Scaling EIGRP Networks with Stub Routers

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Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), Cisco’s proprietary yet hugely successful and widely deployed routing protocol, is known to behave disappointingly in inadequately designed networks. Cisco has improved EIGRP’s behavior dramatically with the introduction of stub routers in Cisco IOS release 12.0(7)T (integrated in IOS release 12.1, thus being available for a number of years). However, this feature has remained a well-hidden mystery, appearing in a short whitepaper, a Networkers presentation and getting a few slides in Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) course.

This article was written in 2007, and has been updated and republished on in 2023.

In this article, we’ll explore the typical problems that the EIGRP stub routers help to solve, see how the introduction of stub routers improves network stability, and implement a fully redundant remote location (stub site); yet another very common design requirement that is not documented anywhere.

Introduction to EIGRP Stub Routers

Let’s start with an easy example: a central site router linked to a large number of remote offices over slow speed or unreliable links. The WAN network could be implemented with Frame Relay, Carrier Ethernet or DMVPN; the scaling challenges of EIGRP remain the same regardless of the underlying WAN technology.

Simple hub-and-spoke WAN network

Simple hub-and-spoke WAN network

Each time a single remote office becomes unreachable, the central site router starts the Diffusing Update Algorithm (DUAL) process, querying all other remote office routers to determine whether they might have a better path to the lost destination:

DUAL query process in the hub-and-spoke network

DUAL query process in the hub-and-spoke network

As the remote offices have no connectivity apart from their upstream link, these queries are obviously a waste of bandwidth and processing power. Even worse, in larger networks they might cause a Stuck-in-Active (SIA) event, potentially bringing down an EIGRP adjacency between core routers, thus resulting in a massive network blackout (SIA events are a major cause of network outages in poorly designed EIGRP networks).

You can get an in-depth description of the DUAL process and its scalability limitations in the EIGRP Network Design Solutions book. The book is out-of-print for years, but you can still read it on-line with a Safari subscription.

The EIGRP stub router functionality, introduced in IOS release 12.0(7)T, gives you exactly what its name implies – the ability to declare a remote office router as a stub router (a router with no further connectivity):

  • A stub router is a non-transit router: will not advertise routes received from an EIGRP neighbor to another EIGRP neighbor.
  • Other EIGRP routers will not query stub routers during the DUAL process

You configure a stub router with the eigrp stub [ connected | static | redistributed | summary | receive-only ] router configuration command. Apart from the receive-only option, which prevents the stub router from announcing any routes (not really useful), the other keywords define which routes inserted into the EIGRP routing process from other sources the router should announce to its neighbors.

An EIGRP stub router will advertise an external route to EIGRP neighbors only when the route is inserted into the EIGRP topology table (with the redistribute command) and allowed to be advertised with the eigrp stub command.

In our example, the remote office routers have no external connectivity, so they just need to announce connected routes. Here are the relevant configuration commands needed to transform a remote office router into an EIGRP stub router:

Configuring a remote office router as an EIGRP stub router
router eigrp 1
 eigrp stub connected

The EIGRP stub routers announce their status in a new TLV (type-length-value triple) in the EIGRP hello messages. If their neighbors understand the new TLV, they stop sending queries to the stub router; instead the queries are responded to with the inaccessible message (infinite reply), while the stub routers get notified about the change with an infinite update message. This results in improved convergence time as the core routers don’t have to wait for query responses from the remote offices.

The stub routing feature by itself does not prevent core routes from being advertised to the stub peer. Use summarization or filter lists combined with default routing to avoid unnecessary updates.

Routers running an IOS release older than 12.0(7)T simply ignore the new TLV. They would thus still query the stub routers, but the stub routers would reply immediately without propagating the query (still resulting in marginally improved performance in meshed networks).

As the stub status is carried in EIGRP hello messages, any change to the stub status causes EIGRP adjacency teardown and reestablishment.

You can check whether an EIGRP neighbor is a stub router with the show ip eigrp neighbor detail command. The printout generated on our core router is displayed in the following listing.

EIGRP neighbors displayed on the core router
a1#show ip eigrp neighbors detail
IP-EIGRP neighbors for process 1
H   Address      Interface    Hold Uptime   SRTT   RTO  Q  Seq
                              (sec)         (ms)       Cnt Num
0  Se0/0/0.401    11 00:01:03 1031  5000  0  9
   Version 12.4/1.2, Retrans: 0, Retries: 0, Prefixes: 1
   Stub Peer Advertising ( CONNECTED ) Routes
   Suppressing queries
1   Se0/0/0.100    10 00:03:32  753  4518  0  4
   Version 12.4/1.2, Retrans: 0, Retries: 0, Prefixes: 2
   Stub Peer Advertising ( CONNECTED ) Routes
   Suppressing queries