB specification associates
      more meaning with the various parameters and defines IB Quality of
      Service (QoS), different values for IP multicast traffic may be
      possible.  All unicast packets also need to use the P_Key and
      Q_Key specified in the broadcast group [RFC4391].  It is obvious
      that a thought out configuration is required for a successful
      setup of the IPoIB subnet.

   2.  All IPoIB interfaces IB_join the broadcast group

      The broadcast group defines the span and the members of the IPoIB
      link.  This link gets built up as IPoIB nodes IB_join the
      broadcast group.

      The IB_join to the broadcast group has the additional benefit of
      distributing the above mentioned multicast group parameters to all
      the members of the subnet.

      Note that this IB_join to the broadcast group is a FullMember
      join.  If any of the ports or the switches linking the port to the
      rest of the IPoIB subnet cannot support the parameters (e.g., path
      MTU or P_Key) associated with the broadcast group, then the
      IB_join request will fail and the requesting port will not become
      part of the IPoIB subnet.

   3.  Configuration Parameters

      As noted above, parameters such as Q_Key and Path MTU, which are
      needed for all IPoIB communication, are returned to the IPoIB node
      on IB_joining the 'broadcast group'.  [RFC4391] also notes that

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      the parameters used in the broadcast group are used when creating
      other multicast groups.

      However, the P_Key must still be known to the IPoIB endnode before
      it can join the broadcast group.  The P_Key is included in the
      mapping of the broadcast group [RFC4391].  Another parameter, the
      scope of the broadcast group, also needs to be known to the
      endnode before it can join the broadcast group.  It is an
      implementation choice on how the P_Key and the scope bits related
      to the IPoIB subnet are determined by the implementation.  These
      could be configuration parameters initialized by some means by the

      The methods employed by an implementation to determine the P_Key
      and scope bits are not specified by IPoIB.

4.1.  IPoIB VLANs

   The endpoints in an IB subnet must have compatible P_Keys to
   communicate with one another.  Thus, the administrator when setting
   up an IP subnet over an IB subnet must ensure that all the members
   have compatible P_Keys.  An IP subnet can have only one P_Key
   associated with it to ensure that all IP nodes in it can talk to one
   another.  An endpoint may, however, have multiple P_Keys.

   The IB architecture specifies that there can be only one MGID
   associated with a multicast group in the IB subnet.  The P_Key is
   included in the MGID mappings from the IP multicast addresses
   [RFC4391].  Since the P_Key is unique in the IB subnet, the inclusion
   of the P_Key in the IB MGIDs ensures that unique MGID mappings are
   created.  Every unique broadcast group MGID so formed creates a
   separate abstract IPoIB link and hence an IPoIB VLAN.

4.2.  Multicast in IPoIB subnets

   IP multicast on InfiniBand subnets follows the same concepts and
   rules as on any other media.  However, unlike most other media
   multicast over InfiniBand requires interaction with another entity,
   the IB subnet manager.  This section describes the outline of the
   process and suggests some guidelines.

   IB architecture specifies the following format for IB multicast
   packets when used over Unreliable Datagram (UD) mode:

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   |Local   |Global |Base     |Datagram |Packet |Invariant| Variant |
   |Routing |Routing|Transport|Extended |Payload| CRC     |  CRC    |
   |Header  |Header |Header   |Transport| (IP)  |         |         |
   |        |       |         |Header   |       |         |         |

   For details about the various headers please refer to InfiniBand
   Architecture Specification [IB_ARCH].

   The Global Routing Header (GRH) includes the IB multicast group GID.
   The Local Routing Header (LRH) includes the Local Identifier (LID).
   The IB switches in the fabric route the packet based on the LID.

   The GID is made available to the receiving IB user (the IPoIB
   interface driver for example).  The driver can therefore determine
   the IB group the packet belongs to.

   IPv4 defines three levels of multicast conformance [RFC1112].

      Level 0: No support for IP multicasting

      Level 1: Support for sending but not receiving multicasts

      Level 2: Full support for IP multicasting

   In IPv6, there is no such distinction.  Full multicast support is
   mandatory.  In addition, all IPv4 subnets support broadcast
   (  IPv4 broadcast can always be sent/received by all
   IPv4 interfaces.

   Every IPoIB subnet requires the broadcast GID to be defined.  Thus, a
   packet can always be broadcast.

