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Category: networking fundamentals

Video: Network Layer Addressing

After a brief excursion into the ancient data link layer addressing ideas (that you can still find in numerous systems today) and LAN addressing it’s time to focus on network-layer addressing, starting with “can we design protocols without network-layer addresses” (unfortunately, YES) and “should a network-layer address be tied to a node or to an interface” (as always, it depends).

For more details, watch the Network Layer Addressing video (part of How Networks Really Work webinar).

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Lesson Learned: The Way Forward

I tried to wrap up my Lessons Learned presentation on a positive note: what are some of the things you can do to avoid all the traps and pitfalls I encountered in the almost four decades of working in networking industry:

  • Get invited to architecture and design meetings when a new application project is starting.
  • Always try to figure out what the underlying actual business needs are.
  • Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.
  • Keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler.
  • Work with your peers, and explain how networking works and why you’re facing certain limitations.
  • Humans are not perfect – automate as much as it makes sense but no more.
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Video: Local Area Network Addressing

In the Local Area Network Addressing video (part of How Networks Really Work webinar) I covered numerous obscure LAN addressing details including:

  • There’s no layer-2 address in Fibre Channel frames (because FC is routing not bridging);
  • Why is the multicast bit lowest bit (0x01) in first byte on Ethernet but highest bit (0x80) on Token Ring or FDDI;
  • How some NIC manufacturers never got the memo on what OUI really means.
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Lesson Learned: Some Services Are Not Worth Delivering

Here’s one of the secrets to AWS’s unprecedented scale and financial success: they figured out very early on that some services are not worth delivering. Most everyone else believes in building snowflake single-customer solutions to solve imaginary problems, effectively losing money while doing so.

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Video: Early Data-Link-Layer Addressing

After a brief coverage of the theoretical aspects of network addressing, it’s time to pay a brief visit to the early data-link-layer addressing solutions, from one address per datagram/frame (SDLC, HDLC) and ignore this address (PPP) to no address on P2P links (SLIP).

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Big Picture: BFD, Non-Stop Forwarding, and Graceful Restart

We have school holidays this week, so I’m reposting wonderful comments that would otherwise be lost somewhere in the page margins. Today: Erik Auerswald’s excellent summary of BFD, NSF, and GR.


I’d suggest to step back a bit and consider the bigger picture: What is BFD good for? What is GR/NSF/NSR/SSO good for?

BFD and GR/NSF/NSR/SSO have different goals: one enables quick fail over, the other prevents fail over. Combining both promises to be interesting.

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Graceful Restart and BFD

The whole High Availability Switching series started with a question along the lines of “does it make sense to run BFD together with Graceful Restart”. After Non-Stop Forwarding 101, Graceful Restart 101, and Graceful Restart and Convergence Speed we finally have enough information to answer that question.

TL&DR: Most probably not.

A more nuanced answer depends (as always) on a gazillion implementation details.

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Lessons Learned: Complexity Will Kill Your System

You wouldn’t believe the intricate network designs I created decades ago until I learned that having an uninterrupted sleep is worth more than proving I can get the impossible to work (see also: using EBGP instead of IGP in a 4-node data center fabric).

Once I started valuing my free time, I tried to design things to be as simple as possible. However, as my friend Nicola Modena once said, “Consultants must propose new technologies because they must be seen as bringing innovation,” and we all know complexity sells. Go figure.

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Graceful Restart and Routing Protocol Convergence

I’m always amazed when I encounter networking engineers who want to have a fast-converging network using Non-Stop Forwarding (which implies Graceful Restart). It’s even worse than asking for smooth-running heptagonal wheels.

As we discussed in the Fast Failover series, any decent router uses a variety of mechanisms to detect adjacent device failure:

  • Physical link failure;
  • Routing protocol timeouts;
  • Next-hop liveliness checks (BFD, CFM…)
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Video: Theoretical View of Network Addressing

After explaining the basics of (network) names, addresses and routes, I wasted a few minutes of everyone’s time discussing the theoretical aspects of layered addressing, and then got back to practical issues like address scopes, namespaces, and address provisioning.

The video ends with a simple (and unappreciated) truth: if you have a point-to-point link between two nodes you don’t need data-link-layer addresses. The consequences of that fact are left as an exercise for the viewer (or you can wait till the next video ;)

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Graceful Restart and Other Control Plane Protocols

In the Graceful Restart 101 blog post, I promised to discuss the ugly parts of this concept in a follow-up post. It turns out we’ll need more than one; today, we’ll focus on other control plane protocols in an access network scenario.

Imagine an access router with multiple uplinks serving a bunch of non-redundantly-connected customers:

Non-redundant access network

Non-redundant access network

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Graceful Restart (GR) 101

In the Non-Stop Forwarding (NSF) article, I mentioned that the routers adjacent to the device using NSF have to play along to make the idea work. That capability is called Graceful Restart. Today we’ll explore its intricate details, be diplomatic, and leave the shortcomings and tradeoffs for the next blog post.

The Problem

Imagine an access (provider edge) router providing connectivity services to its clients and running a routing protocol with one or more upstream devices.

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