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Blog Posts in June 2009

ADSL QoS Basics

Based on the ADSL reference model, let’s try to figure out how you can influence the quality of service over your ADSL link (for example, you’d like to prioritize VoIP packets over web download). To understand the QoS issues, we need to analyze the congestion points; these are the points where a queue might form when the network is overloaded and where you can reorder the packets to give some applications a preferential treatment.

Remember: QoS is always a zero-sum game. If you prioritize some applications, you’re automatically penalizing all others.

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IOS HTTP vulnerability

The Cisco Subnet RSS feed I’m receiving from Network World contained interesting information a few days ago: Cisco has reissued the HTTP security advisory from 2005. The 2005 bug was “trivial”: they forgot to quote the “<” character in the output HTML stream as “&lt;” and you could thus insert HTML code into the router’s output by sending pings to the router and inspecting the buffers with show buffers assigned dump (I found the original proof-of-concept exploit on the Wayback Machine). However, I’ve checked the behavior on 12.4(15)T1 and all dangerous characters (“<” and quotes) were properly quoted. So, I’m left with two explanations.

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Internet anarchy: I’ll advertise whatever I like

We all know that the global BGP table is exploding (see the Active BGP entries graph) and that it will eventually reach a point where the router manufacturers will not be able to cope with it via constant memory/ASIC upgrades (Note: a layer-3 switch is just a fancy marketing name for a router). The engineering community is struggling with new protocol ideas (for example, LISP) that would reduce the burden on the core Internet routers, but did you know that we could reduce the overall BGP/FIB memory consumption by over 35% (rolling back the clock by two and a half years) if only the Internet Service Providers would get their act together.

Take a look at the weekly CIDR report (archived by WebCite on June 22nd), more specifically into its Aggregation summary section. The BGP table size could be reduced by over 35% if the ISPs would stop announcing superfluous more specific prefixes (as the report heading says, the algorithm checks for an exact match in AS path, so people using deaggregation for traffic engineering purposes are not even included in this table). You can also take a look at the worst offenders and form your own opinions. These organizations increase the cost of doing business for everyone on the Internet.

Why is this behavior tolerated? It’s very simple: advertising a prefix with BGP (and affecting everyone else on the globe) costs you nothing. There is no direct business benefit gained by reducing the number of your BGP entries (and who cares about other people’s costs anyway) and you don’t need an Internet driver’s license (there’s also no BGP police, although it would be badly needed).

Fortunately, there are some people who got their act together. The leader in the week of June 15th was JamboNet (AS report archived by Webcite on June 22nd) that went from 42 prefixes to 7 prefixes.

What can you do to help? Advertise the prefixes assigned to you by Internet Registry, not more specific ones. Check your BGP table and clean it. Don’t use more specific prefixes solely for primary/backup uplink selection.

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IS-IS Is Not Running over CLNP

Numerous sources on the Internet claim that IS-IS runs on top of OSI’s Connectionless Network Protocol (CLNP). This is not the case; although IS-IS and CLNP share the same layer-2 Service Access Point (SAP), OSI provides an additional field (Network Layer Protocol Identifier; NLPID) in the first byte of the layer-3 header.

Contrary to the IP world where the identification of layer-3 protocol is based on Ethertype or PPP protocol ID, the identification of a layer-3 OSI protocol is performed based on layer-2 Service Access Point (DSAP = 0xFE) and the first byte of the layer-3 header, which has the following values:

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ADSL Reference Diagram

I’m getting lots of ADSL QoS questions lately1, so it’s obviously time to cover this topic. Before going into the QoS details, I want to make sure my understanding of the implications of the baroque ADSL protocol stack is correct.

In the most complex case, a DSL service could have up to eight separate components (including the end-user’s workstation):

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ATM is like a duck

It was (around) 1995, everyone was talking about ATM, but very few people knew what they were talking about. I was at Networkers (way before they became overcrowded Cisco Live events) and decided to attend the ATM Executive Summary session, which started with (approximately) this slide …

… and the following explanation:

As you know, a duck can swim, but it's not as fast as a fish, walk, but not run as a cheetah, and fly, but it's far from being an eagle. And ATM can carry voice, data and video.

The session continued with a very concise overview of AAL types, permanent or switched virtual circuits and typical usages, but I’ve already got the summary I was looking for … and I’ll remember the duck analogy for the rest of my life. Whenever someone mentions ATM, the picture of the duck appears somewhere in the background.

If you’re trying to explain something very complex (like your new network design) to people who are not as embedded into the problem as you are, try to find the one core message, make it as simple as possible, and build around it.

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Recommendations for keepalive/hello timers

The “GRE keepalives or EIGRP hellos” discussion has triggered another interesting question:

Is there a good rule-of-thumb for setting hold-down timers in respect to the bandwidth/delay of a given link? Perhaps something based off of the SRTT?