4.2.1.  Sending IP Multicast Datagrams

   An IP host may send a multicast packet at any time to any multicast

   The IP layer conveys the multicast packet to the IPoIB interface
   driver/module.  This module attempts to IB_join the relevant IB
   multicast group.  This is required since otherwise InfiniBand
   architecture does not guarantee that the packet will reach its

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   A pure sender may choose to join the multicast group as a FullMember.
   In such a case, the sender will receive all the multicast packets
   transmitted to the IB group.  In addition, the IB group will not be
   deleted until the sender leaves the group.

   Alternatively, a sender might IB_join as a SendOnlyNonMember.  In
   such a case, the packets are not routed to the sender though packets
   transmitted by it can reach the other group members.  In addition,
   the group can be deleted when all FullMembers have left the group.
   The sender can further request delete updates from the SM.

   If the sender does not find the group in existence, it is recommended
   in [RFC4391] that the packets be sent to the MGID corresponding to
   the all-IP routers address.  A sender could also send the packets to
   the broadcast group.  The sender might also choose to request
   'creation' reports from the SM.

4.2.2.  Receiving Multicast Packets

   The IP host must join the IB multicast group corresponding to the IP
   address.  This follows from the IBA requirement that the receiver
   must join the relevant IB multicast group.  The group is
   automatically created if it does not exist [IB_ARCH].

   The IP receivers must IB_leave the IB group when the IP layer stops
   listening of the corresponding IP address.  The SM can then choose to
   delete the group.

4.2.3.  Router Considerations for IPoIB

   IP routers know of the new IP groups created in the subnet by the use
   of protocols such as Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMPv3) /
   Multicast Listener Discovery (MLD) [RFC3376, RFC2710].  However, this
   is not enough for IPoIB since the router needs to IB_join the
   relevant IB groups to be able to receive and transmit the packets.
   There is no promiscuous mode for listening to all packets.

   The IPoIB routers therefore need to request the SM to report all
   creations of IB groups in the fabric.  The IPoIB router can then
   IB_join the reported group.  It is not desirable that the router's
   IB_joining of a multicast group be considered the same as the IB_join
   from a receiver -- the router's IB_join should not disallow the
   group's deletion when all receivers leave.  To overcome just this
   type of situation, IBA provides the NonMember IB_join mode.

   The NonMember IB_join mode can be used by IP routers when they join
   in response to the create reports.  A router should ideally request
   the delete reports too so that it can release all the resources

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   associated with the group.  The MLID associated with a deleted MGID
   can be reassigned by the SM, and therefore there is a possibility of
   erroneous transmissions if the MLID is cached.  A router that does
   not request delete reports will still work correctly since it will
   receive the correct MLID , and purge any old cached value, when it
   IB_joins the IB group in response to a create report.

   It is reasonable for a router to IB_join as a FullMember if it is
   joining the IB group in response to an application/routing daemon
   request.  In such a case, the router might end up controlling the
   existence of the IB group (since it is a FullMember of the group).

4.2.4.  Impact of InfiniBand Architecture Limits

   An HCA or TCA may have a limit on the number of MGIDs it can support.
   Thus, even though the groups may not be limited at the subnet manager
   and in the subnet as such, they may be limited at a particular
   interface.  It is advisable to choose an adequately provisioned
   HCA/TCA when setting up an IPoIB subnet.

4.2.5.  Leaving/Deleting a Multicast Group

   An IPv4 sender (level 1 compliance) IB_joins the IB multicast group
   only because that is the only way to guarantee reception of the
   packets by all the group recipients.  The sender must, however,
   IB_leave the group at some time.  A sender could, when not a receiver
   on the group, start a timer per multicast group sent to.  The sender
   leaves the IB group when the timer goes off.  It restarts the timer
   if another message is sent.

   This suggestion does not apply to the IB broadcast group.  It also
   does not apply to the IB group corresponding to the all-hosts
   multicast group.  An IPv4 host must always remain a member of the
   broadcast group.

   An IP multicast receiver IB_leaves the corresponding IB multicast
   group when it IP_leaves the IP multicast group.  In the case of IPv4
   implementation, the receiver may choose to continue to be a sender
   (level 1 compliance), in which case it may choose not to IB_leave the
   IB group but start a timer as explained above.

   As noted elsewhere, the SM can choose to free up the resources (e.g.,
   routing entries in the switches) associated with the IB group when
   the last FullMember IB_leaves the group.  The MLID therefore becomes
   invalid for the group.  The MLID can be reassigned when a new group
   is created.

