Blog Posts in October 2009

IPv6-capable or IPv6-ready: is it enough?

During the IPv6 summit in Slovenia I’ve participated in a roundtable organized by our Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. One of my points was that the government should require true IPv6 support in all its IT procurement processes to promote IPv6 adoption (I have to admit I’ve borrowed a few ideas from Geoff Huston’s “Is the Transition to IPv6 a Market Failure?” article) … and one of the participants (coming from the Service Provider industry) answered that “that’s common hygiene”. I’m not so sure.

Topics like this are covered in my Enterprise IPv6 Deployment workshop. Learn more about my workshops from my web site.

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What’s your take on Alcatel-Lucent IP+Optical integration?

Approximately a month ago Alcatel-Lucent launched Converged Backbone Transformation (are they sharing marketing wizards with Cisco … or is the excessive hype an industry-wide phenomenon?): a visionary(?) convergence of IP and optical technologies. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you could try to start with the IDC report published on Alcatel-Lucent’s web site (I’m always amazed how some people manage to tell so little in so many words).

Once you get past the fluff to the details, it could be that they're implementing a lot of common-sense. For example, it looks like the lambda-level grooming replaces GBIC/SFP transceivers with something that can generate multiple lambdas on the router and feed these lambdas directly into the DWDM gear. In my understanding, it replaces the GE port-GBIC-fiber-GBIC-GE port-lambda generation-DWDM chain with the shorter and cheaper GE port-lambda GBIC-fiber-lambda port-DWDM chain (obviously, I might be completely wrong; it’s hard to deduce the details from a press release).

Anyhow, I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this launch. Does it make sense? How does it compare to what Cisco and Juniper are doing? Is this a move in the right direction … or is Alcatel-Lucent playing a catch-up and trying to cover it with a grand marketecture?

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IOS packaging: Moore’s Law Won

Great news: Cisco launched a new series of midrange routers on Tuesday. They're very probably great products (I wouldn't expect less from Cisco). Also as expected, their marketing department couldn’t help itself (yet again) and had to position the launch as a universe-changing event: this time they Revealed the Borderless Network and spent loads of money producing “viral videos”. OK, maybe their average customer is stupid enough to fall for those tricks; I’m positive you’re not … so let’s see what’s really new (here's what Cisco admits is new after you've got past all the marketing fluff):

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Help appreciated: what’s wrong with my Zone-based Firewalls book?

A quick question for you: in two years since my Deploying Zone-based Firewalls digital short cut (marketese for downloadable PDF) was published, we’ve sold around 200 copies of it. Obviously we’re doing something wrong and I’d appreciate your opinion: is it the topic (are you using ZB firewall on Cisco IOS?), the format (would you prefer paper copy?), the platform (Cisco IOS as a firewall), pricing ($14.99 for 112 pages) or something else?

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What went wrong: TCP lives in the dial-up world

As expected, my “the socket API is broken” post generated numerous comments, many of them missing the point (for example, someone scolded me for quoting Wikipedia and not the official Linux documentation). I did not want to discuss the intricate technical details of the various incarnations of the API but the generic stupidity of having to deal with low-level networking details in the application.

Fabio was kind enough to provide the recommended method of using the Socket API from man getaddrinfo, effectively proving my point: why should every application use a convoluted function when all we want to do (in most cases) is connect to the server.

Patryk went even further and claimed that the socket API provides “basic functionality” and that libc is not the right place for anything more. Well, that mentality caused most of the IPv4-to-IPv6 application-related issues: obviously the applications developed before IPv6 was a serious consideration had to be rewritten because all the low-level code was embedded in the applications, not isolated in the library. A similar problem has effectively stalled SCTP deployment.

However, these are not the only problems we’re facing today. Even if the application properly implements the “try connecting to multiple addresses returned by DNS” function, the response time becomes unacceptable due to the default TCP timeout values coded in various operating systems’ TCP stacks.