Routing protocol hello packets or GRE keepalive packets are small compared to the bandwidths we have today and common RTT values are measured in milliseconds while the timers' granularity is usually in seconds.

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Filter Excessively Prepended BGP Paths

A few months ago, a small ISP was able to disrupt numerous BGP sessions in the Internet core by prepending over 250 copies of its AS number to the outbound BGP updates. While you should use the bgp maxas-limit command to limit the absolute length of AS-path in the inbound updates, you might also want to drop all excessively prepended BGP paths.

For more details, read the Filter Excessively Prepended BGP Paths article.

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GRE Keepalives or EIGRP Hellos?

It looks like everyone who’s not using DMVPN is running IPSec over GRE these days, resulting in interesting questions like »should IP use EIGRP hellos or GRE keepalives to detect path loss?«

Any dedicated link/path loss detection protocol should be preferred over tweaking routing protocol timers (at least in theory), so the politically correct answer is »use GRE keepalives and keep EIGRP hellos at their default values«.

Update 2020-12-29: In the meantime Cisco IOS started supporting BFD over GRE tunnels, making this argument moot. Please use BFD instead of a hodgepodge of point technologies.
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New wireless DOS attacks? … Maybe not.

A few days ago, City College of New York hosted the “Cyber Infrastructure Protection Conference”, including a keynote speech by Krishnan Sabnani who described “new class of denial-of-service (DOS) attacks that threaten wireless data networks” … or so the Network World claims in its article.

The conference web site is only accessible through an IP-address-only URL http://134.74.16.84/ (which immediately triggered suspicions in my browser) and the presentations are not available on-line, so I cannot comment on what mr. Sabnani actually told the participants, but the summary provided by Network World is 80% hot air. Here’s their list of “five wireless data network threats outlined by Sabnani”:

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Quick tip: Matching default route in a standard ACL

I've got the following question from Matthew: »how would one go about matching the default route for filtering using standard ACLs?«

In all routing protocols but EIGRP (which can carry the »default candidate« flag on any IP prefix), the default route has IP address 0.0.0.0 and subnet mask 0.0.0.0.

To match the default route with a standard ACL, use access-list x permit 0.0.0.0. To match it with an extended ACL (which matches the IP address and the subnet mask portions), you have to use access-list y permit ip host 0.0.0.0 host 0.0.0.0. And finally, to match the default route in a prefix list, use ip prefix-list z permit 0.0.0.0/0.

This article is part of You've asked for it series.

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EIGRP load and reliability metrics

Everyone studying the EIGRP details knows the “famous” composite metric formula, but the recommendation to keep the K values intact (or at least leaving K2 and K5 at zero) or the inability of EIGRP to adapt to changing load conditions is rarely understood.

IGRP, the EIGRP’s predecessor, had the same vector metric and very similar composite metric formula, but it was a true distance vector protocol (like RIP), advertising its routing information at regular intervals. The interface load and reliability was thus regularly propagated throughout the network and so it made sense to include them in the composite metric calculation (although this practice could lead to unstable or oscillating networks).

EIGRP routing updates are triggered only by a change in network topology (interface up/down event, IP addressing change or configured bandwidth/delay change) and not by change in interface load or reliability. The load/reliability numbers are thus a snapshot taken at the moment of the topology change and should be ignored.

Sending EIGRP updates whenever there’s a significant change in load or reliability would be technically feasible, but would diminish the benefits of replacing distance vector behavior with DUAL.

You might be wondering why Cisco decided to include the load and reliability into the EIGRP vector metric. The total compatibility of IGRP and EIGRP vector metrics allowed them to implement smooth IGRP-to-EIGRP migration strategy with automatic propagation of vector metrics in redistribution points, including the IGRP-EIGRP-IGRP redistribution scenario used in IGRP-to-EIGRP core-to-edge migrations.

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Multihomed IP Hosts

IP host (workstations, servers or communication equipment) is multihomed if it has more than one IP address. An IP host can be multihomed in numerous ways, using one or more layer-3 interfaces for network connectivity. Some multihoming scenarios are well understood and commonly used, while others (multiple physical layer-3 interfaces in the same IP subnet) could be hard to implement on common operating systems.

A host having a routable IP address on an external interface and on or more IP addresses on internal interfaces like the loopback interface is not considered multihomed.
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Avoid the prompts generated by the COPY command

An anonymous reader left an interesting comment on my post Sample configuration: periodic upload of router configuration. Instead of configuring file prompt quiet to avoid prompts generated by the copy running-config URL command, he recommended using show running-config | redirect URL.

The solution is almost perfect, but includes two extra lines in the router configuration …

Building configuration...
Current configuration : xxxxxx bytes

… that you’d better remove before using the configuration on another router. The more system:running-config | redirect URL command removes even this minor glitch and can be used in both kron commands or EEM applets.

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