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   SendOnlyNonMember/NonMember ports caching the MLID need to avoid this
   possibility.  The way out is for them to request group delete
   reports.  An IP router requesting reports for all groups need not
   request the delete report since an IB_join in response to a create
   report will return the new MLID association to it.

   A router might prefer to IB_leave the IB multicast group when there
   are no members of the IP multicast address in the subnet and it has
   no explicit knowledge of any need to forward such packets.

4.3.  Transmission of IPoIB Packets

   The encapsulation of IP packets in InfiniBand is described in

   It specifies the use of an 'Ethertype' value [IANA] in all IPoIB
   communication packets.  The link-layer address is comprised of the
   GID and the Queue Pair Number (QPN) [RFC4391].

   To enable IPoIB subnets to span across multiple IB-subnets, the
   specification utilizes the GID as part of the link-layer address.
   Since all packets in IB have to use the Local Identifier (LID), the
   address resolution process has the additional step of resolving the
   destination GID, returned in response to Address Resolution Protocol
   (ARP) / Neighbor Discover (ND) request, to the LID [RFC4391].  This
   phase of address resolution might also be used to determine other
   essential parameters (e.g., the SL, path rate, etc.) for successful
   IB communication between two peers.

   As noted earlier, all communication in the IPoIB subnet derives the
   Q_Key to use from the Q_Key specified in the broadcast group.

4.4.  Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP) and Static ARP Entries

   RARP entries or static ARP entries are based on invariant link
   addresses.  In the case of IPoIB, the link address includes the QPN,
   which might not be constant across reboots or even across network
   interface resets.  Therefore, static ARP entries or RARP server
   entries will only work if the implementation(s) using these options
   can ensure that the QPN associated with an interface is invariant
   across reboots/network resets [RFC4391].

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4.5.  DHCPv4 and IPoIB

   DHCPv4 [RFC2131] utilizes a 'client identifier' field (expected to
   hold the link-layer address) of 16 octets.  The address in the case
   of IPoIB is 20 octets.  To get around this problem, IPoIB specifies
   [RFC4390] that the 'broadcast flag' be used by the client when
   requesting an IP address.

5.  QoS and Related Issues

   The IB specification suggests the use of service levels for load
   balancing, QoS, and deadlock avoidance within an IB subnet.  But the
   IB specification leaves the usage and mode of determination of the SL
   for the application to decide.  The SL and list of SLs are available
   in the SA, but it is up to the endnode's application to choose the
   'right' value.

   Every IPoIB implementation will determine the relevant SL value based
   on its own policy.  No method or process for choosing the SL has been
   defined by the IPoIB standards.

6.  Security Considerations

   This document describes the IB architecture as relevant to IPoIB.  It
   further restates issues specified in other documents.  It does not
   itself specify any requirements.  There are no security issues
   introduces by this document.  IPoIB-related security issues are
   described in [RFC4391] and [RFC4390].

7.  Acknowledgements

   This document has benefited from the comments and suggestions of the
   members of the IPoIB working group and the members of the
   InfiniBand(SM) Trade Association.

8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [IB_ARCH]     InfiniBand Architecture Specification, Volume 1,
                 Release 1.2, October, 2004.

   [RFC4391]     Chu, J. and V. Kashyap, "Transmission of IP over
                 InfiniBand (IPoIB)", RFC 4391, April 2006.

   [RFC4390]     Kashyap, V., "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
                 (DHCP) over InfiniBand", RFC 4390, April 2006.

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   [RFC2131]     Droms, R., "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol", RFC
                 2131, March 1997.

8.2.  Informative References

   [RFC3513]     Hinden, R. and S. Deering, "Internet Protocol Version 6
                 (IPv6) Addressing Architecture", RFC 3513, April 2003.

   [RFC2375]     Hinden, R. and S. Deering, "IPv6 Multicast Address
                 Assignments", RFC 2375, July 1998.

   [IANA]        Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, URL

   [RFC1112]     Deering, S., "Host extensions for IP multicasting", STD
                 5, RFC 1112, August 1989.

   [RFC3376]     Cain, B., Deering, S., Kouvelas, I., Fenner, B., and A.
                 Thyagarajan, "Internet Group Management Protocol,
                 Version 3", RFC 3376, October 2002.

   [RFC2710]     Deering, S., Fenner, W., and B. Haberman, "Multicast
                 Listener Discovery (MLD) for IPv6", RFC 2710, October

Author's Address

   Vivek Kashyap
   15450, SW Koll Parkway
   Beaverton, OR 97006

   Phone: +1 503 578 3422

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