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Fantastic DDoS protection: it’s getting worse

Last week I described the “beauty” I’d discovered through the NetworkWorld site: a solution that supposedly rejects DoS frames in 6 nanoseconds. Without having more details, I’ve tried hard to be objective and justify that you cannot get that performance in a best-case scenario (at least without having really expensive hardware and optimized architecture). In the meantime, one of the readers provided the name of the author of this discovery and I was able to find the original publication that was published in the Proceedings of the 2007 spring simulation multiconference by Society for Computer Simulation International.

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My Stupid Moments: Interface Default Route

Years ago I was faced with an interesting challenge: an Internet customer was connected to our PE router with an Ethernet link and I did not want to include the PE router’s IP address in the default route on the CE router.

The latest IOS release in those days was probably somewhere around 11.x; none of the DHCP goodies were available.

After pondering the problem for a while, I got a “brilliant” idea: if I would use an interface default route, proxy-ARP would solve all my problems. This is the configuration I’ve deployed on the CE-router:

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DHCP Client Address Change Detector

In a previous post I’ve described how useless DHCP logging is when you try to detect change in DHCP-assigned IP address. Fortunately the removal of the old IP address (triggered by the DHCPNAK server response) and configuration of the new IP address (sent in the DHCPACK response) triggers a change in the IP routing table that can be detected with the IP routing table event detector introduced in EEM 3.0 (available from Cisco IOS release 12.4(22)T).

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Will they ever start using their brains?

This morning I’ve discovered yet another journalistic gem. It started innocently enough: someone has announced prototype security software that blocks DDoS attacks. The fundamental idea (as explained in the article) sounds mushy: they’ve started with one-time user ID and introduced extra fields in the data packets. How can that ever scale in public deployment (which is where you’d be most concerned about a DDoS attack)?

But the true “revelation” came at the beginning of page 2: this software can filter bogus packets in 6 nanoseconds on a Pentium-class processor. Now let’s try to put this in perspective.

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SSH RSA authentication works in IOS release 15.0M

The feature we’ve begged, prayed, sobbed, yelled, screamed for has finally been implemented in Cisco IOS: public key SSH authentication works in IOS release 15.0M (and is surprisingly easy to use).

After configuring SSH server on IOS (see also comments to this post), you have to configure the ssh pubkey-chain, where you can enter the key string (from your SSH public key file) or the key’s hash (which is displayed by the ssh-keygen command).

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IOS release 15.0

This is not an April 1st post: I’ve just realized that Cisco quietly released IOS 15.0M (mainstream). Haven’t tested it yet, but the images for a large variety of platforms are already available on CCO. The new features listed in the documentation include:

  • Full BFD support, including static routes, BFD-in-VRF and BFD-over-Frame Relay (next step: test it on a 2800-series router);
  • DHCP authentication;
  • DMVPN tunnel health monitoring;
  • EEM 3.1 (whatever that is, the EEM documentation hasn’t been updated yet);
  • Interaction between IS-IS and LDP;
  • BGP local convergence in MPLS VPN networks (the feature has already been available in 12.2 SRC, now it’s available on more platforms);
  • OSPF graceful shutdown and OSPF TTL security check features are available on more platforms;
  • Intra-zone traffic inspection in zone-based firewall.

It looks like (as expected) the 15.0 release is a grand merge of all previous IOS trains (with a few extra features). Good job; finally we have something new to play with :)

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IOS Fossils: Classful OSPF Redistribution

In the classful days of the Internet, it made sense to limit the amount of information redistributed between the routing protocols. OSPF was always classless, but RIPv1 wasn’t … and you could get all sorts of crazy routes from RIP that would mess up the rest of your network if they ever got redistributed into OSPF. To prevent that, Cisco’s engineers introduced the subnets option in the OSPF redistribute command.

Either the OSPF redistribute command is really old (before the distribute-list command started accepting extended ACL, which could filter on the subnet mask), or someone was too dumb to use the extended ACL, and Cisco had to provide an obvious workaround.

By the time Cisco implemented EIGRP and BGPv4 (IOS release 9.21, 15+ years ago), the absurdity of the classful redistribution was already obvious. These routing protocols accept whatever routes you want to redistribute, and their variants of the redistribute command don’t have the subnets keyword. However, nobody ever took steps to remove this fossil from the IOS code.

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