The Unintended Consequences of NSSA Kludges

Remember the kludges needed to make OSPF NSSA areas work correctly? We concluded that saga by showing how the rules of RFC 3101 force a poor ASBR to choose an IP address on one of its OSPF-enabled interfaces as a forwarding address to be used in Type-7 LSA.

What could possibly go wrong with such a “simple” concept?

Let’s start with the network we used in the previous blog post. At the end of that blog post, we shut down the loopback interface on E1 to force it to select something else as the Type-7 LSA forwarding address. While that resulted in suboptimal traffic flow, we could still ping (IP address on a non-OSPF loopback interface on E1) from C1.

Now let’s pretend the interface E1 chose is a Metro Ethernet link, and it just failed in one of those mysterious ways where everything seems OK, but no packets make it across the link. We’ll emulate this too-well-known behavior (never a Service Provider fault if you ask them) with an incoming deny ip any any access list.

Service Providers are more thorough – they’d also drop ARP packets and everything else, but this ACL will do for our purposes.

To make the fault look even more like a Metro Ethernet network, we’ll install the ACL only on E1 side of A2E1 link, resulting in a unidirectional link. As expected, the OSPF adjacency between A2 and E1 goes down. Totally unexpected, C1 can no longer ping external subnets on E1 even though there’s a perfectly good path from C1 to E1.

C1 has the destination in its routing table:

C1#show ip route
Routing entry for
  Known via "ospf 1", distance 110, metric 20, type extern 2, forward metric 2
  Last update from on GigabitEthernet0/2, 00:29:09 ago
  Routing Descriptor Blocks:
  *, from, 00:29:09 ago, via GigabitEthernet0/2
      Route metric is 20, traffic share count is 1

Pings return destination unreachable ICMP replies

Type escape sequence to abort.
Sending 5, 100-byte ICMP Echos to, timeout is 2 seconds:
Success rate is 0 percent (0/5)

Wait, What?

Let’s trace the path from C1 to E1. The routing entry for on C1 points to A2, and A2 claims it doesn’t know anything about Confusing, right?

A2 doesn’t know anything about

A2#show ip route
% Network not in table

Well, it turns out the broken link between A2 and E1 also broke the NSSA area in two parts, and A2 wouldn’t consider the Type-7 LSA from E1 when running SPF as it has no intra-area connectivity to E1.

Type-7 LSA refers to an unreachable router ID and is thus ignored:

A2#show ip ospf data nssa-external

            OSPF Router with ID ( (Process ID 1)

    Type-7 AS External Link States (Area 1)

  LS age: 1284
  Options: (No TOS-capability, Type 7/5 translation, DC, Upward)
  LS Type: AS External Link
  Link State ID: (External Network Number )
  Advertising Router:
  LS Seq Number: 8000000C
  Checksum: 0xD3C5
  Length: 36
  Network Mask: /24
  Metric Type: 2 (Larger than any link state path)
  MTID: 0
  Metric: 20
  Forward Address:
  External Route Tag: 0

The packet from C1 arrives at A2, and A2 simply drops it (resulting in ICMP unreachables observed on C1).

Will the situation get any better when Type-7 LSA ages out on A2? Let’s reset the OSPF process on A2 with the clear ip ospf process command. Type-7 LSA is gone, and A2 sees only the backbone Type-5 LSA but still refuses to install into the forwarding table:

Type-5 LSA looks good but is still not used:

A2#show ip ospf data external

            OSPF Router with ID ( (Process ID 1)

    Type-5 AS External Link States

  LS age: 893
  Options: (No TOS-capability, DC, Upward)
  LS Type: AS External Link
  Link State ID: (External Network Number )
  Advertising Router:
  LS Seq Number: 80000001
  Checksum: 0x842B
  Length: 36
  Network Mask: /24
  Metric Type: 2 (Larger than any link state path)
  MTID: 0
  Metric: 20
  Forward Address:
  External Route Tag: 0

It seems this behavior is a consequence of Rule #4 of Section 16.4 in RFC 2328 (OSPF v2):

If the forwarding address is non-zero, look up the forwarding address in the routing table. The matching routing table entry must specify an intra-area or inter-area path.

Looks like a stub interface (OSPF-enabled interface with no neighbors on it) doesn’t satisfy the intra-area or inter-area path criteria. A2 thus ignores the Type-5 LSA pointing to its directly connected interface.

Nerd Knobs to Rescue

The area nssa translate type7 always suppress-fa nerd knob suggested by Angelos Vassiliou would solve this problem (because there would be no recursive lookup for the forwarding address) while at the same time violating paragraph (2) of section 3.2 in RFC 3101.

You could argue that the ABR behaves like every type-7 LSA would be aggregated into a separate address range, as described in paragraph (3) of the same section. I still have to check how Cisco IOS handles the costs of such type-5 LSA.

The Really Sad Part

I created at least one OSPF deep-dive course and taught it at least a dozen times (quite often having Cisco’s TAC engineers in the audience), and I was still surprised to see this behavior.


OSPF is way too complex for its own good. If you must use OSPF, get rid of as much of its complexity as you can– use a single area if at all possible, and stay away from NSSA areas.


  1. Well, thankfully, in OSPFv3 the Forwarding Address (F-bit) is optional and not obligatory for NSSAs. :-)

    Great series, Ivan.

  2. "Looks like a stub interface (OSPF-enabled interface with no neighbors on it) doesn’t satisfy the intra-area or inter-area path criteria. A2 thus ignores the Type-5 LSA pointing to its directly connected interface."

    Actually, if you change the area of the interface to non-stub, LSA5 route is installed in RIB. So probably the issue here is that the FA is reachable via stub area (which is impossible) and there is no corresponding LSA7 for that.
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